a member of a virtual team talking to a friend

How To Communicate With A Virtual Team

Working in a virtual space can be tricky if you are not used to remote working. Zoom meetings and emails replace your regular in-person contact. Even though virtual spaces offer many benefits, one drawback is keeping the right level of communication. However, many of the skills you have learned can be applied to the virtual world – with some exceptions, of course. Let us, therefore, drive into it – and explore ways of effectively communicating with your virtual team.

Understanding different people and their styles

It is crucial if you are the business owner or manager to take some time to gain a good grasp of your staff’s communication styles. People are all different; their communication styles will therefore also differ. Some general styles have been identified, such as dominant, influencer, steady, or conscientious (see the diagram below). However, people usually are not exclusively dominant or steady. Instead, people reflect many overlapping shades of these four communication styles.

Understanding people’s personal communication styles help you not to misinterpret their actions. If you are communicating via video, you really need to grasp the communicator’s style not to misunderstand them. Knowing an individual style can enhance your own interpersonal skills, increase task accomplishment, build trust, and help you experience less frustration. Let’s explore the four predominant styles.

Dominant

Those with a “dominant” communication personal style are the drivers or directors. They love action and are results-focused. They look at the big picture, not the more minor details. Sensitivity and patience are not their strengths, and reflecting these qualities requires some effort.

If you are communicating with a “dominant” personality, then take note: Stay on the topic and get down to business right away. Be ready for impromptu follow-up questions (and you’d better answer them with confidence). Dominant people can be rather blunt and decisive, so don’t take this to heart.

To help you focus on people with this style – do this

To repeat – don’t take their follow-up questions, their blunt remarks, or impatience personally. They love a good challenge, so don’t tempt them if you aren’t keen. Don’t make empty promises.

communication styles of a virtual team

Influencer

These are the imitators or socializers – they love people. They are friendly, on the pulse with what is new, and very upbeat. Interpersonal relationships are their thing. As such, they make good collaborators. However, they lack long-term focus and don’t always follow through on their actions.

When communicating with an “influencer,” consider these points: approach them casually and friendly. Add in some humor when communicating with them. Remember, they lack long-term focus, so put everything in writing. You might have to refer to notes after your conversation. These people can sometimes be a tad too optimistic, including about their abilities, so keep that in mind.

To help you avoid conflict, do this!

Don’t talk down to such people; don’t confine or stifle their ideas, but rather explore them. They will go rather deep into the nuts and bolts with you, but that is just who they are. They trust people readily, so if you want to motivate others, they can be on your side to get the process moving.

Steady

The harmonizer or relator loves teamwork and does not like conflict. These people value consistency, loyalty and stability above everything. Such people are great for customer support and other roles which require helping people. Yet, even though they love their patterns, they can mostly adapt very quickly.

When dealing with “steadies,” do this

You need to practice active listening. After they speak, summarize what they have said and repeat this. Always approach them in a relaxed manner. Compliment them to help break the ice. But note, they will ask you for more details, so be prepared.

It is best not to force such a person into a decision. They might not be bored, even though they remain silent. Do ask them their thoughts, just to make sure. They would want deadlines, so spell these out. However, they are team players and have a good sense of their responsibilities and their role.

Conscientious

These are the thinkers or the analyzers. They like precision and competency. They will want to show their skills and are eager to learn new skills. One thing though − they can come across as unfriendly, but fear not – they are just a bit reserved.

To communicate with the “conscientious” types

Offer as many details as you can. Also, offer them clear expectations, and allow them to work independently. They will double-check info – this is not a reflection on you – they simply like to make sure that they offer you the right info.

That said, there are a few things you should avoid. Their feedback is constructive, not negative. Don’t use words such as ‘think’, ‘feel’ or ‘know’, since they will take these words up personally. Use small talk to warm them up a bit, so they feel more relaxed. The conversation will follow easier and you will be able to get more done. Note that these people are very systematic, and will assess risks before taking on a project. This is a good thing since it will help the team to be prepared.

Circumnavigating these different communication styles doesn’t need to be stressful

Even if you don’t fully understand others, don’t stress – they might not understand your style either. But for effective communication, there needs to be some level of proper communication flow. With virtual spaces, you do not have the luxury of seeing a person’s body language. Therefore as far as possible initiate Zoom meetings so that you can chat face to face. Be careful with your emails. Remember that people communicate differently, and as they do in real life, they will do in their emails. Therefore, limit your emails to the necessary info. The rest you can discuss in a weekly chat. It might take some time to get used to each other – but the trust will develop quickly enough, and so the communication will flow more smoothly.

How to communicate with your employee.

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