Visibility comes in many shapes and sizes. What’s going to fit you?
I once overhead a conversation about me when I was walking behind some colleagues. I had developed a set of resources that were distributed to over 100 different locations and 300 professionals, and were specifically related to some business changes impacting their work.
The two people commented that the changes, while good for the overall business, meant extra work in their roles. Now came the critical part, as I listened while holding my breath. All of us were walking to a large meeting, where I would be presenting the changes.
“Yeah,” one of them said, “and did you see the information that we got from Dr. Wells?”
“I hope he discusses it today in the meeting,” the other replied. “I’m still pretty confused about how we are supposed to make it work.”
And with that one statement, I realized two things:
- I had missed the mark with the materials I sent if there was still confusion.
- If I didn’t do something soon, the confusion would only grow.
That’s when I hatched a plan to use a variety of technology-moderated communication strategies to get my point across. I had very limited resources, but I did have a computer, a webcam, a phone with an audio recorder, and web conferencing tools. What I didn’t have was time to visit each of the sites to ensure the correct information was being perceived properly.
What would be the best approach?
What I finally settled on was a hybrid of recorded and live interactions. I followed research from Rhoads (2010) and Spencer-Scarr (2010) to create materials that simulated real-time interactions and could be used for several months. Whatever I decided to do, I wanted to be more visible in the organization and encourage people to communicate back to me, regardless of their location or work role.
First, I spoke with the two people I had heard in the hall to get a better understanding of the confusing points of the communication. I used the time in our conversation to reinforce that their feedback was both valuable and meaningful. In the following week, I also validated what I had learned with other team members who received the communication.
Second, I developed my communication. Instead of focusing on written, static documents, I decided to record a carefully-scripted presentation using the web conferencing tools. That way, I knew the message was correct and the points addressed what I had learned from my colleagues. The recorded presentation ended up being about four minutes long, and because it was not a live presentation, I could practice and make the overall presentation very polished and succinct.
Third, I sent a link to that recording, along with a webinar schedule, so that people could view the recording and then sign up for a Q&A webinar if they still had questions. A number of people signed up for the webinars, which were scheduled at a variety of times and lasted between 10 and 30 minutes. Most of the attendees had quick questions, but the conversation was very helpful to clarify new role expectations.
Fourth, I followed up on any open questions, and reminded people to contact me if they still had questions.
The Results and Increased Visibility
By creating a reusable and reviewable resource, the double-pronged communication approach gave people ways to view the content in a very personable and friendly setting through a recorded video. If there were questions, people could join a webinar, watch one of the webinars that was recorded, or simply send me an email or call me directly.
My boss said that this was one of the smoothest rollouts ever for a business change impacting so many people. Additionally, the use of multiple modes of communication, the process of gathering feedback, and delivering a polished resource helped me increase my organizational visibility.
And I never left my building. Folks, if that isn’t distance leadership, I don’t know what is.
Do you have similar initiatives in your organization?
Do you need to increase your visibility using high-touch communication strategies?
Have you explored your existing technology resources for ways to improve your visibility?
Comment with your answers below!
Want to know more about being visible in a virtual work environment? I can recommend the following book by Paul Alexander, especially habits numbers three and four. The following affiliate link will allow you to get a copy from Amazon.com. Please note that I do receive a small commission at no cost to you.
Rhoads, M. (2010). Face to face and computer-mediated communication: What does theory tell us and what have we learned so far? Journal of Planning Literature, 25(2), 111-122. doi:10.1177/0885412210382984
Spencer-Scarr, D. (2010). Unlocking the power of internet collaboration: Adjusting concepts so more people ‘get it’. The International Journal of Technology, Knowledge and Society, 6(2), 1-16. Retrieved from http://ijt.cgpublisher.com/product/pub.42/prod.309