In “normal” times, face-to-face communication between managers and their teams is crucial, leading to improved performance and morale. After all, when you are in the office together, it’s much easier to take a moment to recognize the contribution of individuals in real time, showing them that they matter and that you care. But right now, when so many of us are working from home and have had our “normal” practices disrupted, these critical connections are far more challenging. Instead, we find ourselves greeting each other with instant messages, rather than saying “hello” in person. And with video calls and other forms of digital communication, it’s possible to miss nuances and mininterpet each other. But it’s more vital than ever to stay in touch with everyone on your team consistently.
In a study discussed in the Harvard Business Review, 46% of participants said the best managers checked in frequently and regularly with remote employees. Regular personal contact on a daily basis is key to letting everyone know they are appreciated. That, in turn will keep people motivated: Shorter communication cycle times are more effective in building and sustaining morale and engagement.
And according to a Thrive Global survey of more than 5,000 Americans around coronavirus pain points, 87% of those living alone and working from home are now struggling with loneliness and social isolation. This means that communication with work colleagues can make all the difference. As Elizabeth Grace Saunders writes in Fast Company, “You will best serve your team by being a voice of reason and calm. The more you can show up from a place of empathy, respect, understanding, and peace, the more those under your leadership will have the ability to calm themselves and to do their work.”
Here are five ways you can communicate more effectively with your team:
Reach out to every member of your team once a day
Even a quick hello will let your colleagues know you’re thinking of them, which helps them feel valued.
Whether you are checking in with a brief “hello” on a video call, or even just an instant message, ask how the person you are talking to is feeling. Practicing compassionate directness is key, notes Arianna Huffington, Thrive Global’s Founder and CEO. That means starting every conversation with simple, direct questions like: “How are you?” “How is your family?”
Set an intention about what exactly you need to communicate, and then express that concisely. Clear messaging is vital from leaders, especially now.
Your direct reports can benefit from just feeling listened to, research has found. In order to achieve this, try perception checking, where you make sure you heard someone correctly. For example: “I hear you say you are unclear on your top priority.”
Pay attention to details
Closely observing the responses of your teammates is particularly helpful right now. That’s of course more difficult than when you are with them in person — but it is possible. As Timothy R. Clark, author of The 4 Stages of Psychological Safety: Defining the Path to Inclusion and Innovation, writes in HBR, “Pay close attention to patterns in the tone of written communication; rate, volume, pitch, and inflexion of voice communication; and any physical gestures in video communication.” Each of those can help cue you if this person needs extra support.
“Leaders who demonstrate hopefulness and confidence in the future are better able to help their team members find meaning and purpose in work, especially under stressful conditions,” Clark writes. Being an example of positivity and optimism can help inspire your colleagues.
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