In our continuing series on how best to be an exceptional leader of remote employees, last week I blogged about the importance of getting to know them personally. Today’s tip: be thoughtful about the communication medium you use.
Think about the medium!
Depending on what you are trying to achieve, certain types of communication work better than others. As a general rule, the more direct and uncomplicated the situation, the written word can be more effective. And the more complex and thorny the situation, a verbal conversation becomes a necessity.
Email is best for quick interactions that are fairly straightforward and task-oriented. Chat programs such as Skype or Google Hangouts are great for quick instant messages and for creating a team chat environment. But there are certain kinds of communication that should only be handled over the phone. Any issue that is complicated or emotionally-laden should at minimum occur in a live telephone call. Ideally face-to-face would be better, but obviously that’s usually not a choice with virtual teams. However, if you can even have these conversations via video chat, you’ll be in a better position to pick up visual cues of what is going on with the other person. Any sensitive issue such as performance problems should always be, at minimum, voice-to-voice.
Be thoughtful about how you communicate from a distance with your remote employees, and you’ll end up with better outcomes than if you didn’t.
I frequently hear horror stories about how remote employees get emails on subjects that would have been much better handled over a telephone call. I would love to hear your experiences. No names required, and feel free to change some of the details to protect confidentiality. But please do share … because the more we talk about this subject, the more likely we are to get better at communicating with our remote employees. Let’s learn from one another.