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Walking the Communication Tightrope

 Walking the Communication Tightrope

 There's a fine line between over-communicating and micromanaging. This article goes through how to balance the communication tightrope as a remote leader.

Communicating effectively is basically tightrope walking the right way — you’ve got to maintain your balance or risk tripping on either side pretty quickly. Both over-communicating and under-communicating — the extreme sides of your communication tightrope come with their drawbacks.

Over-communicating, for instance, consumes a lot of time, which leaves little space for productive work and autonomy. Not to mention, meeting after meeting can be exhausting for everyone (and most likely not very productive).

Then there’s the other end too — having such a wide communication gap that everyone seems to be rowing their own boats, traveling to unbeknownst destinations. What happened to teamwork and working towards a common goal, huh? In such cases of poor communication, it’s easy to expect project delays, duplication of work, miscommunication, and more.

Since it’s easy to get caught up on either side, I’ve put together some useful tips for remote leaders looking to improve how their team communicates.

Ask the Team What They Think

It’s easy to assume you’re doing your best to communicate properly. But you never know — you could be communicating more than what your team needs or way less than what they’d appreciate.

The best you can do is learn how well you’re doing along the team communication front by asking your team directly. It’s good idea to pose the question every so often during the team meetings. Add it as an agenda item to ensure it doesn’t get passed over.

Utilize Synchronous and Asynchronous Tools

Synchronous communication involves real-time communication. On the flip side, asynchronous communication relates to team members responding to each other’s messages when they’re available.

Now that the definition is out of the way, let’s get to the heart of the matter: you need both synchronous and asynchronous communication tools for your team.

Why? Because you can’t expect your team to be indulged in real time-messaging all. the. time.

Such an approach would probably lead to employees spending 80% of their work time communicating with colleagues, leaving them with little room for actual work.

Don’t Micromanage with Status Updates or Approval Requests

Not only will this add work to your plate, it’ll annoy your teammates who only need approval from you now and then.

If you find yourself having a hard time trusting your employees with decision making, consider opening up about it with them. Explain your reasoning and find a solution together to rebuild trust. It also helps to remind you that you hired these folks for their talent, not to dissect their work.

Schedule Regular One-On-One Meetings

There’s more to leading a team than communicating and managing projects. You have to lead people too.

A great way to build trust, accountability and increase overall engagement across the team is by having one-on-one meetings.

One-on-one meetings give leaders the opportunity to provide ongoing feedback, gain a deeper understanding of what motivates each employee, and have a dedicated time to communicate with every single person on the team. They are also great opportunities for leaders to learn about whether or not their level of communication is too much, too little, or just right.

Keep in mind that one-on-ones aren’t only a dedicated space for managers and employees. You can also implement peer-to-peer and skip-level meetings to ensure that the lines of communication are open across everyone in the organization.

Stay Organized with a Meeting Agenda

A collaborative meeting agenda allows you and your direct reports to add and review items ahead of time and prepare for the meeting accordingly. It also ensures that when it comes time to meet, you’re able to prioritize what’s discussed because you’ll be able to see everything, you’re both hoping to cover during this time.

Having an agenda also means that you’re able to stay on track throughout the meeting with little-to-no excuses for veering off-topic.

The Bottom Line

When it comes to communicating effectively with your team, there’s no one size fits all approach. But there are best practices to help guide your efforts. Be sure to make changes based on what you find. For example, if your team feels like there’s a meeting overload, implement a no-meeting day every week to give people more focus time. If you find that the opposite it true, it’s time to double down on communication and make sure it becomes your focus.

About Great Place to Work®

Great Place to Work® is the Global Authority on Workplace Culture. We make it easy to survey your employees, uncover actionable insights and get recognized for your great company culture. Learn more about Great Place to Work Certification.

Lauren O'Donnell
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