For all of the good that comes with running a remote business or virtual team, there are a number of unique challenges that emerge when you’re no longer interacting with your people face to face. Confusion and miscommunication are chief among these issues.
3 Tactics for Reducing and Avoiding Confusion
Virtual teams are great. Not only do they provide a tremendous amount of flexibility, but they also allow each member of the team to work in an environment that’s comfortable and suited to their own needs. However, ignoring the shortcomings of virtual teams does everyone a disservice.
If you want your business to run as smoothly as possible, you need to be forthcoming about the challenges that exist with communicating 100 percent virtually. More specifically, you have to address the issue of confusion and the friction that exists when communicating tasks, facilitating feedback loops, or managing projects.
While nothing can replace the clarity of face-to-face interactions with your team, there are ways you can reduce confusion in a virtual setting and enjoy optimum productivity and efficiency. Here are a few suggestions:
1. Set Ground Rules
The first step is to establish clear and precise guidelines for how team members are to communicate with one another. This might seem like such an obvious thing, but the reality is that everyone has their own preferred methods and modes. By creating ground rules, so to speak, you cultivate consistency and pave the way for less confusion.
For example, how should new assignments be distributed? (Is the project manager supposed to send an email, make a phone call, or schedule a Zoom meeting to discuss?)
Or what about simple details like receiving a message on Slack? (Consider creating a universal symbol of acknowledgment that the message has been received and read – such as a checkmark or thumbs up.)
Little details like these can help your team avoid the issues that so-often plague virtual teams and put a chokehold on productivity.
2. Choose the Right Medium
Be intentional with the various forms of communication you allow in your business. While there is no shortage of options, some solutions are much better than others – particularly when clarity is the primary objective.
- Email: Good for non-urgent messages where you want to document something and/or provide thorough detail. Also great for sending large attachments and links that someone needs to open on their computer.
- SMS: Designed for short and concise messages. Ideal when you want to get straight to the point. SMS emphasizes clarity by forcing you to strip out any filler language and focus on the “meat” of the issue.
- Video conferencing: If you have something important to discuss with a group of three or more, a quick video conference can help you get on the same page with one another. One of the biggest benefits is the ability to see body language.
- Voice call: Looking for the quickest possible way to communicate an idea without the possibility of the meaning being misconstrued in a text format? A voice call allows you to explain yourself and leverage inflection and tone to ensure complete clarity.
There’s a time and a place for each of these modes of communication. The important thing is that you set clear rules on when each is preferred so that your team knows what to do in any situation.
3. Practice Empathy
If you want to reduce confusion, you (and your team) must learn to be empathetic with the person you’re communicating with.
“We often think that others are more in sync with what we’re thinking than they really are. The obvious fix for this illusion is greater empathy,” Harvard Business Review mentions. “Put yourself in the position of the other person. Actually visualize that individual in his office as you send him an email.”
Remember that simple details like grammar and spelling can make a huge difference. Always read your message prior to identify issues like misplaced commas, misspelled words, missing words, etc. Correcting an issue like this upfront can prevent unnecessary back-and-forth.
Restore Clarity in Your Organization
A healthy amount of clarity within your organization can help you avoid and overcome a litany of issues that so often plague virtual teams. By emphasizing frictionless communication, you’ll find it possible to get more done in less time (and with better quality).
Now’s the time to step up and embrace this all-important challenge of restoring clarity to your business. Which tips will you put into action first?