Remote Workplace EQ Tools Rethink Collaboration
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First released March 16, 2020. Last updated September 20, 2020
by Monica H. Kang, InnovatorsBox
Intention / My Hope🙏🏻
I wrote this because I want to empower people to work better together online in the wake of the coronavirus. There is already a lot of miscommunication and sharp language usage (e.g. negative comments on social media) as a result of this situation. Now with added anxiety, stress and sensitivity, we can easily cause more emotional burden and stress to one another unless we intentionally speak and write with grace and empathy.
I understand some individuals in health care, retail, airlines, hospitality, events, restaurants, manufacturing, and schools feel more sensitive to this change and what going remote for a few weeks or months may mean to them. While some tools in this file may be more applicable for office professionals, please note that the intention is for all readers, including the ones listed above, to benefit since all of us will have to communicate online more than before to help flatten the curve.
Learning how to use video and project management tools is one thing, learning how to build trust and ensure psychological safety online is another. Whether you are used to working online or not, I hope this equips you with the actions you can take TODAY and TOMORROW to be empathetic, patient, creative, and resilient.
All of us are impacted. Empathy and kindness can help us maintain hope.
NOTE: I am not a medical professional. I only intend to share resources that will help us be more mindful, inclusive, and creatively empowered. For any medical or virus related news please go to WHO, CDC, and other channels. Because my speciality is unlocking a creative mindset in workplace culture, leadership, and team development I’m going to focus solely on the tools of the remote workplace —not the virus.
Thank you for those who have shared resources and thoughts. If you have anything to add or ask, please email at [email protected].
I hope this will help spread more positivity and kindness.
Monica H. Kang
Founder & CEO, InnovatorsBox I Author, Rethink Creativity
“Be Kind, for everyone you meet is
fighting a hard battle.”
What I Cover HERE ⚡️
“Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; Courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.”
- Winston Churchill
Reflection Qs and Quick Tools: For All
Key reflection questions...
- Everyone is in pain. How can I speak with more empathy and thoughtfulness?
- Fast is not always the right answer. How can I pause more before reacting?
- Communication is key. How can I be consistent and thoughtful in how I communicate?
- We’re all on screen too much. How do I give myself space to unplug and rest?
- Working online is different. How do I build trust online?
- I’m still worried and unsure what to do. How can I be vulnerable yet give thoughtful support or guidance as a leader or team member?
- There is so much unknown. What can I do today to prepare for future unknowns?
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Be Kind Online:
Let’s take a step back.
Have you ever felt like people were angrier and harder to understand online? You are not alone. Psychology studies show when we go online things get lost in transition because we do not hear tone of voice or see non-verbal gestures. As a result, we misunderstand whether someone is joking or judging. We all see ourselves as nice, understandable beings but when the context of what we said is lost, we may have said things that have hurt others online or helped contribute to spreading negativity. As Dr. Guy Winch shares, most adults in life are unaware of how many wounds we inflict on one another. He states that most of us are walking zombies full of unhealed wounds. We lack emotional first aid.
What if we knew how to heal and support others?
Words are powerful.
They can break us and mend us.
On the internet, communication gets dicy. As Dr. Art Markman, a professor of psychology at the University of Texas at Austin, says humans tend to act differently online:
“The further away from face-to-face, real-time dialogue you get,
the harder it is to communicate."
In his opinion, media outlets should cut down on the anger and hatred that have become the norm in reader exchanges. "It's valuable to allow all sides of an argument to be heard. But it's not valuable for there to be personal attacks, or to have messages with an extremely angry tone. Even someone who is making a legitimate point but with an angry tone is hurting the nature of the argument, because they are promoting people to respond in kind," he said. "If on a website comments are left up that are making personal attacks in the nastiest way, you're sending the message that this is acceptable human behavior."
What can we do about it?
Remember that we are human—you and your readers.
You can’t control how others respond,
but you can control how you respond.
If each of us took the time to pause, assume good intention, and consider how the receiver would feel when you comment or speak, how would communication change? Kindness is also contagious and it's up to us to help spread it faster than our fear. One thoughtful message from one person can inspire us to be kinder. If we write based on trust, instead of starting a long email argument thread, we may write to strengthen relationships. Imagine what would happen if we all made the effort to be kinder each time we spoke and wrote to someone?
Initially speed seems to be highly valued during online communication. Being the first to respond, comment, email, and write are all seen as important. But how often, in our rush to comment and interact, do we misread the intention? (Ex: How many of us had reshared an article based on the title without actually reading the article? I’ve certainly done that before and the article often says something completely different.)
