Communicating While Blindfolded
Feeling disconnected from your team?
While seeing your audience virtually is important, the in-person connection often wins--especially when communicating strong emotions. Something gets lost in the transmission when we can’t “see” up close and personal. It’s hard to lead when communicating with a blindfold. How you approach and respond to your team has a direct impact on each member. Research on emotional intelligence and emotional contagion by Daniel Goleman reveals that employees look to their managers for cues on how to react to sudden changes or crisis situations. Effective leaders take a two-pronged approach: 1) they acknowledge the stress and anxiety that employees may be feeling in difficult circumstances, and 2) they affirm their confidence in their teams.
Below are some recommended action items in this time of “alone/together” communication. With these supports in place, employees are more likely to feel comfortable in their new reality of remote communication and organization.
Be proactive and offer encouragement:
Don’t assume that everyone on the team is doing just fine because you don’t hear from them; double check with a specific question for each one and a personal disclosure of your own. Acknowledge the difficulty. “How are you doing with this? I am having trouble without our break room discussions in the morning.”
Be direct if you sense a distancing or struggles. Demonstrate your concern for each team member. Pay special attention to folks who are extraverted and are more relational than outcome oriented. They may need to spend a little more time processing the changes in communication.
Develop group norms
Be predictable about meeting times. Try not to schedule back to back--ask your team to start at quarter after the hour to give everyone a break to check in with family or get in a quick walk.
Encourage breaks during the day. This is an acknowledgement of how rituals ease stress and improve productivity. In addition, there are competing attentions in every household--honor them by acknowledging they take priority.
Discourage virtual clutter. When you can, use instant messaging instead of email, especially for coordination details. Rely on email for formal group decisions (and for documents if you don’t have a shared drive). Turn to video conferencing for group discussions, brainstorming and occasional social gatherings.