Does your virtual team struggle with workplace communication?
While miscommunication isn’t inherently caused by virtual work, it can be exaggerated by a remote arrangement.
If you want to transform communication with your virtual team, start by asking yourself one question: “What’s my communication style?”
Although it may seem counterintuitive to start with yourself, it’s a helpful launch point. Take a second to reflect on your style of communication: How do you naturally give information? How do you prefer to get information? And how do you naturally respond?
As you reflect, you may realize that your communication style has changed recently. If you’re like 80 percent of respondents in a recent Wiley study, your organization has either mandated or encouraged you to work from home amid the pandemic. But regardless of your reason for working from home, the impact of virtual work remains the same: when you combine a lack of nonverbal cues with technological imperfections—like lagging audio and choppy wifi—miscommunication is often intensified for virtual teams.
Impact of Miscommunication on Virtual Teams
According to Gallup, “When managers are forced to limit the nonverbal cues available to their direct reports, they increase the chance for miscommunication, defensiveness and conflict.” Additionally, research shows that miscommunication within virtual teams can have costly ramifications: limited information flow, reduced cohesion, and delayed work progress.
Fortunately, you know miscommunication is a problem, but more importantly, you know it can be remedied. Since you know that communication is not a fixed skillset, where should you start?
Step One: Understand your own communication style.
Let’s jump back to that first question: What’s your communication style? If you want to transform workplace communication with your virtual team, it’s helpful to strengthen your own self-awareness. Once you understand how you communicate—and can clearly articulate your own communication style—it’s easier to recognize and appreciate how others communicate.
Step Two: Understand and appreciate different communication styles.
How does each individual on your team prefer to communicate?
- Some folks may need to hear the big picture first; others want to start with the details.
- Some folks love quick meetings with minimal small talk; others prefer open dialogue and in-depth conversations.
- Some professionals appreciate texts about urgent matters; others think text messages are invasive.
What does your team need? When you understand each other’s communication styles—and more broadly, what makes each of you different—it’s easier to appreciate one another.
To take this informal reflection one step further, there are a wide variety of assessments your team can use to better understand your styles and priorities at work—tools like StrengthsFinder, The Color Wheel, and our favorite for workplace communication, Everything DiSC®. Everything DiSC® helps teams distinguish among personalities by shining a light on preferences and tendencies in the workplace. One of the greatest benefits of using an assessment like Everything DiSC® is gaining a common language that you can use to discuss things like miscommunications.
Step Three: Come together as a team by adapting your communication.
With a shared language in place, and a mutual understanding of each other’s communication styles, you can better analyze and understand how your styles interact, and at times, how they clash. Using a common language, you can more easily come together to have productive conversations. This mutual understanding can help transform miscommunication from this big, intangible frustration to a clearly defined problem with a logical solution.
Transforming Workplace Communication
At the end of the day, if you can speak the same language about miscommunication with your team, your conversations, and your conflict, become much more productive. Currently, you may be stuck asking, “Why do we keep miscommunicating?” But when you understand each other’s styles, you can focus on mindfully communicating based on individual preferences and needs—letting you shift from being reactive to being proactive.
If you want to transform workplace communication with your virtual team, evaluate your own communication style, understand the needs and priorities of your team, and adapt your communication style to meet those needs.
If you found this helpful and want to have more productive conversations with your virtual team, check out our communication training: Transforming Workplace Communication: An Everything DiSC® on CatalystTM Experience.
Contact us today at firstname.lastname@example.org.