My colleague Kim recently commented on the fact that she was having regular conversations with clients about the difficulty of maintaining communication and contact between team members working across multiple locations. In the new hybrid working environments, with staff working from offices, remote locations and from home, more communication than ever is done online. This has resulted in fewer face-to-face encounters, fewer opportunities to do ‘a quick check’ of understanding, less immediate feedback and more possibility of misinterpreted or confusing messages.
Under these circumstances, there is a greater than ever need for high quality dialogue, with an emphasis on deep and active listening. The value of these conversations cannot be over-estimated and they are worth the investment of time that they take.
In my experience, there are three key areas in which a lack of clear communication and shared understanding causes problems.
In each of the areas above, achieving shared meaning requires explanation and challenge. Questions become vital tools. Anything vague or open to interpretation should be clarified. For example, “You asked me to do this urgently. Can you give me a time deadline so that I can prioritise it ?” or “You’ve said I should show more tolerance. Can you give me some examples of situations in which I appear to be intolerant, so I know what to focus on?”
For many homeworkers, the pressures of balancing work and domestic demands can be intense. Conversations about what is meant when words such as flexible, diligent, responsive or productive are used can be critical in maintaining motivation and focus. For example, I may believe that I am diligent because I’m working until 10pm at home to complete an assignment, whereas my manager may feel that I lack diligence because I leave my desk for 40 minutes at lunchtime to feed my children. Asking questions such as, ”What is really important in enabling you to feel motivated and supported?” can have a huge payback.
This thoughtful use of language, combined with listening, is difficult in high pressure workplaces. But it is a skill that can be learned and practised. Some of RSVP Design’s specialist resources can trigger conversations and refine skills.
Learning Squared (Hollow Square and Broken Squares) requires careful and considered use of language in giving instructions, as well as awareness of the needs of others.
If you are interested in activities that bring people into a shared learning space, even if they are physically remote, speak to Kim (+44 141 561 0387) for ideas and suggestions about how RSVP Design can help.