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Use the ‘2 Strike Rule’ to Improve Digital Communication

Communicating with a virtual team has its challenges. Multiple times a day you must ask yourself if your question or comment warrants an email, a Slack post, a phone call, a video conference, a text, or a recorded video. 

The options are overwhelming because each mode of communication has its pros and cons. 

A phone call is direct but is very disruptive when the receiver is in a flow state of work. Emails are less intrusive but may be ignored for a couple of hours. Slack benefits multiple readers, but creates a lot of notifications when everyone adds to the shared channels. 

How do you decide?

You first have to accept that communication is imperfect. 

Communication Consultant Geoffrey Tumlin says that people will never be able to avoid misunderstandings, confusion, or errors when they talk — no matter how evolved our software or smartphones become. 

Marketing messages may suggest technology has made communication easier, but it actually requires more work to make sure we are communicating effectively. This challenge is exacerbated by the fact that virtual teams cannot read each others’ body language, except through video conference.

The Two-Strike Rule

We developed a Two-Strike rule for communication to help navigate this digital divide. 

If a team member needs to send more than two emails or Slack messages to get their point across, they must pick up the phone or get on Zoom. We have found this rule effective with our team for multiple reasons. 

First, it challenges the team member to really think about how their messages are being interpreted. Virtual teams communicate electronically all day long. Over time, it can feel mechanical and reactive, rather than thoughtful and deliberate. 

If you are limited in how many electronic messages you can send before you are required to finish the conversation on the phone, you are more likely to use precise language, and check for understanding from the receiver.

The two-strike rule respects people’s time. 

Not only does it limit the amount of unnecessary noise in Slack or email, but it reserves phone calls and teleconference for issues that truly warrant an “in-person” conversation. This benefits the Founders, Leaders, Owners, and Executives who already spend most of their day in meetings, and have precious free time. 

Once the two-strike rule is implemented, remind your team about other best practices: 

  • Phone calls or teleconference promote team bonding and mutual understanding because of face-to-face communication and body language. This should not be overlooked as a mode of communication no matter how much this generation prefers texting.
  • Shared Slack channels help team members see how their work intersects with others. Even if what’s being posted isn’t directly related to your work, you can keep up with other projects and learn from different departments. If your question or comment could benefit more than one person, it should go in a shared Slack channel.
  • Snooze notifications or mute channels that become too disruptive. Checking every new notification keeps you from truly engaging in work. 
  • Email should not be considered an instant message. A 2018 study showed that the average company takes 12 hours to respond to an email. If your internal email is urgent, it should be followed up with a Slack message or text to make sure it is seen and responded to quickly.

If you’re interested in learning more about how to support your virtual team or what an Executive Virtual Assistant can do for your business, contact us here. Our team will help you determine how your business can benefit from our Priority Executive VAs.

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