The coronavirus pandemic has turned the world of work upside down and inside out, with the majority of businesses having to do one of two things – shut down operations, or continue to work in a remote capacity. Although those still working from home are immensely lucky, it must not be forgotten that they are facing a multitude of challenges that come with suddenly and unexpectedly being thrown into remote work.
As for those in managerial positions, it seems a bit like the blind leading the blind as they attempt to motivate and guide their employees through the same dark and wild landscape that they too are experiencing for the first time.
As a result, project managers have had to regroup and completely rethink their approach to their work, and there is one key shift that can do wonders for the motivation, efficiency, and success of your team – the move from project management to people management.
Although the management of teams and individual employees is a vital part of project management, much of the job really comes down to the effective and efficient management of tasks. Now, as a leader, your priority needs to be making sure that your people are taken care of – once you’ve got that sorted, the tasks will take care of themselves.
Here are 5 key strategies that you can use to make sure that your team is in tip-top shape:
It’s no surprise that effective communication should be your number one priority when coordinating a team, especially when everyone is working remotely (possibly for the first time). You need to make sure that everyone knows exactly what they need to do and when they need to do it, furthermore it’s important to check in with your teammates to make sure that they are handling everything okay. The enemy of open communication is fear – if your employees are afraid to tell you that they’re confused or falling behind then your project will suffer. Open the dialogue by expressing some of your own worries and issues with working from home, and give everyone the opportunity to voice their concerns early on in the process – that way, when a problem arises, they will feel comfortable voicing it to you.
As a project manager, you should be used to doing calculations to figure out timelines, schedules, and risk factors. Now, more than ever, you need to be using all of the resources that you can to plan for all that can go wrong. Try and figure out the minimum and maximum amount of time needed to complete your project, and communicate with all of your superiors to work out negotiables and non-negotiables e.g. it’s alright if one task is completed after deadline, as long as another is ready by a certain date. By trying to anticipate how and where things will go wrong, you won’t feel overwhelmed if/when they do, and you’ll have a plan of action.
By now we have all become familiar with Zoom, Skype, Slack, and every other group communications programme – use this to your advantage! Set up group work sessions to encourage your employees to connect with each other even if they are working on separate tasks. You can also use devices like Google Docs to have multiple people collaborating on the same task – this is a great way to make sure that everyone is on track and on the same page regarding what they need to be doing and where the project stands.
Encourage your employees to reflect on how they are managing – you could even facilitate this. Ask your employees to start a document where they track their mood, sleeping habits, general productivity, exercise, eating habits, social activity, and other emotional factors. Sometimes people don’t even realise that they are struggling, and by forcing them to think about their own wellbeing you could be alerting them to the fact that something is wrong. Plus, tracking your emotions and productivity right next to other factors like sleep and exercise makes patterns apparent so that you and your teammates can work to get everybody emotionally healthy
Your projects are important, your people are more important. We are in a worldwide crisis and nothing is business as usual – it’s okay if you aren’t working at maximum efficiency and there are slip-ups along the way. What’s essential is that you and your team are connected and working together as a unit. So cut your employees some slack and most importantly, be kind to yourself. We are all living through the hardest of times, and doing okay is okay. A great idea is, at the end of each day, write down the things that are nagging at you – the negative thoughts saying that you aren’t trying hard enough or that you aren’t capable of managing what you have to – and then tear up that piece of paper. Acknowledge where you’d like to improve and where you’ve had shortfalls, and then move forward.
The journey ahead is a difficult one, but if you stay connected and compassionate, you will always come right.