Are you finding yourself missing the lunchroom chatter and dynamic group discussions at work? Some things are hard to transfer over to Zoom because it’s hard to replicate in-person interaction.
But that doesn't mean you can’t have an effective online conversation. Having purposeful video conversations takes intentional effort, and you can reap many of the same rewards as face-to-face conversation.
In our recent Conversation at Work event, we discussed how to get the most out of online conversations. Guests Jonathan Miller and Lisa Fain joined Jostle’s Bev Attfield for a vulnerable conversation about the challenges we face in communicating while remote, and how to address them.
Together we explored how to best prepare ourselves for the wide range of conversations that are now having to happen remotely. After this session, I felt better equipped to pursue those especially hard chats, like conflict and mentoring conversations.
Here’s what was most valuable to me in this discussion:
There are five levels of conversation
Photo Credits: Lisa Fain and Center for Mentoring Excellence
Lisa gave us an overview of the five levels which can help us realize what the goal is as well as the learning, trust, and time implications:
Monologue: Which is where there are very little learning and trust; you’re essentially just saying something to someone else without any conversation.
Transaction: This is similar to an uninvolved employee check-in where you simply ask if the employee did what you discussed with them, and there’s nothing more to the follow-up.
Interaction: Interaction is where you start to dig deeper into the conversation by having more questions and dialog. Trust starts to form more at this stage.
Collaborative Engagement: This type of interaction takes more time, and involves a lot more learning. This type of conversation could be a mentor communicating with a mentee, where the mentee gains more knowledge and trust in the mentor.
Dialogue: This is the final stage of conversation, this is where the conversation grows and you both gain from the conversation as there is trust and learning for everyone involved.
The importance of trust
Trust is extremely important in the workplace. While on video calls, you need trust and integrity more than ever.
So how do you ensure you build and maintain trust while remote?
Make sure you follow through on the plans/commitments you make. Did you promise to be at the Zoom meeting on Thursday? Make sure you’re there. Did you say you’d have the writeup done by 5? Plan out your day so you can make that happen.
Your managers and co-workers can no longer see that you’re working to ensure you’ll deliver on time, so you must remain consistent and purposeful in your actions so they know they can count on you.
Are you starting a new mentoring / work relationship while remote? We discussed the benefits of making trust agreements to ensure your new mentee / employee feels safe in your professional relationship. This is a great way for them to outline what trust means to them, so as a leader you can act accordingly.
Another important aspect of forming trust is that the power rests in the individuals with higher power. For example, if you’re the manager, you must be the first to be vulnerable and share, and then invite your employee to do the same. This way your employees feel they can be their authentic selves, while not feeling forced into it.
Recreating water cooler conversations
While remote, we’re losing out on the dynamic and beneficial conversations that happen organically around the office. Whether it’s ideation around the water cooler, or problem-solving at the printer, these authentic opportunities for collaboration are not as easy to create while online.
However, that doesn’t mean we can’t find a substitute.
Set aside time in your workday where you consider your “office door open”. Let your co-workers know that you’re available then for a video chat, and that they only need to shoot you a message and you’ll hop on.
This can allow for almost spontaneous conversation to take place and can be a great space to bounce ideas around in.
Do you have a co-worker or employee who isn’t comfortable speaking up in group meetings?
Let them know that they can hop on early or stay on after the call so they can share their thoughts and ideas on the topic without the fear of sharing with the whole group.
How to have those tough conversations virtually
Having tough feedback conversations with your employees is never easy. It’s especially challenging while remote as there’s less communication, fewer visual cues, and more room for misinterpretation.
In our conversation, we discussed ways to create a safe and supportive environment remotely for those tough conversations.
Ideas that we discussed included:
Let your employee set the time: Allowing your employees to control when those tough conversations take place, allows them to prepare and set themselves up in a place that’s best suited for the conversation (no one wants to have those conversations with their kids running in the background).
Reach out through alternative mediums: It can be hard to get your point across through text, there’s so much left to interpretation. Sending a voice or video note is a great alternative as it lets you share your thoughts or request to set up a meeting in a way that lets your employee hear your tone.
Ultimately, there are always some forms of in-person interaction that we’ll never fully be able to replicate, but we can do our best to work with what we have—and maybe even improve the quality of our interactions and connection with each other.
We’re all working together to make the most of the current reality and there’s no doubt that we’ll come out of this with more skills and confidence in the resilience of each other and our organizations.
If you want to check out the full recording of the event, it’s here for you:
Thank you for your avid support of the Conversations at Work series so far! Register for the next one “Triple-down on 1:1 meetings: the most powerful way to connect two people at work” on October 1.
More about Conversations at Work
Whether you’re fully dispersed, remote-first, in the office or somewhere in between, conversation is what ties everyone together in your business. This bi-weekly virtual series opens space for dialog that leads to action in the pursuit of better workplaces. We’ll explore how conversation shapes culture, creates connection, and helps leaders lead. We all have a voice—let’s come together and then get to work.
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