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  • Lynette Van Steinburg

Virtual Team Communication Tactics

If you're used to working in an office surrounded by people and now find yourself and your team distributed in their homes you may also be surprised by, what seem to be, behaviour changes. How people interact online can be very different than how they interact face-to-face and, with the loss of body language, you are missing a lot of information that you probably weren't even aware that you were picking up.

Questions you should work on answering together as a team

  • What are our goals while we are working virtually?

  • What can we do to improve our work in the office, while we're out of the office?

  • Virtually, as a group, what is working well? What needs to change?

  • Tips and tricks that are working for you virtually that you can share with the team?

Communicate MORE

  • In a face-to-face conversation 90% of the information we receive is non-verbal. You need learn to share this information consciously now and you must encourage your team members to do the same. Using webcams helps too!

  • Ask more questions. Listen with more focus.

  • Consistency is key in virtual communications, behaviours, information sharing, etc. In a virtual landscape, predictability is golden. Your team should always know what information they will be given, and when and how it will arrive.

  • Explain the why - if you want people to be motivated they need to understand why they're doing what they're doing and how it fits into the big picture.

  • Try to get everyone communicating the same things in the same way - no one wants to hunt for information.

  • Have a persistent chat tool available to your team for efficient communication and searchable support; you don't want your conversations to disappear.

  • Talk to your team as a team; talk to your team members as individuals. Both need to be done on a regular basis. Most successful virtual leaders tell me the most important thing they do are regular 1-on-1 conversations; this is true for me too.

  • Encourage your team to talk to each other. Whether they're talking about work, socializing, or talking about work socially it's all important communication.

  • Put some norms or guidelines in place around communicating. For example: if what you have to discuss will require more than 3 text messages be exchanged then send an email or pick up the phone. If your email is long enough that the reader will have to scroll then pick up the phone or take the time to format your content using headings, bullets, etc. to make it more consumable. And, if your conversation will take more than three back-and-forth emails then pick up the phone or schedule a meeting.

  • Never assume that people see your vision - describe it, explain it. Leave no room or need for assumption.

  • Silence is not consensus. Silence in the virtual workplace means that a good portion of the people listening are thinking about why they don't agree. Make sure you are hearing from everyone. (More on this in a later post re: meetings.)

  • Ask: How can I help you? What can I do to make things better?

This is the first of a multi-post series on survival tactics for leading virtual teams. If you have a topic you'd like me to cover, please let me know.

Virtual is different, it doesn't have to be difficult.

I help people be better at their virtual work. Tell me what I can do for you.

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