4 hugely beneficial ways to effectively communicate with remote teams
Businesses had been run and managed using face-to-face contact for centuries…then the internet happened. Many people used to traditional ways of working are still trying to get their heads round how on earth you can manage a whole team you’ve never met, yet still, communicate effectively and turn a profit.
Well, I’ve done it, successfully, for a long time now, and it’s more than manageable. In fact in many ways it’s ideal, if you implement the recommendations I have for you. But first, a bit of background.
Transitioning from an office
When I made the transition to work with remote teams, effective communication was indeed one of the main challenges I faced. How can you know if this person really gets what you’re saying without hearing them confidently say so, or being able to pick up on subtle nonverbal cues such as a confused look, self-assured smile, or nervous tremble?
Also, in an office environment, you can immediately and effectively highlight your points by using a whiteboard, or a flipchart, somewhere you can map out your ideas so the point you’re making really hits home. But there are no physical pens and paper in the remote world, and this, coupled with workers often scattered across different time zones, can make illustrating an idea hard if you don’t know the tools to communicate effectively.
But there are tools, lots of them, that can make communicating a real breeze if you take a little bit of time to get to grips with them.
Realizing the potential
While the transition to working remotely was initially a challenge, I’ve found that over time it’s actually turned out to be an amazing and fantastically productive experience. It forces you to be more explicit and concrete with your ideas and explanations than you normally would be, so you end up taking a bit of extra time to structure your points and make them crystal clear before communicating them. This massively reduces the amount you have to communicate in the long run, because you’ve succinctly and concisely detailed every important facet of what needs to be done. This makes sure your workers are in no doubt about what you mean, regardless of whether they’re a native English speaker, or are particularly pushed for time that day and not 100% sharp.
Four ways to boost your communications skills
To effectively communicate with teams, I have four recommendations:
- Effective structure: Before you communicate with someone, put all your ideas together, and write out a draft in which you present your issues, possible scenarios, and alternatives. Make sure you structure it in such a way that it’s as clear as possible before you send it out. I guarantee this will end up being even smoother than with face-to-face interaction.
- Use available tools: You can record yourself or your screen, take a screenshot, or create drawings or animations using a wide range of tools, such as Microsoft’s OneNote, Paint, or Google Drawings or Draw.io. Digital tools are just as effective as a real-world pen and paper. In-fact in many cases, they’re incredibly more efficient.
- Make a call: Sometimes it not just about writing messages, sending them out, and waiting to receive an answer from someone. There are often times when you need to have a discussion with someone and talk over or weigh up several options. So, once you’ve sent out the needed information that you made sure was well-structured, I recommend having a call, either audio or visual, and hammering out things verbally, which is often much quicker, more efficient, and easier to get things clarified.
- Keep it all in one place: Following on from placing a call, I recommend that after you’ve finished the discussion and come to a decision on what you’re working on, to write it up and keep it in one single place where all of your team has access to it. For example, if you clarify something about a particular task, either add it as a comment on that task in whatever project management tool you’re using, or update the description or documentation. Don’t bother sending out another email or instant message to your team, because this will undoubtedly get lost in the ether when more people comment and it gets pushed out of view. Keep it in one place, and everyone is on the same page.
The late, great US presidential speechwriter James Humes once said that “the art of communication is the language of leadership”. Communicate effectively, and you can be a great remote-working leader.
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