Ensure everyone hears the message — If you set a meeting and you have people who are unable to attend, you have to make sure they are able to get the information as well.
Use redundant communication channels — Communicate directly. Use multiple channels — Slack, video chat, email. If you have something that needs to be shared, you share it through multiple channels in order to reach everyone.
Keep it simple — When communicating remotely, it is not the time to add fluff to your communications. You need to keep the message as simple and straightforward as possible to avoid any confusion.
We are living in a new world in which offices are becoming obsolete. How can teams effectively communicate if they are never together? Zoom and Slack are excellent tools, but they don’t replicate all the advantages of being together. What strategies, tools and techniques work to be a highly effective communicator, even if you are not in the same space?
In this interview series, we are interviewing business leaders who share the strategies, tools and techniques they use to effectively and efficiently communicate with their team who may be spread out across the world. As a part of this series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Misty Frost serves as the CEO of Carrus, an organization dedicated to building learning experiences that allow individuals to enter and then grow their careers in healthcare. Misty has extensive global experience as a senior executive.
Over her 25-year career, she has served in senior leadership roles at innovative companies such as Instructure and Datamark. In addition, she has worked in a variety of client advocacy roles for global brands including Intel, Nortel Networks, Hyatt Hotels, and Disney. Misty is also an active member of Women Tech Council and Utah Wonder Women, a group dedicated to developing women’s executive leadership.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
Throughout my career, I’ve had the opportunity to work for companies that connect people to opportunities. Some of my most significant professional accomplishments are tied to growing educational technology offerings to broaden the scope and reach of education to communities that have been traditionally underserved. I find this part of my career both professionally and personally fulfilling.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
Early in my career, I worked at an agency as was assigned to work on an account called Conservation International. Harrison Ford served as a major supporter, and I had the opportunity to travel with several colleagues and meet him in his home. At a young age, I was struck by how much of a person he was. I expected a celebrity and met a person who was part of Conservation International because he really believed in their mission.
He was a gracious, genuine human. What has stayed with me about that experience is that no matter where you are or what you do, if you advocate for something bigger than yourself and focus on giving back, you join a collective of people who put personal status aside and are all just really genuine people trying to do good work.
This experience reminds me of our shared humanity and that we all have ways, great and small, that we can contribute.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
Maya Angelou has given me several life-lesson quotes that all align with the theme of giving back. As we are generous with our time and what we learn, we learn more and enrich the lives of others.
“I’ve learned that you shouldn’t go through life with a catcher’s mitt on both hands; you need to be able to throw something back.”
“If you give, get. If you learn, teach.”
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
Several years ago, I worked for a company that had engaged a consultant who helped develop corporate metrics. One day, he set a meeting with me. We walked into the room, sat down, and he looked at me directly and said directly, “Misty, you’re failing.” As a new VP, I was horrified. There was no sugar coating. He went on to tell me I was failing not because I wasn’t doing the right thing. In fact, he said he’d never known me to be wrong, but he said I didn’t speak up. In that very uncomfortable moment, I learned that we fail when we don’t use our voice. In that moment, he encouraged me to get over my lack of desire to not be confrontational and speak up. It’s a lesson I haven’t forgotten.
Ok wonderful. Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview. The pandemic has changed so many things about the way we behave. One of them of course, is how we work and how we communicate in our work. Many teams have started working remotely. Working remotely can be very different than working with a team that is in front of you. This provides a great opportunity but it can also create unique challenges. To begin, can you articulate for our readers a few of the main benefits of having a team physically together?
The biggest benefit of being in the same location is the organic growth of ideas. It is easier to build on an idea informally when people are together. It can be really fluid. Great ideas can come out of unplanned, opportunistic idea-sharing conversations.
On the flip side, can you articulate for our readers a few of the main challenges that arise when a team is not in the same space?
Communication can be harder. You have to be more conscious and deliberate about sharing information. It’s important to be aware of who has been involved and informed and then take action to cover the communication gaps.
Fantastic. Here is the main question of our interview. Based on your experience, what can one do to address or redress each of those challenges? What are your “5 Things You Need To Know To Communicate With Your Team Effectively Even If You Are Rarely In The Same Physical Space? (Please share a story or example for each.)
- Ensure everyone hears the message — If you set a meeting and you have people who are unable to attend, you have to make sure they are able to get the information as well.
- Use redundant communication channels — Communicate directly. Use multiple channels — Slack, video chat, email. If you have something that needs to be shared, you share it through multiple channels in order to reach everyone.
