Capture Attention Through Better Remote Team Communication
With so many people working from anywhere, effective remote team communication has never been more critical. But with so many digital distractions and competing priorities, how can you ensure that your team is paying attention to what matters most?
In our leadership development programs, we help managers get better at remote team communication by tapping into four key principles of memory: recency, repetition, recall, and emotion. By understanding and leveraging these principles, you too can become a master in the art of remote team communication.
Recency is all about sparking memory through recent experiences. By ensuring that your messages are timely and relevant, you increase the likelihood that your team will remember them.
Marketers know the “rule of the 7” which states that people need to see a message at least seven times before they’re going to remember it. This is why you’ll see the same billboard for ice cream going in both directions on your commute to the grocery store.
Once to inspire you to remember that rocky road, and once to get the kids reminding you about what you “forgot” – an emotional tug that might make you more likely to cave the next time.
What this means for your remote team communication, is if something is important, it’s going to take more than covering it in your Monday morning team huddle, you need to keep those important messages in front of them. If your message is truly important make sure they’ve heard you talk about it recently.
The close cousin of recency, repetition is another powerful memory enhancer. The more often you communicate key messages, the more likely they are to stick in your team’s minds. Like a catchy song, hearing the same information repeatedly can make it impossible to forget.
Plus, by repeating an important message you’re differentiating it from the rest of the noise. Your team thinks, “Gosh this must be important if they keep talking about it. I’d better pay attention.
Of course, repeating the same message the same way will get annoying, and your team will tune out. Effective remote team communication mixes it up, more on that later.
Recall is all about accessing information. When your team members have to recall information to answer questions or do their work, they are more likely to retain it. So, make sure to give them opportunities to use the information you’ve shared.
If you’re familiar with our foundational leadership concepts, you’ll know we’re big fans of a check for understanding. One of the many reasons a “check for understanding” is so powerful is that it requires your team to recall what they heard. You don’t leave understanding to chance.
Finally, emotion is a powerful memory trigger. When we experience strong emotions, we tend to remember more about our surroundings. By tapping into your team’s emotions, you can make your messages more memorable.
Emotion is one of the elements missing from most boring remote team communication. And, a message doesn’t need to be emotional to be delivered in an emotional way.
For example, recording a funny video or writing a haiku about a strategic priority is memorable because it contains the element of surprise, and silliness, all of which trigger emotional memories in your team’s brains.
Communicate Five Times, Five Different Ways in your Remote Team Communication
So, how do you put these principles into action?
Using one of our 6 concepts you can’t lead without, five-by-five communication. If something is critically important, you don’t want to communicate it once or twice.
Mix it up using the principles of recency, recall, repetition, and emotion, and communicate five times, five different ways. By using a variety of remote team communication channels and getting creative, you can keep your team engaged and enhance their memory of important information.
5 x 5 in Practice
Let’s say you’re a sales leader and you want your team to remember to pitch a new product to every customer. Sending five emails isn’t that much more effective than sending one.
But imagine you start with a big town hall where you bring everyone together in person, with balloons, and tell a few strategic stories about how this new product has helped the customers in your pilot roll-out (that’s way one). This has a bit of emotion because it’s not every day that you ask people to come to the office and dig out the helium tanks.
Ways 2 & 3
Next, you might mix up your remote team communication, by making this the first topic in your virtual one-on-ones. Way two, you change this week’s one-on-one calendar invite to “Bring Your Ideas for Product Launch.” This triggers recall, as they think back and review their notes from the town hall, and then when you actually have your one-on-one, you’re talking about it again.
Your fourth communication might be to roll out a recognition program, for the first month’s highest sellers of the new product, which you celebrate with a running leaders board on your intranet.
And your fifth way could be another way to ignite emotion like you dressing in a costume and visiting each of your remote locations. Before you laugh and say, “Who would do that?” Karin did. This is her dressed as Leia along with her direct reports, visiting 110 stores across a nine-hour radius, to get them excited about selling Android phones back in her Verizon days.
As a remote leader, mastering team communication requires a deliberate and consistent effort. By focusing on recency, repetition, recall, and emotion, you can ensure that your messages are heard, understood, and remembered.
Your turn. What are your best practices for helping your remote team pay attention to, and remember important messages?