The work-from-home environment has led people to feel isolated and lonely. A recent study by the KULeuven indicates that 8/10 employees indicate their social interactions at work have severely decreased. We miss the informal chats and we don’t have the opportunity to catch-up with people spontaneously. In addition, we feel it is harder to be open about our thoughts when we cannot discuss things face-to-face. Our communication can come across very differently in an online meeting or email, so thinking about what you ask and say is crucial. To make this new environment successful for is, we therefore need to make a conscious effort to think about our communication and connect on a deeper level with the other person.

Use the IWWCW technique instead of criticizing

As a manager or colleague, it’s often our natural instinct to see how a task or job could be done better. The hard thing is to communicate this in a constructive way instead of criticizing. When we work remotely, this type of communication can come across harsher because we’re not sitting in the same room and miss the facial expressions and body language. Therefore invest 2 extra minutes before you speak and reframe your feedback with the IWWCW technique (In What Ways Can We). Instead of: the presentation has way too many slides! Reframe. In what ways can we make the presentation more concise? Then let the suggestions come from them.

Point out what is good and make it specific

During our busy days, we often forget the point out what is good. To make an impact when you share positive feedback, make it specific. Feedback like “Good job!” is very open to interpretation, because everybody has a different definition of “good”. Therefore, point out specifically what was good and how it made the difference. Instead of “good job on the presentation!”, be specific: “the simplicity of your slides made the message come across very clearly”. A small nuance that will make a huge difference.

Connect with the other persons’ core desires with these 3 questions

Do you have any idea what makes your team members tick? What drives them to give their best effort? Part of building good relationships is also knowing what drives the other person. Deborah Griegel shares 3 specific and refreshing questions to connect with somebody’s motivation
• What is your favorite project you’ve ever worked on, and what made it your favorite?
• What was the best team you were ever a part of and what made it the best?
• Which of your former bosses brought out the best in you? What did he/she do or not do that you appreciated?

Smile and be approachable by coming on camera

A smile is the shortest distance between two people. A job title can be the biggest distance between a manager and direct report. Remind your team that you are also only human by coming on camera in meetings to make yourself approachable. In addition, smile when sharing positive feedback to the team or in one-to-ones.

Take interest in others’ interests with the 15 min pre-meeting chat

Research has shown that a core part of the workplace culture, collaborations and relationships co-workers have are based casual interactions. Making a formal effort to create the informal environment will therefore have a huge impact on the company culture and how people feel. One easy tip that you can apply immediately is the 15 minutes pre-meeting chat. Instead of booking your meeting for one hour, invite everybody 15 minutes in advance to talk ONLY about non work-related things.

Use people’s names and address them directly in a friendly way

In virtual team meetings there is a big risk of losing our teams’ attention and for individuals to feel less connected. A simple way to counter this is to address people directly with their names. When you notice someone is silent, address them with: Eric we haven’t heard from you yet, what are your thoughts? In addition, address people proactively to come on audio and acknowledge their feedback with a little thank you.

Be fully present and practice active listening

This must be one of the hardest things to do. We deal with so many priorities at the same time and are constantly triggered by incoming emails. Before you start a conversation, make sure you’re not only there physically, but also mentally. Approach the conversation with curiosity, there’s always something new you can learn. When you’re talking, make the other person clear you’re listening:

  • Make eye contact
  • Maintain an open body language
  • Ask questions
  • Rephrase what the other person said, then check in if you understood correctly
  • Wait with your feedback/answers until the other person has finished speaking

Discuss what matters to them by using the 1 – 10 scale

Questions like: what gives you energy in your job? What are your current challenges? What makes you motivated at work? Are often hard to answer for team members. An easier way to discuss what matters to them, is to make it concrete by using the 1 – 10 scale: How would you score your progress this week on a scale from 1 – 10? How can we make it a 10 next week? This will help you uncover their challenges and what is going well without asking direct questions people might not know how to answer.

Always leave others feeling a little better

Positivity creates motivation! CEO of Disney Bob Igers, shares in his book ”The Ride of a Lifetime, that one the most important qualities a leader can have, is positivity. And we couldn’t agree more. “If you constantly walk up and down the hall telling people ‘The Sky is falling’, a sense of doom and gloom will, over time, permeate the company. You cannot communicate pessimism to the people around you. It ruinous to morale’. Optimism is about believing in yourself and your employees abilities. Spread the positivity by making a point out of leaving others feeling a little better.