What a relief! You've just completed your annual individual performance and development conversations with your team. Two things you need to know. One, preparing for and having a good conversation is an accomplishment! Two, it's only the beginning. These conversations are not an event, but part of a continuous process. How you follow up is a key ingredient in how trust is developed, especially if your team is virtual. Your team wants to know that you care about their development and that you "have their back" when they are accepting more responsibility.
I can recount a time when I took on a highly visible project that was the next step in my career path. At the successful completion of the project, I felt hollow and on my own. Why? During the project, I never felt the support of my manager during the times when I felt unsure or overwhelmed. This simply eroded trust. No matter what my manager’s intentions, they were never communicated. This is the opposite of what a development opportunity is supposed to accomplish.
Part of being a great communicator and getting better results from your virtual team is letting your team know three things. They must know why something is important, what’s the joint plan, and how you’ll work together to get it done. Trust is developed through communicating your intent, collaborating on a task and consistency in follow up. Without these three things your team is left to make up stories about both your intent and expectations. We would love to think that everyone assumes positive intent, but that is not the case. When individuals are without one of those 3 things, they feel undue pressure and fill the communication gap with their own stories, which may not be positive or productive. This is especially true if teams span time zones and cultures. Individuals can accomplish more if the communication is clear.
A Common Developmental Need
One development opportunity that we regularly see is the need to take the lead in a key meeting or improve on presentations skills both virtually and in-person. How many times have you seen an idea fail because it was presented poorly or an employee not show themselves in their best light? Providing an employee with a presentation class is good, but it’s simply the first step. In addition to providing this opportunity, whether in-person or virtual, you may want to practice with them and even sit in as they lead a meeting, as a safety net or to provide specific feedback. Many times we provide this communication coaching for leaders who want to provide support for individuals on their team. No matter who provides it, support is critical.
When communicating in any situation, tell them:
- Why it’s important.
- What’s the joint plan.
- How you’ll work together to accomplish the goal.