Get Top Performance from Your Remote Employees and Teams by Communicating Culture
The innate culture of your organization is born of the human factor. In its infancy, it occurs organically from the chemistry (or lack thereof) between your people. Your leadership style and business goals mature your company culture, and that culture drives the ambition and performance of your people. So how, then can you develop that same eagerness to achieve in your team members who contribute from remote parts of the world as your remote workforce?
Communication. More specifically, communication based upon the three principles of performance:
- People deliver results based on their perceptions,
- What their perceptions are, comes from what is communicated to them (and how), and
- Forward- and future-thinking language delivers a culture of motivity.
Business communication is entirely about building relationships — relationships that nurture the culture. Delivery of that culture into the personal culture of your contractors and remote staff requires that you be even more effective and efficient in your communication with them than you are with your regular workforce. When communicating your culture of top performance to your contractors and remote team members, you will need:
- Communicative competence,
- Refined verbal communication skills,
- Superior written communication ability, and
- Finessed mastery of communication technologies.
Your communicative competence is comprised of four core competencies. Assess your competencies in these areas — if you feel you’re not at an A-plus level in each one, pursue some learning in your weaker categories.
Grammatical — Your grammatical competence is comprised of:
- Lexical knowledge which, for the purpose of communicating culture, is the scope and precision of your vocabulary, how you choose and use precisely the right words to express both the message and the emotion you want them to carry,
- Syntactic capabilities which are how you put a series of words together in the message to create well-formed, and readily understood and absorbed sentences,
- Semantic and morphological skills, or your knowledge of the true meaning of each word you use, and
- Phonological ability, which for your purposes means proper pronunciation of words based on the language in which you are communicating.
Discourse — If grammatical competence is the science of communication, discourse is the art of communication. It is about connecting expressions in such a way as to effectively create and communicate a message. It is a presentation of both substance and feeling with authority, and in an engaging manner.
Sociolinguistic — This skill is especially important when communicating culture to contractors from another country or remote workers in another country. Not only is it essential that your communication is in social and cultural context with your country, but with theirs as well.
Strategic — For you, this represents your ability to communicate a plan, a problem, or a solution, and to fix any issues with the overall effectiveness of the communication immediately.
The vast majority of people in your executive position got there because they have topnotch communication competence. That said, if you have someone on your team who has better communicative competence than you think you have, you may want to make them the communication go-between for your contractors and remote teams.
You won’t have the luxury of daily face-to-face communication with your contractors and remote staff — in fact, you may never have this contact with some of them. That means your voice needs to express all the meaning and emotion you might usually demonstrate with facial expressions and hand-gestures when in person. Your demeanor needs to be communicated through your voice and vocabulary. For example, if what you are conveying is not hard to understand, you’ll be using simple, familiar language and likely delivering it with a demeanor of matter-of-fact brevity. However, if the material is cognitively demanding, you’ll have to use very specific words and language, and frequently ask for feedback to verify that you’re being understood. Your demeanor in this situation might be professorial. Always keep in mind that your demeanor is also a vehicle for delivering culture so it needs to be congruent.
The written word is open to much interpretation, and it lacks the engagement, the give-and-take of verbal dialogue. Michael Murphy of the Shorenstein Center for Communication at Harvard University explains the difference between how to communicate effectively verbally versus in writing. Here’s a synopsis of his teachings:
You want your audience to actively take in your message, at all times, from any format. You also want him to be engaged with its content, aware of its importance and other characteristics, involved with its participatory elements and fully responsive.
When you are speaking to your audience, you structure your message based on delivering with clarity, brevity, succinctness and accuracy, while putting forward polished pronunciation, style and tone. When your message is a written one, you still need to be succinct and clear, but your delivery is focused more on professionalism, structural, syntactic and lexical perfection and it is information intense.
Based on these differences, writing might not be a good way to deliver some information if you want the recipient engaged in the culture of your organization. Written messages can easily elicit misinterpretation of content and worse, especially when sharing culture, misperception of emotion. Without verbal interaction, the recipient might read a meaning that isn’t there or miss some that is. Consequently, it’s critical that you believe strongly you can deliver a message, and the vital culture, effectively in writing before doing so.”
Mastery of Communication Technologies
All of the following are standard technology-aided forms of business communication in the workplace:
- Texting/Instant Messaging
- Social Networking
- Video Conferencing
In your position, you need to be better at using these tools than anyone else in the company.
Email and texting are just plain dangerous if you aren’t a masterful writer. They are such an easy go-to when you don’t necessarily want to engage, or don’t have time to, but they are easy for the recipient to ignore or misunderstand.
Nothing replaces voice contact and conversation. The telephone is good and services like Skype are even better for communicating culture. The ability to hear the richness of a message is great. The ability to see the expressions, reactions and body language of both parties is better still. Skype and many other services that allow video conferencing deliver the show-and-tell ability as well, making it possible for you to present your message with all types of visual aids — truly beneficial when you know how your audience best takes in information, i.e. video versus the written word.
Last, but most certainly not least is internet/intranet social networking. While it’s unlikely you want your employees, contractors and virtual workforce to be ‘playing around’ on social media all day, engaging with them and linking your people together in such a network can be a wonderful way to both develop and share the culture and cultural experience of being a part of your organization. If you use this tool, be present on it. You are the primary communicator of your company’s message and culture.
As an executive, it’s important that you are the primary ambassador of the culture of your organization and infuse all your people with it. Excellence in communication is how you perform this role. Excellence in communication is why your people operate in a culture of top performance.
Previously published in MetaOps MagEzine