Remote working puts a magnifying glass on our communication. We’re no longer in the context-rich setting of an office where we pick up a lot through background conversations, non-verbal communication and chance meetings.
All this means to avoid misunderstandings, we need to be more specific in our communications, a pitfall that raised its head yesterday.
My lad was at a training camp this past week with his sports team, and headed back on Sunday afternoon. They have 2 minibuses and 2 trainers who pick the athletes up, with each minibus picking up and delivering the youngsters back to 2 different areas (yes, lockdown eased here 3 weeks ago, though still with strict measures to follow).
On setting off back home they always send a message to say what time to expect them, in case they’re running late. So yesterday the message came for a 17:20 arrival from one of the trainers. Good to know, 20 mins later than scheduled.
40 minutes later a message comes from the other trainer (in the other minibus) saying, "15 mins late."
So what did that mean? 17:35, or 17:15 because the traffic was better than expected? Was he with the other trainer when he sent the update, or were they already heading out separately (which they sometimes do)? And which trainer is driving which bus? None of us parents knew, and while 15-20 mins is no big deal, if this was at work, it would be a foggy area you could do without. You too may well have experienced situations like this.
I ended up calling my lad to check because it was roasting hot at the pick-up point, and no way did I want to be hanging around there in the scorching sun with his beloved long-haired ‘I get too hot in a Scottish summer’ dog so desperate to see him!
The trainer was actually a little annoyed at being asked, because he’d sent the update. But there you go, that’s what so easily happens with teams working remotely. It can eat away at relationships (and results).
“We’ll be 15 mins later than person 1 said,” would have made it perfectly clear.
The same goes for our communications at work, both internal and external, particularly if you’re contributing to a thread on Slack, WhatsApp or WhatEver platform.
Get asked on a thread, “Can we approve sign off on this contract?”
Don’t just answer, “Yes.”
Because in the thread there may be other elements to the conversation that you’re not 100% up to speed on, and if you just say “Yes,” it may not be clear what you’re saying yes to. Before you know it you’re in a right old pickle.
Instead, say “Yes, approving sign off on this contract.”
A simple adjustment, but one that can be so, so important when working remotely.
There you have it folks. Yes, we need to be to the point, but when remote, not at the expense of being specific.
For more proven approaches on leading remote and distributed teams, get in touch for an informal chat: email firstname.lastname@example.org, or DM @leading_beyond.