Effective communication strategies for remote team management.
With the increase in working from home post COVID, the culture of managing almost everything from remote is at peak currently. We need to adapt to the new change. At work, most of our time goes into discussions, brain storming, meetings, making decisions, arguments with the team. We need to make sure that all of these activities happen seamlessly without any disturbance even when everyone is working remotely. Effective communication is the effective way of solving it.
Communication is fragile. If you don't communicate it properly, it becomes miscommunication which can lead to poor execution of the task, or delay in the completion, or even ruin teams and cultures. There are different type of communications.
- Physical communication: Where you communicate with people in real life. You can feel their body language, postures, facial expressions, etc.
- Verbal communication: Where you have access to only the sound of the other person. You can communicate through, tone, pitches, high and lows of the sound.
- Text communication: This is the primary mode of communication while working remotely. Everything is in the form of text in this form. It can be either mail, messaging, project notes, etc.
From the above list, the chances of miscommunication grows higher from top to bottom. That is the reason we need to put extra efforts, be creative, efficient, and effective at what we are communicating with the team so that working remotely does not add any limitations.
Often we either take granted that the other person knows the context about the topic that we are discussing or we just rush to the topic because of the deadlines. It is important to start the conversation for a topic with a background or context. Even when it is a follow up meeting, it is absolutely important to give the context. It takes some practice to get good at keeping these contexts as minimal as possible so that the meetings don't spill over the scheduled timeline.
Even when the other person/s don't ask for context, providing context will speed up the process and eliminates miscommunications. The way to provide the context can very depending on multiple factors, ranging from the other party, number of people, type of mixture of people involved, time involved, etc.
We need to understand that not all conversations are same. Few conversations can be quick and can be done on IMs. Few of them can be verbal and can be finished on a call. Few conversations require more, visualizations.
If the discussion is about an implementation, or a resolution, or an enhancement, mostly IMs or the phone calls will be enough to discuss. If the discussion is about ideation, high level design, architectural changes, most often it is required to visualize and explain to the team. We need to get good at identifying when to use IMs, phone calls, or screen sharing so that the communication actually serves the purpose.
It is harder to listen first on remote conversations compare to IRL meetings. It is important to have a protocol to raise queries in between the discussions instead of interrupting the speaker. That doesn't mean, the communication will be one sided and the queries are handled at the end. That modal is not so effective in my opinion. The discussion should be interactive, yet not ad-hoc.
As the people who are involved in the communications, we should learn to listen first, get what the speaker is trying to convey. It is harder to do it than said. Listening doesn't just mean from our point of view, we need to come out of our zone, get into the shoes of the speaker and try to understand the conversation from speaker's point of view.
Level of communication
To have effective communication, we need to understand the target audience. Not everyone can understand the same level of technical aspects. Few might understand administration but not the finances, few might understand finances but not human resources, few might marketing but not technology, etc. We need to know the type of audience and tweak the communication strategy accordingly.
Most of the times, it would be about taking a step down, and explaining it in lame words, using examples and analogies. We need to communicate to the audience about the abstractions in the communications so that they don't get into delving things that they don't require. Better we don't use jargons in the discussions, eve if we do so, we need to explain them in a way that every one understands.
Communication plays key role when we are trying to achieve a collective goal with a team. It is important that we communicate with them in effective, simple, and understandable way. Same principles need to be applied even when we are working remotely, just that the tools we use might change. We need to make sure that we provide the context first so that there is no gap, use visualizations wherever required, be listener first so that we understand the speaker well, and understand the level of communication need to be used depending on the audience involved. Hope this article helped you. Cheers :)