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Upskilling Managers: Virtual Communication

Upskilling Managers: Virtual Communication

In a 2020 article, it was reported the Graduate Management Admission Council™ surveyed corporate recruiters from around the globe and found that communication and interpersonal skills are critical skills employers are now seeking when hiring employees. Communication has and always will be an important skill for both employees as well as managers. In fact, the higher you rise on the corporate ladder the more important communication becomes.

Unfortunately, many managers are promoted to the next level for their technical expertise and not necessarily their ability to communicate and lead. These managers may have been thrust into a leadership role without any formal management or leadership training. Regardless of whether or not you are brand new or have been managing for years, communication of any type can be misinterpreted. When managing a virtual team, managers encounter a whole different set of communication barriers and challenges than in face-to-face leadership.

Here are some keys areas to enhance virtual leadership communication:

  1. Conduct daily or weekly virtual team huddles. Conduct daily or weekly virtual team meetings to make sure everyone understands the priorities for the team and/or if someone needs resources or help to remove obstacles for them to complete their work. Communicate with transparency so the team knows what is going on with the organization and that the whole team is on the same page. This helps virtual team members feel they are part of a team and their contribution is helping to accomplish a bigger picture.
  2. Encourage team members to contribute during virtual meetings. In the blogs titled “Meeting Leadership Strategies” and “Meeting Etiquette,” we discussed the importance of conducting virtual meetings in a way that encouraged open communication. Encourage people to come on camera. Create a safe environment where people feel safe in giving opposing viewpoints or opinions. As a leader, you should save your opinion or viewpoint until everyone else has contributed in order to prevent apprehension in expressing different opinions.
  3. Connect with the individuals on your virtual team. Team members can feel disconnected from you as a manager. In addition to your regular virtual team meetings, take the time to connect with your team members for a few minutes each month by scheduling one-on-one time with each individual. If possible, these virtual touchpoints should be conducted through web conferencing which allows you to come on camera and “look them in the virtual eye”. Use this time to connect with them and get to know them better as a person. Remember, people communicate more openly with those they like and trust.
  4. Ask questions and clarify. Critical communication should be delivered using web conferencing and conference calls which allow for a better flow of two-way communication. Email, texting, and instant messaging applications are common one-way communication tools for virtual teams. These one-way communications are easy to misinterpret by employees because each piece of information is being filtered through their own experiences and viewpoint. One-way communication is time-efficient, so it does not make sense to eliminate it from virtual teams. To mitigate misinterpretation of more important, complex, or ambiguous information in one-way communication, try and check for understanding when possible. This is done by asking a question to understand how the communication was interpreted. Clarify the initial communication when needed.
  5. Recognize contributions and praise virtual team members more. When leading a team that you see every day, it is easier to see what they are doing and the effort they are giving. Take time to recognize timelines that are being met and discretionary effort that is being given by virtual team members. This recognition could be a good way to open team meetings. Make sure you recognize different team members each time, so it does not create animosity or the perception that you play favorites. For employees that get recognition all the time, this can be given in one-on-one virtual meetings.

With more businesses having virtual employees, the importance of upskilling managers’ communication skills has been magnified. Have managers focus on the areas mentioned above to open team communication and enhance their leadership skills. Organizations that do this will see enhanced retention and productivity in virtual teams.

Interested in learning more, join us for a complimentary 1-hour webinar, Upskilling Managers: Leading Virtual Teams, on November 19, 2020, at 9:00 AM.

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