Overcoming Real Impediments to Virtual Communication

9/17/2013

Like with many other fundamentals of a traditional office environment, communication requires twice as much time in a virtual setting.

So what should team leaders do?

Before the actual project starts, team leaders need to ensure that they spend time with the team members individually, letting both sides get acquainted with the other. During this time, team leaders should discuss members’ individual roles on the team and on the project itself, and ask for their individual input on the structure of the project and how they can see themselves contributing.

Team leaders should also try to gauge members’ grasp of the language the project will be held in. If a team leader is speaking to a team member in a language that is not that person’s mother tongue, he or she should limit idioms and slang, never speak longer than 5 minutes before eliciting feedback, and ask probing questions to ensure that the content is understood.

During a teleconference or virtual presentation, team leaders should add more content to slides or visuals if they are being used so that non-native speakers can review it afterward. Leaders should make sure that slides are sent out a day or two ahead of the presentation so that everyone can be prepared.

Also, it is important to schedule more time than the teleconference needs. This gives room to resolve any technical or communication problems. Once it ends, leaders may want to make quick follow-up calls to individuals who may need clarification, and they should give the opportunity for further written comment for at least one day after the teleconference.

Jan Goedvolk, Global Leadership Director for the Emerging Markets Region, Berlitz