As companies around the world continue to try to figure out what the “new world of work” looks like, remote work, hybrid schedules and teams in multiple locations are becoming the norm. But whether your employees are 20 feet away or 2,000 miles away, the key to a great relationship with your employees is still great communication. Here are four things you can do to build better lines of communications with your team as we look forward to a bigger, brighter future.
First of all, let’s start with the big one… Is what you want to talk about a meeting or an email? People are busy and, while sometimes meetings are important – either in person or on ZOOM – and they allow you to read the room and understand body language, it’s also important to realize that not everyone on your team is going to take to a group meeting the same way. Will your introverts be as likely to participate if you need feedback? Will people be distracted? Are you asking them to be on camera just because you want to make sure they are present? Sometimes meetings are great opportunities to relay information, brainstorm, get feedback, huddle up on important topics… but sometimes they are a waste of time. Before you ask people to come to a meeting, be honest about the best way to communicate whatever it is you’re trying to say. Basically, is this a one-on-one meeting, a group meeting, a team meeting, an email, a phone call, a lunch meeting out of the office or something else? What outcome are you trying to achieve?
Secondly, communication styles are not just about you. Consider how the members of your staff like to communicate. Do they want you to stop by their cubicles once a day to build rapport or do they prefer to check in with you and the rest of your team on Slack or Microsoft Teams? Would they prefer you to pick up the phone if there’s an issue or shoot them an email? Your preferences and your staff’s preferences may not be the same – and that’s OK. Sometimes compromising to make sure they get what they need in the way they need it is part of being a great manager.
Next, communication is a two-way street. If you’re doing all the talking, you’re not communicating – you’re just relaying information. How open is your open-door policy? At some companies, staff members clock in, do a job and clock out. That’s fine for many businesses. But if your business requires additional brainstorming or feedback or if you could benefit from the innovations your staff might be able to build, then it’s important to understand that everyone brings something to the table. You need to learn to listen. This is also a good time to remind some of you that “tone” in an email or Slack message matters. How you say things is as important as how you say them – and that applies to digital communications as much as it does to in-person or phone conversations. “Thanks.” “Thanks!” and “TY” all say the same thing… or do they?
Finally, set expectations about communications. If your team overwhelmingly prefers to use Slack for their day-to-day conversations, then it’s important that you figure out how to use it and make an effort to meet them in that space. If a daily standup is what works best for you and your staff, then make it clear that everyone should be present, whether it’s in-person or online. If you want a daily or weekly update on their projects, don’t assume they know that. If you want someone to come into the office for a meeting rather than attending hybrid, just say so. Employees are trying to figure out how the new “world” works just as much as their managers and business owners. Being clear and setting those expectations takes a lot of guess work – and consternation – out of the process.
If your company struggles with communications or you need some training yourself, your local Growth Coach can help. Find them online at https://www.thegrowthcoach.com/find-a-coach.