The Art of Communicating...
Communication becomes much easier when you have the sender and the receiver face to face. In this context, all of the factors, which can happen during a conversation can be clearly visible to the participants, and because this is the case communication becomes more streamlined, confusion is averted.
But what happens when the two parties communicating, are not located in the same room, and the act takes place via web conference, or even asynchronously? This is where the situation becomes more cumbersome, for all involved in the act.
When communicating in this manner, all the factors which shape communication come into the fore. You might find that a colleague sent you a rather angry looking message, that your manager might be a micromanager and generally that you might not trust what the other person is saying.
Because in the type of communication, which is prevalent in remote work, non-verbal communication is almost gone.
What does this mean?
Simply put, it means that we cannot certainly say that we can trust our judgment on the person’s message, or motives because we cannot see them all the time.
So why do I call communication an art?
Because being an able communicator, in the remote work environment, is crucial.
Being able to express emotions, feelings and other factors in writing, or via a video call, is hard. Being able to read between the lines, and simply empathize with the person sending you a message is hard.
Due to the fact that it is hard, seeing able communicators in action is like watching a painter working on a large canvas, the fine strokes and the heavy touches make up a beautiful scene.
How do we know it is hard?
Research studies have shown that the increased usage of technology can have harmful effects on people’s empathy. More so the ever-important personal experience, in this case, ours, has shown that the way we communicate shapes how others perceive our message, and indeed ourselves.
What does Upstack do?
Yossi & George: ‘Don’t just communicate, but over-communicate!’
The Upstack Remote Manifesto: ‘Communication is key, use it wisely, and make it meaningful. All Upstackers should strive to communicate as effectively as possible, eliminating uncertainty and blockers.’
This is a very difficult question to ask, especially for an organization like ours. Simply put we were lucky, the right talent applied to work with us, or we sourced it, and at the moment our core team is extremely well aligned, we love working with each other and collaborate continuously.
You could say we actively seek ways to collaborate on various projects and initiatives, without much pushing going on, but how did we get here?
We clearly define what we want to achieve:
In this case, it is valuable, timely, and most importantly, accurate communication. By doing so, but also keeping it fun, we have managed to create an effective and cohesive remote work environment.
The concept of avoiding blockers. In Agile we don’t try to think of all the potential roadblocks and mitigate them, we focus on the ones we can see. Therefore, being a remote team, we love that our team communicates so well that blockers are virtually non-existent.
We coach teams to communicate effectively:
- Daily Stand-up’s
- Retrospective meetings
- Prep meetings
- Connect events
We try to have as few meetings as possible:
- To keep them valuable
- Focused on asynchronous communication
The best meetings: Daily Stand-up’s, 1-1’s and Retrospectives
We use tools:
- Standup Alice
We use threads:
- Keeps the message clean and easily trackable
- Creates involvement through tagging
- Engages multiple team members in the task at hand
- Proactive and creative problem solving
We also research & document:
Writing this article took several years of individual observations, from various team members, a multitude of iterations of retrospective analyses, and numerous types of documents (some still going, some binned) therefore it in itself is a living reference list.
So, how do the tools mentioned help us in our communication process? What is the best solution we have created? How a bird helped us succeed?
Stay tuned for Part 3 of our "Communication in Remote Teams" series where we will tackle the above questions and not only.