Collaborative Coaching: Remote Communication

Connecting from a distance

Over the past year, many of you experienced the struggle of being supervised remotely. You may find yourself trying to not bother your supervisor, trying to “save up” questions, and balance your need for feedback with autonomy. It is a very different kind of working relationship from a traditional one.

The truth is, you could call and leave a message with a question or send an email anytime. You could fire off a hundred short emails a week. You could simply check TEAMS to see if your supervisor is “available” and message to check if it is a good time to talk.

There are several options for communicating with your supervisor. The best option for your interactions needs to be determined by an initial expectation type of conversation. Preferably this conversation would take place face to face. It may need to be a telephone conversation under the current circumstances.

Phone calls are great.

They offer a quick way to reach out and if the other person is busy, you simply leave a message. Phone conversations give you a chance to connect from anywhere even if you don’t have a computer! You can also tell a lot from your supervisor’s voice by the tone and word choices that are used.

Emails are great too! Proceed with care!

Emails enable you to ask your questions rapidly without dialing any numbers. You don’t have to go through any small talk, and you can fire it off and get back to whatever task is at hand. There is plenty of room for caution here. Just because you can ask a question without an introductory statement doesn’t mean you always should. Just because you can fire off a question any time you want, doesn’t mean you should. Just because it’s easy to write, doesn’t mean it is going to be easy to read.

Proceed with care with word choice as well. Word choice in the emails informs the tone in which the reader “hears” the sender. For instance the “why” question affects people in different ways. Some readers when asked “why” go first to a place of shame. They quickly try to determine if they were correct or incorrect, and if they are justified in their action. They tend to defend themselves in rather sharp short replies.

Some individuals have a rather strong response to the word “let”, as well. If someone says they will “let you” do something, you may hear condescension and whether or not the writer intended to ruffle your feathers – they did.

Now, no one can predict another person’s relationship to words. We can take time to write an email that gives the reader as much information as possible regarding our intentions. We can also keep in mind what tone our words are setting and be certain to err on the side of softening. A working relationship can be damaged quickly by an email that was carelessly written.

TEAMS! Technology for distance supervision.

Microsoft TEAMS have many aspects that cater to remote supervision.

You can quickly see if the person you need or want to talk to are available and at their desk. If they are, you can send a short message in the chat to ask, “Do you have a few minutes to talk?” If they have the time, you can put on your headset and use the audio call feature. You can share screens, collaborate on projects or discuss topics that are too complex for emails.

TEAMS also affords you an opportunity to listen empathetically to every challenge your co-workers face, in even greater detail than if they were telling you about it later.

TEAMS puts us together, in every way possible, as if no distance exists at all, if we are both actively listening.

Talking through your needs for feedback, autonomy and your supervisor’s expectations in person helps you to know which tools are best for you to utilize in your communications. Your willingness to be open and ask clarifying questions of one another help smooth over any miscommunications when they do happen.

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