Adjust your communication styles for your employees, as you should with all employees, but it is especially important when working with a remote, hybrid or distributed team due to the potential spread in location and time difference.
We are all competing in an attention economy. From pings and dings to blinks and rings, companies and content constantly compete for our limited time and attention. How do great leaders turn down the noise and tune in to the messages that matter most? What does it take to be heard above the noise? And how do we create communication that cultivates community and connectedness in a distributed, distracted world? To address these questions, we started an interview series called “Can You Hear Me Now?: Top Five Strategies Leaders Use to Diminish Distractions & Win in the Attention Economy.” As a part of this interview series, we had the pleasure of interviewing Andrew Rosen, CFP.
Andrew is the president of Diversified LLC, a comprehensive financial planning and investment firm that is ranked #9 in the top 50 fastest growing RIAs by FA Magazine. As a financial planner, he forges lifelong relationships with clients, coaching them through all stages of life and guiding them to better achieve their life goals. Andrew loves helping others by spreading his knowledge on finance, investments and the pursuit of happiness, and does so through his nationally recognized blog, his contributions to Forbes and Kiplinger, and his appearances in other publications and television programs.
Thank you for making time to visit with us. Before we dig in, our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. What is one of your most memorable moments, and what made it memorable?
On February 12 of 2016 I saw the Bruce Springsteen River tour with my dad and youngest brother. I was proud to be able to get tickets and take my old man to our favorite performer and sit in box seats. We had the best night ever and was so special and memorable. Even more so because 5 days later my father unexpectedly passed away and thus was one of the last great memories of have of him and us together. Now my son’s middle name is River.
What is the most unexpected twist in your career story, and what did you discover from your detour?
Covid was an unexpected twist in my career, and in many people’s lives in general. When Covid hit, we were in the middle of our first acquisition in our business, and it definitely threw a new wrench into the plan. However, it was a good opportunity to adjust and learn how to move forward, and we grew as a company and as individuals and today we’re better because of this experience.
According to a recent Harvard Business School study, the most essential communication skill for leaders is the ability to adapt their communication style. How do you adapt your communication style?
I think it’s important to adapt your communication style both to the person or people you’re communicating with, and to the situation. It’s helpful to have a good understanding of how the person, or people, that you’re communicating with prefer their communication. For example, if you’re communicating with clients, do they prefer their information verbally, or via email where they can read it? Do they like videos, or would they prefer a blog post? Do your clients prefer meeting in person or virtually? Understanding the preferences of your clients and then adapting to their needs and styles of communicating is essential in enabling them to feel valued and understood. It’s the same with your employees and your peers in business. Some people prefer to digest information by reading it themselves, and others may need to hear it verbally or see it demonstrated, and you need to work with them in the way that best suits how they learn and communicate.
Clarity is critical as well. What lessons have you learned about how to communicate with clarity in our distributed world of work?
Clarity is crucial when it comes to business, so that you can ensure that everyone is on the same page when it comes to a project. Be clear when choosing your words, and keep what you’re saying simplified. It helps to speak slowly, because you can avoid adding in filler words or slang words in your speech. When you’re focusing on clarity in communication, ask questions to be sure that you are getting the point across that you’re trying to communicate, and so that your audience knows that you are actively listening to them.
We often discover what works by experiencing what doesn’t. Tell us about a time when your communication didn’t lead to the desired results and what you learned from the experience.
We’ve all experienced miscommunications within our lives — it can be as mundane as a barista not quite understanding your coffee order, or a partner or spouse misinterpreting a comment you meant as playful as something sarcastic, to something more serious like a miscommunication at work. The key to resolving a miscommunication, once you know it has occurred, is to approach the situation with understanding and empathy. Miscommunication happens, no matter how much we try to be clear when communicating with others, and it’s often no one fault — so don’t play the blame game. Start over, and ask questions without bias or being defensive. It helps to overcommunicate — don’t assume that a piece of information is already known, because it may not be known by the audience or other party. It takes two people to communicate and resolve a miscommunication.
What advice would you offer to other leaders who are struggling to have their messages heard and actioned?
If you’re struggling to have your messages heard and actioned, take a moment and think about how much you’re really listening to others. Communication is a two way street — and if you’re the only one talking, that may be why no one is hearing and taking action. Take time to really listen and actively listen, and be an active participant in the communication with others, and see how things may turn around for you.
Leading a distributed team requires a different communication cadence and style from leading a team in person. What are five strategies any leader can deploy to improve communication and clarity when leading a distributed workforce?
1 . When your team may be working in many locations, you’re going to miss a lot of the in person communication that comes when you can meet up together in the same room. Take this into account as a leader, because you will likely need to make an effort to schedule in person time with your entire team so you can get a sense of the in person communication styles of your team, so that you’re aware of them and can tailor your communication to each person even when they are remote.
2 . A distributed team also means that people may be working in different time zones, so you may be relying on emails and messages, where communication can break down a bit without the verbal cues that come with communication. Encourage your team to resolve urgent issues verbally or over video when necessary with a written back up, so that there is another layer of communication and clarity to the situation.
3 . Teams that work far apart from each other may need to work more at building trust, so it’s important that they’re communicating frequently. They also may feel disembodied from the rest of a company, so find ways to incorporate them into the entire company culture as a whole.
4 . Adjust your communication styles for your employees, as you should with all employees, but it is especially important when working with a remote, hybrid or distributed team due to the potential spread in location and time difference.
5 . Encourage a same day response, if possible — at our company, we don’t require someone to have an answer for their coworker or client within the same day, but you need to let them know that you got their message and that you’re working on it that same day, so that they know they’re heard. It’s important to acknowledge each other that you’ve received a request and that you’re working on it, so that the other person knows that they’re not being ignored — and it goes a long way in helping others to feel valued and cared for.
What are the three most effective strategies to diminish distractions when there is so much competing for attention?
First, it helps to understand what distracts you personally — is it notifications on your phone? Then silence them. Is it becoming overwhelmed? Then start with a plan for your day, and start by putting the most overwhelming task you have first, so you can cross it off first. Is it being physically uncomfortable? Perhaps get a standing desk, or make sure you’re hydrated, or set a timer to take breaks to stand up during the day. But by understanding what distracts you, personally, is the key to diminishing those distractions and setting yourself up for success.
What is one skill you would advise every leader to invest in to become a better communicator?
The one skill I think anyone, leader or not, should hone in order to be a better communicator is empathy. Really understanding and acknowledging another person and their feelings will help you to truly listen to them and communicate with them at their level. Being empathetic also helps you to go into communication without being defensive or biased, which leads to miscommunication or just speaking without listening.
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.
I’m hoping that with our financial planning company we are inspiring a movement to help the most amount of people possible reach their financial goals so that they can live the lives that they dream of.
How can our readers stay connected with you?
Thank you for these great insights! We wish you continued success.