I was once a regional HR leader for a company headquartered in the US, with most of my peers located at HQ. My work relationship with a most of them was great. But I really struggled to work with two of them. It felt like no matter what I or they did, we found ourselves at constant logger heads and in the middle of escalations due to communication issues. Our work (& teams) suffered due to this. Fed up with the struggle and as a last resort, I asked one of my former managers for advice if/how I could make this better.
She asked me- Are the peers who you work well with, better at what they do than the two people you are not able to work with? Do they always communicate on time or keep you in the loop? Have they never surprised with a decision that you were not involved with?
I realized that the answer to all three questions was a NO. So basically there was no difference between the people I liked working with and didn’t, when it came to the work. That’s when it hit me- what was different, was the WAY I VIEWED THEM and MY RELATIONSHIP WITH THEM. I was able to work well with one group of people because there was MUTUAL TRUST. Because of this MUTUAL TRUST communication was easier, misunderstandings fewer and issues resolved quickly.
Many many people managers and individuals have shared similar stories with me since remote work became mainstream over the last few months. Communication and working together effectively, while located remotely, is one of the big challenges for leaders and teams.
4 things that we can do to communicate effectively (especially while working remotely)-
- Build TRUST
The hardest thing to do is the most important one! With people we trust, we are unlikely to constantly question their “intent”. We are more accepting of their mistakes and more open to resolving misunderstanding. Investing time and effort in building trust relationships with our teams and peers goes a long way in helping us communicate effectively at work! In the words of Stephen R. Covey – “When the trust account is high, communication is easy, instant and effective”.
- LISTENING TO UNDERSTAND vs LISTENING TO RESPOND
With virtual working, listening to understand has become an even more critical skill than before! With most communication on phone or video (with the video sometimes turned off!), we are losing most of the non-verbal communication. This means that we have just the words and tone of voice and both of these can easily be taken out context or trigger a negative response. When we listen with the intent to understand, we can overcome some of our knee jerk reactions and atleast hear the other person’s point of view better.
Most of us struggle with staying specific and “on-topic” especially during voice calls. Not having everyone in the same room looking at you when you speak, causes many of us to get easily distracted and we end up rambling on & on. Writing down the points you want to make and staying focused on these makes it easier for us to make an impact and helps others to listen better.
- (NO) MULTI-TASKING
Resisting the temptation to run multiple chat conversations simultaneously or doing email while on a call is a big ask in today’s times. Multi-tasking has been glorified as the best way to achieve more! But in reality, almost no one is able to communicate effectively while distracted! I always try to remind myself of how I want to be communicated with and try to apply the same standards to the way I communicate with others. Basically, “do unto others, as you would want done to you”!
I have discovered that many aspects of effective communication seem basic and obvious. But they are sometimes really hard to practice! As leaders and team members, we all know that our success is linked to our ability to communicate effectively. While it is sometimes hard to practice, the results make it definitely worth every bit of our effort!