Blue Beyond Consulting

5 Communication Keys to Help Newly-Virtual Teams Thrive

Over the past few months, employees from nearly every business sector transitioned to remote work arrangements, seemingly overnight. As a people manager, it’s likely been challenging to stay ahead of the rapidly changing demands on your leadership skills. How do you guide your team toward business-as-usual productivity when your “new normal” is anything but?

The good news is that the core leadership skills you’ve cultivated for years are still applicable now. In fact, doubling down on proven best practices is a good place to begin, starting with the importance of effective communication.

Here are five practical tips to help you manage through change and keep your team motivated, connected, and engaged – no matter where they work.

Increase Your Cadence

  • It may take some trial and error to find the right rhythm for your team, but now is a time when erring on the side of over communicating is warranted. Consider weekly team meetings to be the bare minimum and plan to add more informal check-ins to your team members’ calendars. Remember, losing the ability to simply “pop in” for a casual chat means that as a leader, you’ll need to become more intentional about maintaining engagement. Lastly, be mindful that each person on your team has different needs, so consider the nature of their role, their individual competence and confidence levels, and their work styles as you customize the flow and frequency of your communications.

Cultivate Consistency

  • Employees who are working from home may experience isolation and anxiety about being left out of the loop. To offset these concerns, share daily updates with them, even if it’s just to say there are no new updates. One exception to this: since many of us are already feeling overloaded with COVID-19 news, you may want to bundle virus-related messaging into a once-weekly or less communication (assuming it makes sense to do so).

Practice Transparency

  • Communicating during times of crisis requires all of us to maintain a high degree of emotional vulnerability. This global situation has certainly disrupted business, but it’s also disrupting lives — and your team needs you to lead with empathy, compassion, and humanity. Consider starting team calls with icebreaker questions that add humor and create connection. Or, use part of your team meetings to let everyone share the creative ways they are coping with kids underfoot and kitchens transformed into conference rooms. Be sure to share your own challenges – the “we’re all in this together” approach builds long-lasting deep trust.

Use a Wide-Variety of Communication Channels

  • Communicating in a virtual setting means using many more modes of communication than you may be used to. Each platform has its own benefits and drawbacks, so communicating across multiple channels will help you stay in touch and manage your team more effectively.

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Adapt Your Approach to Your Audience

  • Whether your go-to virtual vehicle is email, Zoom, text messages, or Slack, make sure you are meeting individual team member’s needs and preferences. For example, if an employee is self-conscious about having young children present during video conferences, give them the option of dialing in or participating with the video feed turned off. Or, suggest everyone chooses a creative virtual background for video calls, so no one feels singled out. For additional tips, access our 5-minute interactive resource on virtual collaboration.

As a leader, your ability to navigate the nuances of a remote workforce is being put to the test. By employing these effective communication techniques, drawing on the collective strengths of your team members, and providing ongoing coaching and effective feedback, you can help you and your team continue to succeed.