Regardless of the circumstances, executives are always seeking effective, efficient methods of communication. But these days, executives need virtual ways to communicate that are just as effective and meaningful as face-to-face encounters.
For many, communicating in the virtual space has become the preferred method of doing business.
Following are strategies for getting the most out of day-to-day work communications, engaging with remote employees and having meaningful conversations virtually.
Good Manners Equals Great Communication
Many of us have been working remotely for months; however, we can’t let our guard down and forget virtual meeting etiquette. Some recommendations for maintaining good virtual meeting manners include:
Have an agenda and stick to it. If possible, send out an agenda a day or two before the meeting. An accurate agenda not only lets everyone know exactly what will be discussed but also gives meeting participants the opportunity to ask or answer questions prior to the meeting.
Punctuality matters. When participating in a virtual meeting, a tardy host is almost as frustrating as the recurring chime that announces the addition of a latecomer. Arrive a few minutes early and have the meeting program running in the background of your computer while you are working on other tasks. Finishing a meeting on time is just as important as arriving on time.
Remove potential distractions. Silence your mobile phones, block time on your shared calendar, close the window to unnecessary websites, and let others who are working or living in your virtual office space know you’re in a meeting and are not to be disturbed, if possible.
Mute yourself. Unless you’re presenting, be sure to mute yourself. It’s amazing how much background noise microphones pick up.
Dress for success. Although many bedrooms currently are doubling as home offices, loungewear is never acceptable office attire.
Can You Hear Me Now?
We all want to be heard. And when communicating in the virtual space, it’s often difficult to know if we’re being heard or seen or even understood. Prior to 2020, most of us took for granted those little acknowledgements that let us know when we had successfully connected with another co-worker. Today, most of us aren’t able to give our co-workers an encouraging pat on the shoulder, provide a hug to someone who might be grieving, or even onboard a new employee with a tour of the office and traditional meet-and-greet welcome lunch.
With remote work and the use of virtual platforms the norm for the time being, finding connections with each other is critical to preserving our mental health and ensuring a necessary standard of production to remain successful. Here are simple ways leaders can preserve connections with their teams:
Prioritize daily face-to-face check-ins. A quick, 10-minute “huddle meeting” with your team at a set time each day can foster an atmosphere of collaboration and teamwork. Ask all participants to turn on their video, if possible. We all communicate much more effectively when we can be heard and seen.
Celebrate milestones and accomplishments—regardless of size. Though we might not be physically together, that shouldn’t stop us from getting together in the virtual space to celebrate each other and our accomplishments. Continue celebrating birthdays, work anniversaries and team wins—big and small.
Collaborate and educate. As an executive, you’re part of a senior leadership team. Being a good team member includes sharing helpful information with other leaders. When meeting with your peers, include time on your agenda for ongoing training, best practice sharing and problem-solving. “What are you currently reading?” is a great question to spark an information-sharing session.
Do lunch. Remember how nice it was to get out of the office for a bit and share a bite to eat? It’s still possible to create that same atmosphere of connection and conversation, even when working remotely. Consider sending lunch via food delivery apps to one person or your entire team.
When an In-Person Meeting Is Needed
All executives are tasked with performing duties such as delivering difficult news, negotiating contracts or disciplining an employee. Meetings related to these situations are best conducted in person. Face-to-face interactions allow meeting participants to share a common space, where distractions are minimized and technological issues eliminated. Unlike virtual meetings, an executive can control the environment of the in-person meeting and keep distractions and interruptions to a minimum. In-person meetings allow for a fuller sense of connection and trust over virtual meetings.
Because of our experience navigating 2020, we are all much better equipped to work in this new, virtual space. And now that we know better, we can all do better.
—Adapted from “Tackling Important Conversations Virtually,” Healthcare Executive, Jean Willey Scallon, FACHE, regional vice president, operations, Signature Healthcare Services LLC, Corona, Calif., and an adjunct professor at Indiana University in the O’Neill School.