So as more of us consume and rely on information online, we’ll need to rethink how to:
- Communicate more thoughtfully and effectively
- Pause before reacting
- Have crucial conversations online
- Build trust online
- Be aware what encourages and discourages me as I collaborate online
- Be aware how others are feeling encouraged and discouraged while collaborating
- Have the grace to trust good intention before judging
The key it is for us to use and strengthen the following key skills:
Where do you start?
Every step matters.
Here is a list of resources and questions that I hope will help you take the first few steps. With each step, I hope you will come to see that kinder, effective communication is possible but also empowering for you and your team. I’ll continue to update the file as I gather more resources.
“Kindness can become its own motive. We are made kind by being kind.” – Eric Hoffer
How to Work Better
When communicating in general...
Take an extra moment to:
- Reflect before reacting
- Be a detective instead of a complainer
- Learn how to give others ownership
- Embrace being more creative when the traditional options are not available or effective
- Trust good intention at all times
Give the benefit of the doubt to what you read and hear so you do not escalate and misinterpret. There can be a lot of context that is missed or misinterpreted. I wrote more detailed thoughts here.
When you feel unsure...
Remember that just like you, everyone else is a bit more anxious, worried, and nervous so they may be tempted to jump and react. But we can pace the flow of conversation by taking a step back one at a time. If it helps, take a break from the screen. We’re all going to be on our screens way more than our eyes and energy can bare.
Take a break.
If your gut says something is off..
If your gut says, this conversation needs to go offline, take the initiative to reach out, send a separate email, or text to connect to do a separate call. Miscommunication may be mendable faster when we speak with or see the other person. You’ll want to talk it out and check-in with people faster so that you are not building up emotions.
It’s essential as a person and as a team you protect psychological safety.
- Do you feel safe to share ideas?
- Do you feel safe to collaborate with your colleagues in this faster pace and changing culture? Do you trust this person if you don’t hear back from them immediately?
- Do you trust this person to share credit when working together?
If you are feeling “no” to any of these questions, you may want to evaluate how you build resilience around those who are discouraging you. If you are able to say “yes,” think about how you can support others even further and maintain that online trusted relationship you have built.
Don’t wait until things are given to you.
You have to proactively reach out to build, mend, and sustain relationships. If not, things may be overlooked and missed.
When managing a group project (aka project management)…
The timing of your communication and learning how to build trust will impact how effectively your project goes whether you are leading the team or are part of the team.
1. The way you collaborated in the office will not work,
so be graceful.
In-person contact may not be available for a while and unless you learn how to collaborate digitally and in a thoughtful way, we may easily find ourselves in email threads and group chats that feel emotionally or physically burdened. Know that it will take time and give yourself and the team the support to learn how to work together through these iterations.
2. Over-communication will help miscommunication timing.
Say you were in the process collecting input from a few stakeholders and find yourself waiting on that one colleague to respond remotely. What do you do if you still have not heard back by the original project deadline? Should you assume it won’t be submitted or do you reach out to check-in? Perhaps that person is wrapping up that message and was about to send it. Perhaps they are caring for a family member who has become ill. When we over-communicate and start with an element of trust, we will be able to collaborate better and more productively.
3. Never assume anything.
Just because certain things have been delivered or organized the same way does not mean that process will work today. Especially when the stakes are high like this and everyone is unsure how they can, or should, work together. Take the time to rethink how you communicate and collaborate.
“See the light in each other. Be the light for each other.” Anonymous
When in a team meeting…
Whether you are facilitating or participating in a meeting with your team or client, setting the following details will help you set boundaries and respect each other’s time.
1. Define the purpose and intended outcome of this meeting
This will help everyone walk into the meeting and jump into conversation more intentionally and effectively.
2. Define who the facilitator and the note takers are in the meeting
This will help ensure you start and end on time and get the notes you need in one go. Everyone is already spending a lot of screen time so it's important to respect everyone’s time even more.
Ensure the person who is facilitating the meeting will help move the agenda and narrative and not dictate the conversation. Facilitators should also ensure inclusive. collaborative communication and get training if needed before they run online meetings. Tools on how to be a facilitator are available on the next page. Also ask me questions. I’m building a training on this topic as many members of my community have requested it.
3. Ensure the right people are in the group meeting to make decisions, participate in discussions, and move forward
By having the right people on the right call, you will accelerate decision making and ideation sessions. This will help you avoid the outcome, “We can’t decide on this without additional input so we’ll have to schedule another meeting to make a decision.” Use every meeting as an opportunity to decide, learn, and have a clear next action step.
