Shifting Your Communications for the Remote Work World
This guest blog post is by Carol Vernon, Certified Executive Coach for Communication Matters: Executive Coaching & Training.
Several weeks ago, one of my coaching clients - we’ll call her Diane - told me she was doing fine. She said she had no problems communicating in the remote work world with her team. And when I asked her how she knew all was fine, she said she and her team are getting a lot of work done. I checked back with Diane earlier this week and she told a different story: several of her team members had just emailed her to say how disconnected they felt from her and the team’s work. Diane is a good leader – she felt bad, and she felt misunderstood. She had been trying to respect her team members’ time and their competency by not overcommunicating. She prefers a direct, to-the-point style of communicating. In the “in-person” world, her friendly vocal tone and approachable body language complemented her direct style. But without the vocal and body language, her communications were being received differently.
Misunderstandings like this are happening a lot in our current remote work world. As an executive coach, I often help leaders and teams gain more understanding and appreciation for different communication styles: “what communicators” are direct, action-oriented, and use no wasted words; “how communicators” are more process-oriented and detailed; “who communicators” are people-focused and more naturally customize their communications to their audience; and “why communicators” are ideas-focused, taking a less structured, big-picture approach.
The most effective individuals and teams learn how to leverage their communication style preferences, as well as blend their preferences with others’ preferences to get the best outcomes. However, I’m noting in our current virtual world that people are adapting more to other peoples’ styles and being more intentional about what they want to convey so that they can match up their action steps and behaviors to support that. Here are several specific steps that are helping individuals:
- Determine what is the best way to connect for the outcome you need (don’t default to a single mode of communicating, i.e., all email or all Zoom)
- Slow down and make time to listen to what’s being said and what isn’t being said (without body language, it’s easy to misread communications)
- Be sure to connect with someone before getting into the content of the communications
- Ask more questions to ensure understanding and agreement. Remember: brevity creates confusion!
I’m curious what you’re finding to be most effective in connecting with others in these challenging times.
Carol Vernon is a certified executive coach who works with association leaders and teams to help them communicate and work together most effectively with their internal and external stakeholders.