If there is a recurring theme brough up by the people I interview in my podcast about building and leading remote teams, it’s that we all have a very fragile ego when it comes to written communication. It is easy to feel that others are disrespecting us, or our work. That they are interrupting our workflow or unloading chores on top of us as if we had nothing more important to do.
I call it the “Twitter Effect”: we write a short message, and someone, somewhere, gets offended for some reason.
At team management level, this is a big problem, because it’s not practical to always be in calls with each other. There has to be a way to express ourselves through text, but with more empathy, right?
If only there were some way to transmit body language by text …
Of course there is! Those of us who have grown up with the culture of IRC and SMS know this technology well, and many online games have never stopped using it: emoji.
It is available in all chat programs. But for some reason, it is rarely used in conversations that happen in professional contexts. But why? When people work in an office, do not they smile? Do they not use facial expressions?
Let’s Make Emoji Great Again! 🙂
“This sucks!” Isn’t helpful. It might be your gut reaction, and it might even be right. But it doesn’t point the way to improvement, and it almost unfailingly makes people get defensive.
(Side note: telling them not to get defensive almost always produces the exact opposite effect.)
Ask questions instead:
- “What was the thinking behind this word choice?”
- “How do you think the user will interact once they reach this page?”
- “What are you trying to convey with this color scheme?”
Questions start a process of improvement. Judgement, valid or not, prevents it.
If someone woke me up in the middle of the night, shaking me while asking “What’s your job?!”, I’de say “I’m a writer!” The irony that my most famous work is not in the written form, but in the spoken medium, is not lost on me.
I’ve had the immense privilege of having had hundreds of people listen to me, my brother Pedro and my good friend Daniel talk about our passion for video games. It was a wild ride that spawned several years until we went on a break earlier this year. After several months without new content, hundreds of people still download previous episodes of ene3cast.
Listener beware: the show is in Portuguese.
Now I’m starting a new, different journey. I believe that remote work is the answer to one of the great challenges of western civilization – the uneven distribution of work and value. But I also think that we’re selling it wrong. We’re reaching the people who want to work remotely, but we’re not communicating the benefits to the employers, to the decision-makers who create the jobs that people need. We’re not showing them how they can make it work, and prosper from it.
That’s why, at DistantJob, I’ve worked to create a new show, one where I interview people who have been building and managing remote teams for years.
It’s called StaffITright, and I hope you’ll give it a listen.