To learn how to better facilitate meetings use our free Innovation Worksheets. Click the “Lead Inclusive Brainstorming” tab to learn what are questions to prepare before, during, and after meetings to facilitate better virtual meetings. Our worksheets are available in 9 languages including Arabic, Chinese [Mandarin], English, French, Japanese, Korean, Swahili, Spanish, and Russian.
Networking and building relationships online…
Networking—when done right—is all about relationship building. And the best way to build that is in-person. You can tell a lot about a person when you meet them in-person: trustability, capability, how they carry themselves, how they speak, how articulate they are, and how thoughtful they are. Now if you can’t handshake or meet people in-person, how do you get to know someone?
How can you be authentic and network online?
Just because in-person gatherings are on hold doesn’t mean you will not meet anyone new. We are always exchanging conversations with someone over email, social media, and online. As our engagement online increases, we’ll want to find new ways to reconnect with old friends and meet new allies. How can you be more respectful and mindful in that process?
- Stop being transactional. Focus on quality and go deep.
- Be positive, intentional, respectful when you speak and engage.
- Be a giver first. Ask how you help, not how you self-serve in this relationship.
- Use technology to stay in touch
and find support.
- Be genuinely interested about who you are speaking with (even virtually!)
- Be honest when you need help
and articulate why.
We’ll all need to rely on one another a lot more.
In a way, thanks to technology, social media, and the internet we may have a faster chance of finding new allies while we stay remote. It can help us find ways to connect with like-minded allies, and people who will challenge us to be more courageous, creative, and deep problem solvers. If you want to connect further, be intentional about why and how you’d want to connect. Everyone will be more sensitive and protective of their time. What value will your conversation bring as a result of this?
In essence, remember you are talking to a person. Don’t be transactional, please.
How To Speak Thoughtfully (My Forbes Article)
How to not get burnout while working from home…
Increased screen time means we all need to rethink how we manage our energy, time, and resources. If we are not mindful in checking our time and energy throughout the day, we may find ourselves glued to the computer without any break—mentally or physically. I made that mistake when I first started working remotely. Here are a few starting suggestions that you can do and work with your team to do to not get yourself burned out at home.
1. Set a daily work routine with clear boundaries.
Wake up at the same time. Set where your workplace, inspiration place, and eating place is. Minimize new decision making and create a new routine in the new normal.
2. Set a core working hours that all your team members share.
This will help you make decisions together and keep making progress while not leaving team members wondering who is online or offline, or when they expect their team member to be back online.
3. Be consistent with when you will go offline
and stay offline.
Being consistent is key so that you create boundaries and know when to rest.
4. Plan your days with breaks planned ahead.
Your mind, body, and computer needs unplugging. Rest your eyes. Eat. Walk around at home, and do something other than looking at your screen.
5. Do team weekly emotional check-in.
Since I first drafted this in early March 2020, things have evolved quite fast. And it will continue to. It is so crucial that we take more time to check-in emotionally and psychologically to see how everyone is doing. Don’t run into your day-to-day tasks and deliverables. Do a weekly check-in so you come together as humans first.
Building trust online…
Remember that we are human and consistency, respect, and empathy are key. Please be mindful that everyone is processing the crisis differently, and has different stress and concerns. See each exchange as an opportunity to mend and build upon.
We are all going through a lot.
Some want to talk more in hope to mitigate stress and understanding.
Some want to avoid talking about their pain in hope to minimize and avoid remembering.
Building trust with another human being is remembering that we are all different and we all need space to relate and be understood the way we are. Please remember that our way of building trust is not the only way and every communication is an opportunity to mend or break relationships you have or could have.
If you feel overwhelmed, take the opportunity to share how you honestly feel and give yourself space to process it offline and with others who you can talk more with.
If you are feeling unsure about how someone is communicating with you, take a moment and pause so you can gut check if this is what is going on or if this person is overwhelmed or going through something else.
Give each other the benefit of doubt.
Sometimes the best gift is giving trust and kindness first, relentlessly.
We all need some extra space to be heard, appreciated, and understood.
“A real conversation always contains an invitation.
You are inviting another person to reveal herself or himself to you,
to tell you who they are or what they want.”
- David Whyte
Should Reflect On
Consistent communication is key. How are you ensuring psychological safety?
Be prepared to answer…
When communicating across the company…
When preparing your managers and leaders…
Quotes for Inspiration
I Hope This Makes You Smile Today 😉
This is a marathon.
Stay positive, healthy, and empathetic!
with love, Monica H. Kang
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