Good communication is essential to successful delegation. Use these guiding tips to decrease miscommunication and increase productivity with remote team members.
Nothing helps facilitate communication like a face-to-face meeting. Setup an online face-to-face using Skype, as it incorporates video conferencing, instant messaging, file and desktop sharing all in a single, easy-to-use program. An excellent tool for visual communications with remote team members, vendors, and clients.
Additionally, if you need to explain something and can’t make a Skype call, use the free Screencast-o-matic.com to record a quick video of what is on your computer screen and talk them through it. Upload the video and send the link to your team member. They can watch it while listening to your comments and follow up with any questions.
There’s no substitute for seeing it as it is, real time or not.
Set clear performance objectives with your remote team members. Identify, define and prioritize them (objectives), this gives you and remote worker guidelines on where to focus your efforts. Consider using S.M.A.R.T. goals as a template for defining expectations.
Also set clear feedback guidelines so that it’s acceptable to make suggestions, have questions, need additional info, or a walkthrough. Too often this is where things break down when one expects that the remote team member should “just know” or “just figure it out” when this is risky and sometimes impossible.
Remember the golden rule of “do to others what you’d like done to you” and you will be fine. That said, focus on being present when communicating remotely. It can be tempting to multi-task (i.e. type e-mails, have side conversations, incessant interruptions, etc.) when someone is not physically with you. Try to remove any distraction that draws your attention away from being fully present (i.e. background noise, new email alerts).
This will also model the standard for how your remote team should engage others in and related to your organization.
Know your tools
Not knowing how to use the tools of remote communication will be a barrier to communicating effectively. Take time to learn the tools you need by attending vendor classes or webinars (or ours!), watch related Youtube channels, or ask your remote team member for a walkthrough as they are likely very skilled in many of these areas. This will significantly improve your experience and satisfaction with the person with whom you are communicating.
As the Norwegian poet, Tarjei Vesaas, stated it, “Almost nothing needs to be said when you have eyes.”
Understand the commitments of communicating with remote team members. Remote team members can become frustrated when commitments are not kept or renegotiated (rescheduled, postponed, cancelled prior, etc.). Be mindful of frequent rescheduling of meetings and be sure to answer questions in a timely manner. Lack of response often creates disengagement and distrust as it implicitly communicates a lack of value for the team member at your service.
This also models your expectations for dealing with those in and related to your organization.
Prevent miscommunication by observing all aspects of the conversation. If you just got some really bad news, perhaps stepping back is better than diving into the details of an important project. Observe the circumstances, the other person and consider your options before communicating. An excellent framework guiding communication is to remember E.N.A.T.A., is my communication effective, necessary, accurate, timely, and appropriate.
Remember to work from an agenda if possible, it will provide a warning for a short time slot, discourage digressions, and establish trust and confidence between you and your remote team members. Agendas provided even 15 minutes prior or longer also allow remote team members to prepare so your project can be advanced, not just discussed on your call.
If possible, make sure your communication tools are working properly before staring the conversation (i.e. logged into services, video cam working, etc.) and have a ‘plan B’ just in case.
Not everyone is suited to be a remote team member. Consider giving new hires or contractors a small project to begin with to see how well they self-manage. Hire people who have proven the ability to work remotely to your satisfaction. Look for results oriented people who are consistent, reliable, and communicate well. Make sure the oft used mantra, “out-of-sight is not out-of-mind,” is not true for them.
Additionally, like going camping with all your supplies, the experience of all involved will be greatly improved by using encouraging questions, using video and screencasts, and thinking through your tasks to make sure all the “supplies” required are present prior to delegating.
Use these tips as a starting point for communicating with remote team members or as a reminder when communication seems to be breaking down.