In the words of speechwriter James Humes, “The art of communication is the language of leadership.” A good communicator is one step to being a good leader, and being a good leader is a key ingredient to running a successful business.
Good, clear-cut communication is especially crucial—and a much greater challenge— to managing a remote workforce. Communication in virtual teams requires effort. Nevertheless, it can be done.
Here are some tips to up the ante of communicating with your employees even if they’re on the other side of the world.
Use the best tools available.
There is a wealth of resources out there, all available for the taking, which will help you communicate with your team effectively and a lot of these resources are for free. You can chat, email, have a group video conference, share screens and slides, keep track of progress using project management software and annotate visuals, among others. You may have to pay extra for premium features, but if investing in necessary technology is going to help your team, why hold back?
Be specific and straightforward.
Not knowing what exactly what you want to get done and beating around the bush is a waste of man hours and energy. You need to be very specific in giving instructions and clear with the kind of output you expect. Set a deadline. Don’t assume that they know what kind of results you need.
Email over chat; chat over live video or audio calls.
It’s okay to use messaging apps to say hi or to nudge a co-worker regarding an impending deadline, but when it comes to project briefs and giving detailed instructions, it’s always better to send them through email. In cases when you just need to do a quick follow up or ask a quick question, chat is proven to be effective. However, the need for responses to be delivered in real time may prove to be a bit of a challenge.
Email and chat allows your points to be documented and used as future reference in case some points are forgotten. Another potential issue that using written communication eliminates are communication barriers that geographical differences may present. It could be as minimal as a completely different accent or something bigger, like a difficulty in speaking English despite an immense capability to communicate in written English.
Use bullet points.
Nobody wants to get lost in huge blocks of text in an email. To get your important points across, use bullet points. It makes things easier for everyone.
Colour code your comments.
If you will be responding to certain points raised in someone else’s email, make sure to colour code your comments by changing the font colour of your typed responses. This will make it easier for the receiver to decipher which statements are yours.
Give visual feedback when it’s needed.
If you’re giving feedback on your designer’s layout and you want specific things changed, use an image editing tool to point out the changes you want done. You don’t even need professional editing software—even paint will do!
If there’s a certain feel or atmosphere you want to see in the design, it won’t hurt to send some pegs for reference. If there’s a kind of font look you want them to use but you don’t know what it’s called, then send some screenshots of samples you saw online.
Set the standards for proper communication.
Professional but approachable? Concise but detailed? Since you are the business owner, you need to be the role model of your employees both as a team leader and a communicator. You should set the tone on how you want your entire team to communicate.
Know when to give positive and constructive feedback.
Feedback is the breakfast of champions—it gives them the extra push they need to get through the rest of the day. If your virtual assistant did great by contacting those new clients or your social media manager increased your site’s traffic by 70 percent, don’t hesitate to express your appreciation for a job well done. On the other hand, if you see that there’s room to improve and you have stellar advice on how to improve the output, don’t spare your employee from that much needed feedback.
There will always be communication challenges in a virtual team and there will always be questions on how virtual teams communicate effectively. There are, however, also ways to establish thorough communication with your remote staff, and they have been outlined above. These tips should help you bridge communication gaps within your remote team, build better communication patterns, establish solid working relationships and improve your operations, en route to your company’s continuous productivity and profitability.