In some form or fashion, working virtually has quickly become the reality for most of us today. And whether you’re working with colleagues, customers, vendors or others, there are more tools and apps than ever to help you collaborate across any distance, whether it's across the country or even across the globe.
But no matter how many tools and devices you have, effective collaboration still comes down to how effectively the parties communicate with each other. Particularly when you don’t always have the advantage of visual cues, tone of voice, or cultural nuances, the chances for miscommunication are high.
Here are 4 steps for making sure your communications get across in the way you intended, no matter what technology you use (these can even useful for when you’re communicating in person):
1. Give them the context: You develop your virtual communications with a specific frame of reference in mind, but your audience doesn’t necessarily have the same mindset going in. This is one of the reasons why email, Slack messages, and other brief written communications can be so prone to misunderstanding. The context isn’t there, so the receiver feels like it’s coming out of the blue or misinterprets your intention.
Preempt the problem by letting them know upfront what’s going on, why you’re communicating and what the big picture is. This is important to clarify both for yourself (before you communicate) and for your listener.
And when you're on the receiving end of the message, be sure to give the sender the benefit of the doubt or ask for clarification if you think you might be getting the wrong idea on something. At Herrmann, we always say "assume positive intent." It helps to keep communication on a remote team much less toxic.
2. Give them the agenda: Everyone’s juggling multiple priorities. We all have very full plates. Especially when you’re working with distributed team members who may not have much daily interaction, rambling messages or confusing requests can feel frustrating, intrusive and disrespectful of people’s time.
Don’t just wing it. Give people a high-level agenda or plan that sets expectations about what you’re trying to accomplish in a way that’s appropriate for the format or communication vehicle. You'll find this is an appreciated touch whether someone has a high preference for B-quadrant thinking or not.
3. Give them the what: Of course, the facts and data—the what (A-quadrant)—are important, but oftentimes, the tendency is to jump right into the content. If you haven’t set up the context and expectations, people may misinterpret what you’re saying, have trouble following your train of thought or simply tune out.
Dive into the content after doing those first two steps, and people will understand the data within the framing you desire. This will help you deliver it in a much more effective way while giving your listener the critical information they need.
4. Give them a way to engage: Stories and interaction are what allow people to quickly make connections with what you’re talking about—and that means what you’re communicating is more likely to stick with them.
We do this naturally in our heads, trying to make connections to what it is we’re hearing, so if you can facilitate that process through relevant stories, you’ll find you’ll get much better impact and people will really understand what you mean. Do this throughout your communications, and whenever possible, make it a two-way interaction so people feel involved and that their participation matters.
Because these steps hit all of the quadrants of the Whole Brain® Model, no matter how diverse the thinking preferences of your audience, you’ll be able to “speak the language” of their thinking to make sure your communication gets across—whether it’s across the phone, across email, across Skype or across the room—in the way you intended.
Try them out in your next virtual meeting or in the next team communications you send out to see how it works!
This post is a repost and also a continuation of our blog series about a Whole Brain® approach to all things virtual. The series features ideas for better communication in a virtual environment, Herrmann employee home office setups and much more!
Find more tips on going remote and setting up a successful virtual work environment in our new e-book: CLICK HERE.