"I feel more and more like a kind of watchdog or policeman who is constantly on patrol to pick up milestones, deadlines, deliverables and e.g. timesheets or datasheets from my team members".
Simply walking up to a colleague's desk, joking around, asking about the home situation and casually following up on the status is much less common these days. The new hybrid form of work brings a number of challenges for a project manager, manager or PMO.
Remote communication takes time
. The all-important "human" and "non-verbal" part of communication largely falls away if we are limited to mostly contact via digital means of communication. Continuously following up via virtual meetings or phone calls takes so terribly much time that for many PMs and PMO'ers and also management this has become a complete day job. This, of course, cannot be done.
Can this be done differently? Well, of course not entirely differently! But can it be done easier, with better results and more pleasant for everyone? Yes, it certainly can! Hence, in this blog we want to take you through our best practices.
The remote working communication tips from MOJEO
We have many experts by experience and have been talking internally about leading new teams and successful new forms of collaboration. We discovered that many existing trainings were not really applicable to this current situation. They were more quick pass-throughs of standard management methods when it came precisely to following up, retrieving and controlling.
Communication is everything! Communication, communication, communication.... But just a little bit different, a little smarter, a little more convenient, more thoughtful and therefore much more effective and pleasant for everyone. Below are some practical tips you can use in different situations.
How do you get 100% commitment?
This could be done just fine in a phone call, virtual meeting or team meeting where you address the team members one by one and search for coordination.
Step 1: Make sure that the person says out loud what to do.
You: Okay, so just so we know who's doing what, what are you gonna work on now?
Team member: I'm going to collect the information and process it into a report for a project meeting.
Step 2: Get a time frame/deadline
You? Excellent. And you said you were going to have it ready by noon this Thursday?
Team member: That's right!
Step 3: Make sure you link an obligation to the task
You: Okay, then I'll shift some things in my schedule and block Thursday afternoon to get started with the reporting?
Team member: Ah, fine!
Step 4: Underline the value again
You: it is very important for me to finish this Thursday evening, because the board meeting is scheduled for Friday and everyone should be able to read it in advance.
Team member: I get that!
Step 5: Confirm the appointment
You: Okay, so I'll get the report from you by noon Thursday at the latest, correct?
Team member: That's right!
Step 6: Show Gratitude
You - a few days later via mail/slack or else: I wanted to thank you for your help, I knew I could trust you!
Something needs to be done "fast" in between
Nothing is more difficult than retrieving last minute information, but with the right approach this can be done just fine. Still, in many situations this is an effective way to steer behaviour. It is important to "hit the right chord".
You will need an interim update of your team members prior to the board meeting. Are your team members resisting the time investment? If so, acknowledge this by saying: 'We know that it takes extra time, but this information is important in order to be able to properly determine the next step. Could you send us a project update with the outstanding points?' Recognising resistance will make your team members feel understood and then they will be more likely to do so... because we are one team.
Building personal/informal relationships is even more crucial than before, this can be done 1 on 1, but also 1 on more. They have to think you are nice
Get to know the individuals, their likes or dislikes, families, hobbies or what they have experienced. In the case of teams, for example, you can show that you know the history of the team. For example, by sharing something you did together recently.
Every time you get the chance, focus on similarities between you and that person or team, such as common interests, hobbies, origin/history, sports or sports clubs or things you have experienced or realized together.
Share something of yourself with them. This doesn't always have to be personal, but can also be a good research, a video, an event or a nice article they might be interested in. The power of "little gifts" strengthens the bond between you and them.
Develop the social norm/culture. This is a longer process. Where in previous blogs we have already pointed out that leading virtual, remote working teams is often based on trust in the team and adaptability, it is important to continue to invest in a culture of collaboration and to continue to strengthen mutual connections/linkages. This is based on the social norm of delivering according to deadlines, making and communicating agreements and working independently with a focus on results. Also keep repeating that "everyone" sticks to the agreements made and compliment the good behaviour. In a general e-mail sent to everyone, you can thank them all for submitting the information on time
People often unconsciously allow themselves to be led by the (perceived) behaviour of others. Just think about it: in the search for a restaurant, we usually choose the restaurant where it is busy.
People who haven't turned it in will realize that they don't belong to the group. Nobody wants to be the stranger.
As people, we don't want to deviate and belong to the team!
By continuing to underline this consciously, the vast majority will exhibit the desired behaviour and this will become the general social norm. And that compliment, that is the immediate appreciation to everyone and triggers a neural value response in our brains and makes us happy. You can do this, for example, by sending a simple email. Thank you all for providing us with your weekly update and timesheet, it will ensure that we can get off to a good start as a team next week.
Don't forget that mutual ties are extra important in this day and age!
A major drawback of remote working is that the coffee machine call also automatically disappears. In offices a lot of tires are forged while enjoying a short intermezzo at the vending machine.
In addition to sessions focused on 'the work', organise sessions for team building or the informal conversation. Search with your team for alternatives to the coffee machine conversations, sitting together in the canteen or the collegiate walk during the break. Think of a virtual Friday afternoon drink via Zoom, a 15-minute coffee break with your colleagues every day or a teambuilding session where everyone puts his or her favourite spot on the background of a team meeting and everyone has to guess where it is. This immediately results in informal conversations.
Need help communicating remotely with your (project) team?
The MOJEO remote PM team is ready for you! Audrey, Dave and Jelle are ready to assist you with remote project management during this turbulent period. Call (+31 (0)43 2041 086) or schedule a meeting via: https://calendly.com/MOJEO/60min.
We will then organise a direct video connection to your living room.