- Keep it simple — When communicating remotely, it is not the time to add fluff to your communications. You need to keep the message as simple and straightforward as possible to avoid any confusion.
- Check for understanding — Depending on the size and scope of the meeting, solicit feedback. If it is a broader or larger meeting, like a company All Hands, ensure you are following up with smaller teams to confirm they’ve heard and understood the message.
For example, I regularly meet with every department on a rotating schedule. In a given week, I meet with multiple departments to ensure we talk about culture, connection, and ensure they always have access to leaders. Knowing they can ask questions and that leadership is listening is more important than ever.
5. Be intentional about engagement and milestones at company, team, and individual levels — Work with HR and other departments to be intentional about celebrating wins and marking milestones. At Carrus, our HR department works cross-departmentally with themes and contests to keep people engaged.
For example, each division has a monthly meeting to focus on accomplishments. At a company level, we’ve increased our virtual team-building contests based on employee feedback. We’ve held month-long fitness challenges, recipe and virtual cooking contests and activities, and hosted group discussions about mental wellbeing, and even participated in virtual meditation sessions together.
Enabling people to get together to talk about what’s on their minds, what they are worried about, and giving them tips and tricks has helped increase our overall connection, even while working remotely.
Has your company experienced communication challenges with your workforce working from home during the pandemic? For example, does your company allow employees to use their own cell phones, or do they use the company’s phone lines for work? Can you share any other issues that came up?
We haven’t because we want people to connect and we already have policies in place to help them connect. Enabled Slack for everyone. We encourage video, but don’t require it. Etc. Connect the way they want to.
Let’s zoom in a bit. Many tools have been developed to help teams coordinate and communicate with each other. In your personal experiences which tools have been most effective in helping to replicate the benefits of being together in the same space?
We are huge users of Slack. We rapidly adopted Slack because it mirrors close to real-time engagement. We value the fact that it is asynchronous and informal. A lot more conversation happens over Slack than through email.
If you could design the perfect communication feature or system to help your business, what would it be?
We are open to using many different channels to ensure effective communication. No matter the channel, we place our focus on transparency and authenticity in our communication.
The technology is rapidly evolving and new tools like VR, AR, and Mixed Reality are being developed to help bring remote teams together in a shared virtual space. Is there any technology coming down the pipeline that excites you?
In our space, I’m excited about how augmented reality can enable more effective learning.
Studies have shown that augmented reality can change the way we learn. Here are just three ways augmented reality affects the brain, according to Heather Andrew, CEO of Neuro-Insight:
- AR drives high levels of visual attention in the brain (almost double that of non-AR tasks)
- Right now, AR elicits a ‘surprise’ response in the brain
- What is stored, or encoded into memory is 70% higher for AR experiences
So far we have discussed communication within a team. How has the pandemic changed the way you interact and engage your customers? How much of your interactions have moved to digital such as chatbots, messaging apps, phone, or video calls?
Our learner-focused team has always looked at multiple ways to support each learner as they work to complete their programs. Our interactions have always been predominantly digital-first, so the pandemic has only helped us focus on additional ways we can improve our learners’ experiences.
In my experience, one of the trickiest parts of working with a remote team is giving honest feedback, in a way that doesn’t come across as too harsh. If someone is in front of you much of the nuance can be picked up in facial expressions and body language. But not when someone is remote. Can you give a few suggestions about how to best give constructive criticism to a remote team member?
It’s so important when giving feedback, whether virtually or in person, to give your full attention to the other person, and listen. Otherwise, feedback can feel punitive and the person can get defensive. Feedback, done well, is a gift. It should be delivered with the best intention and the main desire to help the person improve.
Can you give any specific ideas about how to create a sense of camaraderie and team cohesion when you are not physically together?
Like I said earlier, working to have 1:1 connection through regular communication, virtual team activities, and company-wide communication is important.
Ok wonderful. We are nearly done. Here is our last “meaty” question. You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
Give people space and freedom to develop their talents and then use their skills to find ways to give back. When you demonstrate and cultivate trust at work, it’s heartening to see what people suggest and what we can accomplish together.
We recently saw this when we brainstormed ways we could increase our commitment to learners of color. So, we launched the inaugural BIPOC Scholarship program. The initiative covers the cost of any CareerStep healthcare training program (a subsidiary of Carrus) and covers the cost of a mentoring program to help learners successfully complete their coursework. We announced the winners and runners-up at the commencement of Black History Month and are committed to offering the scholarship program for years to come.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
Thank you so much for the time you spent doing this interview. This was very inspirational, and we wish you continued success.