As the leader of professional services for our capital markets business, most of my day is spent communicating. Whether I’m speaking to a team member, a client or a potential client, there’s hardly a moment when I’m not talking or emailing with someone. And I’ve noticed a real change in how people are communicating during the pandemic.
Almost everyone is now working from home, and for many people that’s been a real wrench. I’m certainly used to grabbing someone in the hallway for a quick chat or a colleague stopping at my desk to discuss something. While tools like Microsoft Teams have stepped into the breach, the move to remote operations means that you no longer have those informal and unscheduled conversations. I have to find new ways of making those connections and maintaining rapport with my colleagues and team.
In addition to making room for the informal conversation, I’ve changed the formal part of the conversation with both clients and colleagues. I’ve started making my meetings five minutes shorter so that I can reflect on the conversation afterwards, note any actions and prepare for my next call by refreshing myself on the critical elements of the agenda. And our capital markets leadership is also looking at the corporate meeting culture to see how we can do more to increase efficiency – for example, to support faster decision-making – and make time to get the work done.
Make sure you’re engaging your team in the new way of working. Look beyond day-to-day communications and meetings to standard practices. For example, our onboarding package now includes elements about how we communicate in addition to information about our organization and industry. That prepares everyone for better communications, and it was rare to see this in onboarding before COVID-19.
Finally, it’s important to prioritize team building. If you can’t see each other face to face, you have to build trust within your internal and client teams. Be open, clear and collaborative, because we’re all facing our own unique challenges. The only way to overcome them is to work together, including to continually align expectations.
And don’t forget the fun – we may not have team dinners, but we can still have virtual activities to bring us together. And as we look to 2021, we are still learning, and there will be more that we can do to optimize communications and build our soft skills.