Join Bob McGannon for an in-depth discussion in this video Learning how to communicate, part of Managing Virtual Teams.
Let's say your sister just had her first baby. You may have sent a text to your other siblings to let them know, maybe even called your mother to share the news, and that evening you might email your friends. Just like communicating with your immediate family and your friends, it is probably appropriate to use different forms of communication for the individuals on your team. First, let's begin with the how and the when of communication methods. To help you be more effective with your team, here are a few tips for certain kinds of communication.
I'll start with email. This is a great way to arrange meetings and send updates to a group of two or more people. A handy rule of thumb when it comes to email is the five sentence rule. Basically, any email you can't write in five sentences or less might be more effectively shared via a phone call. Speaking of phone calls, sometimes you might need to share lots of details which might translate to lots of to-dos for your team.
Phone conversations can allow time to ask questions and clarify things on the spot, which actually might save you time in the long run since you're avoiding the back and forth of emails. Next let's consider texting. This is a great way to do quick sharing of little bits of information. You can use a text message for anything from saying, "Running late," or "Do you have time to chat today?" If you choose to use text messages as part of your team's communication, ensure your team is prepared to receive texts by keeping their phones with them during work hours.
Lastly, there is the powerful virtual conference. Using a virtual conference facility for your team meetings can help you get input and participation from all of your team members as well as help create and reinforce a sense of connection. Managing any team requires providing people with feedback on their deliverables and overall performance. As this is so important to do well, here are suggestions to help you give successful feedback. First, do it in person.
In a remote environment, in-person means absolutely not over email. You can use Skype, or a virtual conference facility, or the telephone if no better vehicle is available. Using these richer tools can help ensure feedback is received in the way you intended it. Next, apply balance. There are probably things your employees are doing well that they should keep doing. It is important with remote employees that they understand the positive along with the constructive criticism.
Don't assume they know what you think they're doing right. Lastly, co-evaluate. If you're giving feedback about something, start with the following question. What do you think worked and didn't work? And discuss their answers with them. You might be pleasantly surprised to find you both have similar things to say. Again, with the lack of feedback one gets from not seeing other people, perceptions of success can get distorted.
A third and final consideration is time zones. Two quick tips. First, compromise. Alternate your meetings. With every meeting, make the meeting time more convenient for certain team members and less so for others. Two, consider off-shift work. Although not prevalent, ask if people are fine with working off shift because in certain instances it can facilitate personal things such as child care. Don't assume this would be considered unfavorable by your team members.
It can't hurt to ask. Consciously picking your communication approach based on what you're trying to share, who you are communicating with, and under what circumstances is an important consideration when you're managing remote team members.
Discover how to build rapport, set mutual expectations, communicate, connect, overcome conflict, get work done, and grow the team. Also included is a look at the top five challenges managers face in leading remote teams and helpful solutions that will get your team on track.
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