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Laura Adams On How To Communicate With Your Team Effectively Even If You Are Rarely In The Same Physical Space

An Interview With David Liu

If you don’t feel like you don’t get enough face time with leaders in your company, be proactive and ask if you can schedule periodic video calls with them.

We are living in a new world in which offices are becoming obsolete. How can teams effectively communicate if they are never together? Zoom and Slack are excellent tools, but they don’t replicate all the advantages of being together. What strategies, tools and techniques work to be a highly effective communicator, even if you are not in the same space?

In this interview series, we are interviewing business leaders who share the strategies, tools and techniques they use to effectively and efficiently communicate with their team who may be spread out across the world. As a part of this series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Laura Adams.

Laura Adams, MBA, is a personal finance expert with InsuranceBlogByChris.com, an award-winning author, and host of Money Girl, a top-rated weekly audio podcast. She’s frequently quoted in the national media, and millions of readers and listeners benefit from her practical financial advice. Laura’s mission is to empower consumers to make smart money decisions every day through her speaking, spokesperson, and advocacy work.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?

You might be surprised that I didn’t set out to become a finance expert or writer. As a young high school kid, I enjoyed managing money and couldn’t wait to get my own checking account. But after college graduation, I fell into the trap that so many people do: living above my means. I rented apartments that I couldn’t afford, spent too much on vacations, and became a shopaholic.

Since then, my passion for spending has turned into a passion for saving, investing, planning, and every aspect of personal finances. Over the years, I became a serious finance student and received my MBA from the University of Florida.

My career has been diverse. I’ve worked in accounting and real estate, owned a floor covering business, consulted and trained for a Fortune 100 company, and been a COO for a small company.

Now, I’m passionate about working as a spokesperson for select companies, such as InsuranceBlogByChris.com, and promoting critical financial topics in the national media. Since 2013, I’ve completed more than 2,500 live and taped interviews with national TV and radio show hosts, news reporters, and print and online journalists. My mission is to help over 100 million consumers and students live richer lives through my podcasting, writing, spokesperson, and advocacy work.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

The most interesting or exciting thing that’s happened in my career so far is the feedback I receive from readers and podcast listeners. Countless people have told me that I inspired them to start businesses, begin saving for a child’s education, or get their finances in shape after a hardship. The comments and questions that I receive fuel me to continue writing, speaking, and podcasting about complex financial topics in easy-to-understand ways.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

I’m not sure who said this — and maybe I’ll take credit for it: “If something is worth doing, it’s worth doing now.” What this means is, if you want to do something like increase your income sources or change careers, why not go for it right now? Make it a priority because time flies by quickly and you don’t want to have any regrets about lost opportunities.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

My husband has been instrumental in supporting my career dreams and every business venture I’ve been part of. We’ve started, run, and sold businesses together and learned so much along the way.

Ok wonderful. Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview. The pandemic has changed so many things about the way we behave. One of them of course, is how we work and how we communicate in our work. Many teams have started working remotely. Working remotely can be very different than working with a team that is in front of you. This provides great opportunity but it can also create unique challenges. To begin, can you articulate for our readers a few of the main benefits of having a team physically together?

The main benefit of having a team working together in the same physical space is the unintended consequences of your frequent interactions. Saying hello in the break room or having a casual conversation before a meeting begins can lead to new business ideas and collaboration.

On the flip side, can you articulate for our readers a few of the main challenges that arise when a team is not in the same space?

The main challenge of not working in the same physical space typically comes down to time management. Without a routine, you may find it challenging to stay laser-focused on your work. And if you get energy from social interactions, not being with your team may leave you feeling empty and isolated.

Fantastic. Here is the main question of our interview. Based on your experience, what can one do to address or redress each of those challenges? What are your “5 Things You Need To Know To Communicate With Your Team Effectively Even If You Are Rarely In The Same Physical Space ? (Please share a story or example for each.)

