Read Part 1 about what it means to have empathy working on a virtual team...
Writers are master storytellers and understand how to share information to a virtual audience
Writers create art that isn't experienced live at creation. They express an idea in words for someone to read not only at a different time, but a different place and for a wide audience. Writers try to be sure they are communicating clearly. Some will have others read their work to make sure it makes sense. They target writing for a specific audience knowing that just about anyone will read the piece, so in some ways, there is a balance of creating something for someone who needs to read it versus who does happen to come across it and read it.
Writers will often structure a piece to share a story in a linear step by step sequence. Or share a story in a more circular way. Either way, the goal of any piece is to get someone to picture a scene, process, future vision - anything idea, concept or scene - in his or her mind. A writer creates an experience for the imagination. It's a type of experience that doesn't happen in person, but it is highly personal and individual.
Ironically, the defined experience on the page is broad enough to accommodate many; specific enough for a reader to create his own experience in his head.
As a UX or CX professional, consider how writers tell a story to someone who they don't know, who can't ask additional questions, and doesn't care about some details (but know that there are details that are necessary to tell the story properly)?
And you need to tell a story that your target audience will understand - as will people who happen to stumble upon your piece.
That's the type of framework any online experience should take. Try to do the same with an experience you construct.
Working Remotely helps you Listen better. Listening is key to empathy.
Listening is awesome. It is hard to do, but it is something I enjoy doing. It helps me learn more about other people, their motivations, their interests, what makes them work. I think it is a core skill that's needed in the world. If more people listened to each other, fewer virtual teams would fail and more people would work well together.
Justin Treasure talks about listening often. He's one of my heroes because he is so spot on about it. Here's a diagram I stole from one of his lectures about what we learn in school. Listening is often on not on the list.
So how does one listen? There are two guidelines I follow:
- Listen to understand, not respond.
- Consider listening a prime time activity. It is not something you can multi-task and do in the background, like listening to the radio.
- Listening is key to a conversation. Conversations are about give and take. If you keep talking, you keep giving. You have to take sometimes too.
How many of us have been caught in that trap? You are on a call, you discuss something, and then you find out that the other person isn't listening - says something and later on you act like no one ever talked about it.
Or you listen with judgement in your mind about what is being discussed, subconsciously allowing yourself to hear what you want to hear from that person. You may miss what the person was trying to share with you. And you may miss an opportunity to interact with that person.
Listening, if done well, gives you insight into other people's perspectives and empathy for others. You can hear the tone of someone's voice. You can hear if someone is distracted. What someone is talking about tells you what is on his or her mind. You hear what is being said as well as what is NOT being said.
You take what someone allowed you to know and get as much meaning out of it as you can. Listening is what really builds relationships. It is not the talking or sharing. It is understanding all of the possible motivations for someone, all of the possibilities where he or she could be coming from.
Listening allows someone to share their perspective with you, build trust, and build a relationship.
This is a skillset vital for UX and CX professionals.
- Usability testing requires listening skills. You need to read between the lines of what is discussed and shared and what isn't. Sometimes it is what the user isn't seeing that is the gap for massive product improvements.
- Ask questions about what isn't being said. Knowing what isn't being said only happens when you are listening to the other person.
- Listen without judgements. You may want to confirm a particular result from a usability review or test, but if that expected and desired outcome isn't occurring, you need the objectivity to realize that maybe a different solution is necessary. Take what they say at face value.
- If you can't listen to real people - use data. Read between the lines to determine what the data tells you - and what it doesn't tell you. Listening to people closely teaches you how to read between the lines, and it is a skillset that helps you in so many other areas. Especially when analyzing data. - and I think this is key for most UX/CX professionals to be able to do.
- Stop talking all the time, listen, and have a conversation. Most content is about talking, or giving - it's going on and on about a topic. Stop. Start a dialogue or discussion. Conversations and the experience of a conversation are what drive relationships. And an interaction online is a conversation.
So how do you use all of this information?
How can you use the experience of working with a virtual team, listening and understanding how writers work?
- When creating an experience, help your audience visualize what you are trying to accomplish. When you work with a virtual team and you need to explain an idea, you tell a story and try to help the team envision a process or an idea. An experience should be like a story.
- Build a relationship with your audience by sharing a story - or rather, an experience. You don't know them, and probably never will. But a story, or rather experience, will help them understand you better.
- Make sure your experience is specific enough for users to have an individualized experience, but general enough for many people to want to have that experience. Be like a writer - target one group but make sure that others can experience it too.
- Use your data as a "listening" tool to learn more about your audience and how to best work with them. Know that it is ok not to fully understand all of the motivations for them.
- Know that not everyone will share all of their insights and perspectives with you - so listen to what's being said and not said. Sometimes, what's not being said is more important.
- This wasn't really covered much, but people don't read. This is a large part of my presentation on virtual teams - and it drives my advice to create more audio, video and other types of content. Stop with the ebooks and Web pages already! People are knowledge collectors. If someone wants more information, they will let you know and have a conversation.
- Stop talking and start having a conversation. Conversations are the best experiences because they are about sharing. And that's key to knowing what it means to listen and be on a virtual team. Give and take. Make sure your site has more of those experiences - it keeps people engaged.
If it is possible, I think UX and CX professionals should work virtually so that they can understand what it means to be a user. It is hard to be isolated, only interacting with a company through a Web site or phone. This is why it is so important to learn how to listen and how to have a conversation. Examine how writers achieve story telling and how they pull people into experiences. And remember - people share what they want to share. You don't know the full story. You need to listen carefully to get that.