Project Management Tips to Get the Most Out of Your Remote Teams
Last October, Waddell Group CEO Tom Waddell interviewed Courtney Jones, a skilled project manager with expertise in managing teams from across the globe at Rebiotix, a Ferring Company. Jones’ experiences with project management during the COVID-19 pandemic have equipped her with the tools necessary to get the most out of her teams, and both Jones and Waddell agree that simple changes to you and your team’s processes will pay dividends in the long run. Jones has found success in proactivity, staying genuine in celebrating wins, and focusing on the details, especially while interacting with her teams. A year after their conversation, we’re revisiting Jones’ insights to see how we can optimize her suggested ideas and habits for 2022, so your team can kick off the year with a running start.
Proactive Communication Leads to Efficiency and Progress
Remote work makes coordinating teams very difficult, especially if you have teams both locally and globally with in-office and at-home rotations like Jones. Because there can be a lot of wasted time from coordination, Jones has invested significant effort into replacing the “go over to the desk and ask a quick question” that was important and effective before the pandemic. Jones found that being unable to ask a quick question or have a 5-minute conversation at a coworker’s desk means that the conversation is at risk of going longer than expected. Time wasted on remote meetings will add up throughout the week, so Jones stresses the importance of being proactive with meetings.
If Jones wants something to get done, she makes sure it’s clear about what’s asked and expected. Setting these expectations proactively while providing the team with the necessary information to accomplish the task effectively will reduce wasted time during meetings. When she’s in front of them, whether impromptu or scheduled, they can get done what needs to get done and move on to other tasks with minimal questions along the way. There are so many moving parts to remote teams that not having clear and scheduled discussions and deliverables will lead to a loss of focus, and team members will lose sight of the bigger picture.
Stay Genuine and Celebrate Wins
In a project management environment heavily influenced by the pandemic, it’s easy for team members to get lost in remote work and lose sight of the bigger picture. This can lead to lost engagement and low enthusiasm, which can be very detrimental to the progress of your team’s goals. Jones acknowledges this and stresses the importance of communicating with your team that this is a marathon, not a sprint. Milestones are key indicators of progress, and one of the most effective ways to keep your team’s eyes trained on the goal at the end of the race is to celebrate wins.
Every couple of months, Jones’ core team has a large meeting. At the beginning of the meeting, Jones’ team celebrates wins and exchanges prizes based on their accomplishments and achieved goals. Jones suggests that being genuine in praise while rewarding your team when they reach key milestones will keep them engaged and passionate about the work they’re doing. Starting meetings by celebrating wins is an excellent opportunity to kickstart the discussion while holding your team’s attention.
Focus on the Details, Especially While Taking Notes
Communication is a crucial part of project management, and this is especially true while remote. As a project manager, remote meetings and scattered conversations can lead to miscommunication or wasted time from follow-up questions that could have been answered during previous meetings. The chaos from scattered meetings can lead to missed details or misunderstandings, so Jones recommends taking detailed notes to combat this.
Not only is taking notes in preparation for meetings important, but Jones says that taking notes during a meeting is just as important, if not more so. The more broadly your team is spread out, the harder it is to remember interactions and body language. Jones states that she consistently notes team reactions and body language to gather valuable intelligence in compensation for not seeing them in person. If you’re scenario planning with your team and offer different plans, as an example, pay attention to your team’s body language. If they sit back, frown, or cross their arms, that option may not garner as much support as the others.
Project managers have to be creative while managing remotely, and taking notes on subtle details like team body language will give you valuable intelligence that you wouldn’t have otherwise. Detailed notes also provide project managers with structure and organization, which are crucial for project success.
Improving Efficiency and Productivity While Remote
Although it’s become a cliche, these genuinely are unprecedented times, and this is especially true for project managers. Remote teams have new and unique dynamics that weren’t previously present before COVID-19. Although it’s more difficult to manage teams, Jones believes that proactive planning and communication, genuinely celebrating team wins, and putting a heavy emphasis on team notes will compensate for efficiencies lost from remote work. Although the current market environment has shifted from 2020, Jones and Waddell’s conversation still holds today. It will continue to be a practical addition to every project manager’s toolbox while managing remote teams. If you’re interested in getting the most out of your remote team but don’t know where to start, reach out to us and our expert project managers will set you up for success.