Have you communicated with your team more or less than usual in the past weeks? Most people would likely answer, without hesitation, more. That’s not unexpected in light of the diverse challenges of an as yet unknown emergency situation. Many have to work from home, start using new tools, and establish digital forms of communication in a very short time. In addition, there’s the uncertainty brought by the crisis, which you have to talk with your team about to overcome it.
The crisis has, in many respects, delineated how and about what we communicate with our teams. In the next few weeks, it’s all the more important to take control over how team communication is organized. It’s not about more, but about good communication. The longer this crisis lasts, the more crucial it is that the virus doesn’t also “infect” company culture.
Right now upper management is being asked not only to keep the business running and to manage through the crisis, but also to look after team cohesion and spirit. While social and physical distance define everyday work, keeping close communication is even more important. One thing is clear: Despite all the technical possibilities to get connected, we’re far from being truly connected. These recommendations can help you accomplish this even without personal contact or being in the same place.
Transparency is everything
Be as transparent as possible in your communication, especially if you have to convey bad news. Unclear communication makes the already heightened uncertainty even worse. As far as possible, focus on a realistic assessment of the situation instead of spreading false optimism.
In the current situation, it’s clear that upper management can’t have an answer to every challenge. Heroic managers that want to seem like they have a handle on everything are ill-equipped for this. Use the opportunity and ask your employees for their ideas. Think about solutions beyond the hierarchy and try to approach uncertainty together.
Make time to reflect on the crisis
As a return to normal isn’t coming any time soon, you and your team should keep an eye on continuing development. Ideally, you should establish fixed times when you reflect on the crisis together. It makes sense not only to relieve daily business from the coronavirus topic, but it can also be used for team development.
Especially in times of crisis, the skills of individual team members and the strengths of the entire team emerge. Use this opportunity to think about these qualities. Look back at the previous week with your team. Invite your employees to relay situations where the team successfully dealt with the unusual circumstances. Make note of the strengths on display to encourage team spirit.
Avoid unnecessary communication
For many people, working from home long-term remains difficult, even after the initial transition phase. Alongside day-to-day work often come additional tasks — not to mention the numerous video conferences, bored children, and worry for relatives. In light of these challenges, it’s important to give your employees some peace — especially because that’s the only time they can focus on their work.
Of course, people were complaining about non-stop Slack channels and overflowing inboxes before the coronavirus. But especially now, where we need more communication, each unnecessary email is all the more disruptive. Consider carefully which communication is truly important and which only adds to the background noise. This might be difficult for micro-managers, but don’t attempt to keep an eye on everything your team members are doing. Rely on your employees to get to their targets on their own, and support them when you’re asked.
Allow room for concern
Communication doesn’t just mean talking, but also listening. What should be self-explanatory has to be especially emphasized in times of crisis. Upper management is increasingly called to listen to the worries and fears of its employees. Dealing with that is not at all easy, especially when managers themselves aren’t immune to worry.
It’s clear that fears and uncertainty related to the crisis are exceedingly complex. Although they may seem irrational, they are difficult to counter with reasonable arguments. That’s why team members should regularly remember to be sensitive and empathetic in their communication — especially when signals like body language, facial expressions, and other subtle parts of personal communication can’t be conveyed completely.
Keep International Collaboration in Mind
Here at Babbel, we know that the details of communication are especially important when different languages are spoken within a team or when you have contact with international customers. In the current situation, one aspect is practical understanding. To communicate efficiently and avoid misunderstandings, good communication skills are key. For international collaboration, you also need sound foreign language skills that you can build on from home.
On the other hand, the social importance of language comes to the foreground for international teams. A common language creates cohesion! Even basic knowledge of the languages within a team strengthens intercultural understanding and can make a difference during a crisis. Babbel can help with both of these topics.
Look to the Future Together
With good communication, upper management can ensure that your team members stay connected — despite social distancing and working from home long-term. By communicating transparently, reflecting on the experiences in this crisis, avoiding unnecessary communication, and making room for voicing concern, you contribute to enabling your employees to look to the future with optimism again.
Despite the necessary crisis management, you shouldn’t forget about looking to the future. Take time to develop visions for what comes after the crisis with your team. Ideally, you should start right away: Have you already asked your team how they want to celebrate coming together again when the crisis is over.
Keen to improve your team's communication skills? Take advantage of the extensive experience of our experts and download our free booklet on digital language learning in companies.