Here are five tips I recommend for communicating with your team when you rarely work in the same physical space:

#1 — To prevent feeling isolated, plan time with friends and family during your time off. That social interaction can re-energize you and improve your mental wellbeing.

#2 — Create opportunities for social interactions with co-workers, such as a standing Friday virtual cocktail hour where you avoid talking about work.

#3 — If you don’t feel like you don’t get enough face time with leaders in your company, be proactive and ask if you can schedule periodic video calls with them.

#4 — Set reminders to reach out to teammates via email or your preferred communication system and find out what they’re working on. That may be the best way to replicate chance encounters when you’re not together.

#5 — Allow your team to have reasonable work hours and avoid communication during off-hours unless it’s an emergency. Remote teams may feel pressure to respond to co-workers no matter the time of day.

Has your company experienced communication challenges with your workforce working from home during the pandemic? For example, does your company allow employees to use their own cell phones or do they use the company’s phone lines for work? Can you share any other issues that came up?

The work I do for InsuranceBlogByChris.com and other clients has been completely remote for many years. I find that communication standards have increased since the pandemic because everyone is trying harder to make it work successfully during such a challenging time.

Let’s zoom in a bit. Many tools have been developed to help teams coordinate and communicate with each other. In your personal experiences which tools have been most effective in helping to replicate the benefits of being together in the same space?

Slack and Zoom have certain been lifesavers for teams who can’t work together in the same space. I think Google Workspace and Jira are also fantastic tools for keeping remote teams organized.

If you could design the perfect communication feature or system to help your business, what would it be?

It would probably be a project management system that includes various visual ways to keep up with tasks.

My particular expertise and interest is in Unified Communications. Has the pandemic changed the need or appeal for unified communications technology requirements? Can you explain?

Yes, when most of a teams’ communication is remote, there should be options and flexibility for individual preferences. Having a variety of media to choose from can only improve communication and workflows.

The technology is rapidly evolving and new tools like VR, AR, and Mixed Reality are being developed to help bring remote teams together in a shared virtual space. Is there any technology coming down the pipeline that excites you?

Any technology that allows teams to simulate in-person meetings should improve communication.

Is there a part of this future vision that concerns you? Can you explain?

However, being required to join a shared virtual space frequently could feel like an intrusion of privacy for some people.

So far we have discussed communication within a team. How has the pandemic changed the way you interact and engage your customers? How much of your interactions have moved to digital such as chatbots, messaging apps, phone, or video calls?

I’ve done more video calls since the pandemic and I generally think it’s been beneficial for me and my customers.

In my experience, one of the trickiest parts of working with a remote team is giving honest feedback, in a way that doesn’t come across as too harsh. If someone is in front of you much of the nuance can be picked up in facial expressions and body language. But not when someone is remote. Can you give a few suggestions about how to best give constructive criticism to a remote team member?

If you can’t arrange to meet in person when giving feedback, doing a video call is the next best option. You get more cues from body language doing a video call than an audio-only communication. One recommendation is to put the feedback in writing after a call. Also, ask the person to summarize what they heard you say, so you make sure the criticism has been received in proper context.

Can you give any specific ideas about how to create a sense of camaraderie and team cohesion when you are not physically together?

Short, weekly meetings designed to celebrate wins, acknowledge people, and reinforce company values and culture can be very effective for teams who don’t work in the same physical space.

Ok wonderful. We are nearly done. Here is our last “meaty” question. You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)

The movement I would start is “Find a mentor, be a mentor, and change the world.”

No matter your industry, career, or personal interest, you have the skills and knowledge to help someone. Likewise, we can all get help for professional or personal challenges from someone who has more knowledge and experience than we do.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

Let’s connect at LauraDAdams.com!

Thank you so much for the time you spent doing this interview. This was very inspirational, and we wish you continued success.

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David Liu

David Liu

David is the founder and CEO of Deltapath, a unified communications company that liberates organizations from the barriers of effective communication