Guten Tag, dear Reader.
I hope you have been staying healthy and have been finding ways to effectively digitize your company, processes or even place of work.
In my last post I discussed that our new forms of remote work require new ways of communication and how tools, if used incorrectly or too frequently (I’m looking at you, Slack…) are not a help but can really be a detriment to productivity and your or your employees’ work/life balance.
So, today let’s take a look at the three key aspects, that I personally find most important in communicating with colleagues and clients alike, through the prism of remote work.
The first aspect that I place a high value on is proactive communication. Proactivity tends to lead to less questions, less longer meetings and less mistakes. While the frequency of meetings and touch-bases may increase, keeping stakeholders frequently informed of project milestones, helps ensure that possible pitfalls are encountered before they happen. In a recent conference call our team had the privilege to speak and interview Hannes Kleist, an expert voice on all things remote work who helps leaders build remote teams across the globe. He had a fitting analogy, where he spoke of employees who after being assigned to a project seemingly disappear for the duration of the project and only resurface on the day of the due date. He refers to phenomenon as “submarine employees” which is a fitting term.
But proactive communication is also a helpful tool for managers who tend to micromanage. If proactive communication is the culture of an organization, people who tend to micromanage won’t fall into the trap of becoming the nagging supervisor who helicopters over their team-members & employees. Everybody wins!
That level of agency allows clients and colleagues alike to depend on you and to always trust your word…
This leads me to the next aspect which is to set expectations, rather than goals. This was a lesson I was fortunate to learn at a time when my friend Mick de Meijer coached and helped me up my game in leadership and team management. The simple take-away is that goals are often too general, so defining them is a good first step into the right direction, but setting clear expectations is the difference-maker. Expectations let your counterpart know not only what will be happening, but also how. To use the example from earlier about the micromanagement trap or the “submarine employee”, the key is to setting expectations and setting them early. Defining things like: ‘what does a completed task look like to you or to your organization?’ is likely to be different from person to person; or ‘what is considered to be on-time?’ for employee and clients meetings. Expectations by the very nature of the word lets your counterpart in on what you intend achieve and how, removing the often somewhat abstract nature of goals.
The missing ingredient to communicating effectively is to do so with the highest transparency possible. Sure, you cannot reveal the secret ingredient that makes your tomato sauce taste great (it’s nutmeg, isn’t it?), but you should stop hiding from tough conversations, shortcomings or mistakes. Not only does it bring a bigger sense of professionalism to the things you do, but it also demonstrates that you’re willing to be accountable for your actions, both shortcomings and achievements. That level of agency allows clients and colleagues alike to depend on you and to always trust your word, knowing that you’re someone who keeps it. So, when you set an expectation with your client, they know you will deliver and not try to make an excuse by adjusting the scope of a project mid-way through. Likewise, your employees or team-members will be more understanding of tough situations, if they’re let in on the reasoning. They will also be more supportive and motivated, if you share the latest company successes and team wins with them.
Whatever you do, make sure to ask yourself often: What do I hope to achieve with my communication style and would I be better served to change it? Do the people I communicate with understand my intentions and do I truly understand theirs?
The golden rule, one that I also need constant reminding of, is to listen first and listen more. Whenever you do speak, do so consciously and intently.
Be on the look-out on my upcoming post in a few weeks on motivation.
Auf Wiedersehen and until then, take care.