By Kimberly Gerber, president and CEO of Excelerate
Virtual communication has changed the way employees communicate, presenting major advantages and some new challenges. Today’s mobile workforce have an amazing array of technologies available at their fingertips to connect themselves with other workers, customers, competitors, and resources available across the world. On the flip side, many things get lost in communication when it’s not face-to-face.
Every day, hundreds of emails, voicemails, meetings, and text messages bury employees in an information avalanche. But the sharing of information is not communicating. To quote George Bernard Shaw, “The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” Leaders must build strong communication habits that will help organizations and employees thrive in the era of virtual communications.
As many people struggle to build rapport in person, it can become extremely challenging in a virtual scenario where you may not see your teammates, customers, or sellers frequently. Without face-to-face chats in the hallway or break room, building trust gets difficult. In order to build rapport through virtual channels:
1. Be proactive. Initiate informal check-in calls with colleagues or employees on a routinely basis to keep yourself and everyone else in the loop.
2. Engage informally. Allow colleagues to become more comfortable with you by engaging informally by phone, chat, email, or Skype.
3. Advertise accessibility. Make sure that people who work from different locations know when you’re available and how best to access you.
4. Know the gatekeepers and problem-solvers. Develop a friendly rapport with the people who can keep you in the know and offer help when you need it.
5. Know your audience. Pay attention to people’s communication styles. If you’re working with someone whose style you don’t understand or find unproductive, ask for what you need. Knowing and respecting how others like to communicate can help build trust and rapport relatively quickly.
Once you’ve established this set of habits for virtual interaction, productivity will jump as your team’s communication becomes more effective and connected, each receiving the information and solidarity necessary to succeed at the starting gate. Clearer communication also means stronger relationships with colleagues—more teamwork, less friction, and a strong sense of mission. Say goodbye to the disconnected chaos of your online workspace, and welcome the efficiencies of well-crafted virtual communications.
Kimberly Gerber is the founder and CEO of Excelerate, a communication training and coaching firm that offers interactive workshops, executive coaching, group coaching, mediation, conflict resolution, and laser coaching to focus on specific issues. For the past two decades, Gerber’s focused approach to communication strategies has successfully led Fortune 500 companies such as Starbucks and Fleetwood Enterprises toward real results.