Diagnosing Your Team's Communication Health

Jun 04, 2020 by Nomadic Team

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For most teams, remote work isn’t new anymore. Even if the possibility of remote work had barely flitted across our radars a few months ago, it’s now an everyday reality. We’ve adapted. We’ve developed patterns of communication. We’ve settled into habits for how we work and manage our teams.

But, for most of us, those habits arose in a period of extreme stress and duress. Which means that, while they may work, the ways we communicate to and amongst our team may not be the best, most effective, or healthiest. As we look towards maintaining some amount of remote work for the longer term, now is a good time to get an overview of how well you and your team are communicating—and look for ways to improve.

Here are are three diagnostics you can use to assess how your team is doing when it comes to communications:

Emotional Health: As a member or manager of an in-person team, you’ve probably developed ways to read the team’s emotional health, maybe without even realizing it. You read body language, sense the energy in the room (or lack thereof), notice changes in tone of voice. Many of these gut-level checks don’t translate in the remote world, so you’ll need to regularly scour remote communications for clues. What kinds of tone are you seeing in messages and emails? Are people using emojis and GIFs to cheer for one another or lighten the mood? Do you need to step in and model easier communication? Or do you need to step back and make sure people are connecting with each other without you?

Time Balance: The desire to communicate clearly can overwhelm newly remote teams. Take a look at your team’s balance of solitary work versus time spent on calls or video chat. Are they spending too much time talking? Are meetings happening just because they’re scheduled, even if no one has anything new to say? Do people have enough time to complete solitary, focused work? On the flip side, when we’re working remotely, it can feel like we need to schedule every communication; we lose the spontaneity we have when we’re physically together, dropping by unannounced or running into colleagues on the elevator. How can you help your team rekindle spontaneous communication?

Inclusivity: When we’re all together, ensuring that our teams are inclusive is incredibly challenging. Making sure every voice is heard and respected requires a lot of vigilance, awareness, and decisive action. Remote communications change all of that—sometimes for the better, sometimes for worse. Pay attention on your next team calls or video chats: are the same voices always being heard? Is it the same pattern as it was when you were all in-person, or have some voices become louder or softer? Scour messaging apps to see who is being heard and who isn’t, then look for reasons. Are some people left out because of timing—for example, a flurry of Slack messages happen all at once while your Asia-based team members are asleep? What kinds of signals are you giving to ensure inclusivity? Whose voices are you elevating and how?

This content is a part of our upcoming Managing in the Moment Program in the Nomadic Academy—more info coming on that soon.

Notes from the Nomads: Part 2

Debra Newcomer, Senior Partner at Nomadic Learning shares her experience breaking away from the temptation to work constantly