Effective communication is one of the greatest skills a great leader can have. In fact, communication is your ‘bread and butter’, and it is because so many involved in this market fail to see this, they themselves eventually fail. To effectively communicate you must ensure your message is understood, and the only way you can check that is to ask for feedback on your performance.
Interestingly many Leaders confuse a ‘briefing’ with effective communication. If all you do is ’speak at’ your team and then don’t invite questions you are either a) pontificating and showing off your knowledge, b) insecure and cannot deal with feedback in case it is negative or c) engaged in a rousing exercise or information giving exercise.
Both these latter two can be much more effectively done by a Newsletter type approach. There is nothing worse than spending an hour being on a webinar than to hear it end with, well that’s the end of today’s call unless there are any questions. The very phrase is underlain with an implied threat, i.e. I want to clear off unless someone is a nuisance enough to ask a question.
If you genuinely want to check and interact with your team in one of these weekly sessions you must engage them. Engagement requires involvement, so asking team members to say take turns at leading the call would be one approach. This helps them build up the skill of leading a team call with you there as support. Alternatively you can agree that on a rotating basis one team member will speak about something they are knowledgeable on and share this knowledge with the team. Another idea would be to ask each team member on the call what has gone well for them that week.
If you really want to check if the team has understood say your main talk, simply ending with, “are there any questions?” will not achieve this. It’s the phrase every audience dreads. Ask specific questions like, “So what do you think of this new product?”, “Does this idea strike you as one you could use if so why?”, “How many of you think you will be able to go away and use this information?” These are a; open questions that invite a response. Avoid at all costs closed questions, that is one’s that can be answered with a “yes” or “no”, of which the infamous, “Are there any questions?” is the worst culprit and best example of a closed question.
On the other hand if you are giving a briefing as opposed to an online meeting you must say this in your invite. You must also send out the same information in a different form to team members unable to attend the meeting. Not to do so is extremely discriminatory. Some poor Leaders take the view, “well if they could not make the meeting it was their fault”.
There may be a million and one legitimate reasons why they could not make the call, especially if you have a global team. So make sure everyone knows where they can get information you felt was important enough to go to the trouble of calling an online briefing. Consider PowerPoint slides in PDF to download, be creative. Remember reading a long email of what happened in the call is almost guaranteed to end up in the trash. Just get the main points across succinctly. Recording the webinars or teleconferences is excellent.
Finally consider creating a Ning social network for your team, remember to make it invite only. Free social networks can be created at www.ning.com. This will allow for all kinds of interaction but you again must be a Leader and be active on the community board. If you don’t think it’s worth your time posting articles, or Blogs then it will come as little surprise if you learn that members fail to see the importance of joining. If you use it just as a way of ‘getting your message’ across then it’s not a network and you are not engaging.