It doesn’t matter how sophisticated your virtual team software is, or how creative your video conferences are, there’s something that will always be missing when business is conducted remotely, and that’s face-to-face communication. Yes, it’s a big deal.
According to findings from MIT’s Human Dynamics Lab research, the most powerful form of communication is in-person. “Typically 35 percent of the variation in a given team’s performance was explained by the number of times team members actually spoke face-to-face.”
In times such as these, when those face-to-face meetings are mostly reduced to laptop screens, leaders need to up their game. But how? This is a topic Vida Aventura founder Deseri Garcia has been discussing daily with her clients. Here are some of the most recent questions she’s received from team leaders, along with her answers.
Question: I feel somewhat worthless right now like my main function is just to pass on corporate messages to my team. What can I do?
Answer: Part of crisis management in especially larger corporations is getting official messages and updates out to all employees, all of which have typically gone through layers of edits, revisions, and legal reviews. Team leaders are the ones that have to help disseminate that information, and while vital, it can also seem impersonal.
Employees genuinely want to know what’s going on, but some want the details and data, while others need comfort and reassurance, or the ability to ask questions and discuss what it all means. Don’t assume that everyone is handling the situation the same. Your job is to know what works for each individual, and then speak to them in the language that resonates the best.
Question: I know I need to be productive, but I’ve been having days lately when I feel the need to not do anything. What can I do about that?
Answer: In ordinary times, our lives are filled with pressure to be uber-productive, meet deadlines, and fill our days checking off massive to-do lists. That pressure can be especially unhealthy while sheltering in place.
This is not the time to be a hero, or reinvent yourself. Pay attention to your needs, and focus on taking care of yourself and others. Take a day when you need it to regroup and nurture your physical, mental and emotional health, even when that means doing absolutely nothing.
Question: Is there anything I should be saying or not saying when I communicate with colleagues or customers?
Answer: It’s easy to get caught up in your own personal bubble in times of isolation. For example, if cleaning house at 3 a.m. helps you cope, it’s easy to assume that everyone else gets just excited about shiny floors and spotless windows. If baking bread is your new hobby, you might be tempted to share endless selfies and stories about your brilliant skills with yeast.
Remember that every person is dealing with their own reality … and that can include anything from anxiety and boredom to angst and literally life and death situations. Whether it’s a newsletter, email, text or social media post, make sure it’s sensitive and on point. Reach out to people in your organization, show compassion, encourage conversation, and know that your people need to hear from you. But check and double-check the tone before you send it, and rephrase or redirect if there’s any doubt.
Question: I have a team member whose productivity has tanked since he started working remotely. How can I help?
Answer: We are all affected in different ways by the onslaught of daily news briefs, ever-changing developments and the rising state of uncertainty. It’s hard to cope for even the most resilient. Some workers – who normally thrive in an energetic, structured environment with constant deadlines – get caught up and over-saturated with current events, which makes it easy to lose focus and energy. As a leader, help them prioritize specific tasks, check-in with them regularly and build in meetings to debrief. Stay alert to not only their productivity but their state of mental health. Provide resources, offer empathy, and help them stay connected. The bottom line: leaders need to know who to lead, who to manage, who needs structure, and who doesn’t.
What are the issues you’re struggling with most right now? Whether it’s with team building, team management, being a good leader, personal growth or being effective in times of crisis, please post your questions here. Let’s keep the conversation going.
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