If you’re starting a new job or have a new hybrid work environment, meetings are probably a combination of Zoom and in-person. Learning to communicate well during this mix of virtual and “real” experiences is the number one game-changing skill needed for those who want to be successful collaborative employees. Keep reading to learn more about active listening and other top tips for communications for the hybrid work environment. 

For many companies and people, it has become clear that there is a basic way to communicate effectively during any type of meeting and it’s establishing a clear culture of cooperation during not just meetings but all communications!   

No matter the communication channel, Slack, Zoom, Google Meets, or daily huddles, listening to understand, also known as active listening, is the communication method to learn. In other words, first, listen. If you don’t think this is important, consider the fact that it’s important enough to be a part of the classes offered for the PM certification! 

What is active listening? 

It’s a teachable method of listening that takes practice! 

Here are attributes and other tips you can use immediately to start actively listening in every forum. It’s also not just for professional events, but also for personal time with family and friends. 

One key to active listening is first, don’t try to compose your response before someone stops talking. Instead, remember to acknowledge what they stated and find ways to incorporate it into your comment. Also, use this opportunity to practice being open to new ideas for what works best for this situation.

  • Let them finish, don’t interrupt but wait until they’re done. Let your ego go! Think not about what is in it for me, but what is the best solution for everyone. This is an opportunity to find what works and also to have harmony on a project between the different teams. 
  • Remember to project and read body language. On Zoom, you can read body language! 
  • For example, to determine the level of interest, notice if people are looking at the screen, reacting to what you say, asking questions, or are looking at a different screen, typing, or looking at their phone?
  • Reading body language goes both ways even on Zoom. When speaking, always look at the camera and let people know if you’re taking notes. Nod and smile – react to what they’re saying. 
  • Ask questions. TIP When unsure if you have everyone’s attention, pause. You’ll often get everyone’s eyes back on the screen quickly to see if you’re still there. You can also ask questions to confirm your points have been heard. 

To dive deeper into active listening best practices, go to this article: Active Listening.

Learn how to listen to understand

A blog post by Asana, a project management software company. 

Here are other high-level tips to help create a culture of collaboration and innovations. 

  • Give everyone a chance to speak. If someone keeps adding to the conversation or doesn’t give anyone else a chance to speak, ask them to hang on to their thoughts while you listen to a different person’s POV on the subject…  Or ask if you can park items for now or set up a chat or other 1 x 1 meeting.
  • When things are heated, or someone is upset. Be sure to summarize what people say to demonstrate you understand a highly passionate response. This is the most effective way to calm people’s anger or emotions.
    • Why does this work? It’s an excellent way to show that they’re being heard and what they say is important! 
  • When answering questions, remember to keep it simple! This is a must in a heated conversation. Sticking to the subject at hand, only speaking about things at a high level, will ensure the meeting doesn’t get off the main subject track. 
  • Require an agenda before all meetings. This is a good practice no matter what the discussion is about but is especially good for heated or contested meetings.
    • Always set up a way to take ideas or other subjects to a place that makes them an agenda item for another day! 
    • Parking lot items, whiteboard items, and new ideas can be noted this way and not lost.  If any items don’t fit the agenda, discuss them via chat or email before the meeting.
    • Project managers have a set list of goals for each meeting. This should also be included in the agenda. Agendas are perfect practice for meetings that have a chance of derailing outside of the scope of the project or task. 
    • Schedule meetings only when required and invite those who have to be there. 
  • Ask a lot of questions! Be open to ideas. Use technology and great note-taking to be sure to capture everything! Some note-taking options include recording their meeting and then using voice-to-text technology. A curious mind does the following! 
  • Check-in with your team often to see how tasks are going and provide any updates.
    • The best team mindset uses individual strengths. Ask your teammates and client contacts about duties, strengths, and goals that are important to them
    • Develop a list of best practices with each of your stakeholder groups. Coworkers via Slack and daily check-ins, Clients via email for official requests, and slack for quick info-sharing that 
  • Admit when you make a mistake! This helps to move quickly to find a solution, and it gives a chance for others to shine. Empowering teamwork and your team builds stronger teams and collaborative culture.
  • And finally, don’t panic when things go wrong. An open mindset can turn challenges into opportunities!