Why is it so hard to lead a hybrid team?
As a higher percentage of our communication turns digital, we need to come to a collective understanding of Digital Body Language.
Over the last year there’s been plenty of talk about how to find your voice and speak up in a digital world, but it seems like there’s no real consensus — and maybe that’s the point.
A lot of this comes down to a disconnect in how we use digital body language. Different personality types don’t merely use different digital body language; they also have different interpretations of that same digital body language. For example, a really social extrovert might end a direct chat message with three smiley emojis to show their excitement, while an introvert using those emojis might be passive aggressive, as their authentic digital voice would be to send a simple thumbs up.
Understanding different communication styles is key to the success of our fast changing workplaces. We’ve heard for years that being technologically adaptable is the way of the future. But if that mindset means dismissing people’s communication preferences, companies are bound to alienate portions of their workforce.
Companies that embrace and encourage their employees to find their own, authentic voice, foster a company culture that is inclusive and leads to better innovation. In my new book, Digital Body Language, I outline these three strategies to help everyone find their voice online.
1) Embrace new digital platforms to create community
While there are several different platforms to help connect virtual teams, Workplace from Facebook is one of my favorites because of how easy it is to implement. The familiar, mobile-first platform requires minimal training because the experience is so close to Facebook which is so helpful when coordinating with teams across a wide range of ages and role types.
HOYTS is the second largest movie theater chain in Australia and New Zealand. HOYTS employs over 3,300 people and 90% are part-time employees with varying shifts, which made it difficult to build a community and communicate clearly internally. HOYTS utilized Workplace from Facebook to bring together all employees from their fifty theaters. Team members across all cinemas can now easily access company updates from HQ in company-wide groups or in the News Feed. They can also get in touch instantly via Workplace Chat. This drastically improved their communication and connectivity.
Embracing digital platforms will help create community and improve clarity of communication across large and diverse teams.
2) Set formality expectations upfront.
Adette Contreras, CEO of Tinsel, finds that familiarity works great if your team is made up of younger digital natives. But it’s not without challenges, especially when people don’t know when to become more formal. “It’s a slippery slope because my employees address the senior partners in a way that is familiar. You can’t request a day off in a text. When they email me as ‘hey fam’, it’s uncomfortable. One time, a female team member told me I was ‘really formal’ when I presented a Keynote presentation instead of having a one on one with her.” When it became clear that her team had no idea where the lines were, much less whether or not they were crossing them, Adette made her formality expectations clear upfront.
3) Experiment with different platforms to find your voice
Bob McCann, a management communications professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, points out that the proliferation of new technology has accelerated the growth and ability for employees to find their voice. “Every three weeks, we have a new platform that we need to deal with, a new app that’s coming out, and we have to adjust, and we have to change.”[i] On a practical level, this means there will always be new technologies around the corner — including new ways of greeting one another which allows people options when finding their authentic voice.
The key to discovering your voice online? Be authentic with how you express yourself. Trying new community building platforms, like Workplace, will allow for all team members — regardless of personality type — to connect and feel a sense of belonging within the organization. I promise: simply having a candid conversation about different communication styles will make a huge difference.
Erica Dhawan is a leading expert on 21st century teamwork and communication. She is an award winning keynote speaker and the author of the new book Digital Body Language. Download her free guide to End Digital Burnout. Follow her on Linkedin.