We communicate so so much online right now – whether that’s in those glorious Zoom or Teams meetings, via other digital platforms or messaging. Some of us may also be managing entire projects this way and may indeed have been doing this pre-pandemic too. I caught up with our lovely associate Alison Rood who is an expert in digital communication to find out her top tips for remote project management.
The key skill – she insists – is EMPATHY. A challenging enough skill in person so just how do we tap into this and harness this online?
Start as you mean to go on. Get your team’s buy-in from the start of a project all the way to the end. That means getting to know them, developing and nurturing a rapport with your team. Over time this will help build trust and stronger relationships, which in turn leads to successful project delivery time and time again.
Nurture and encourage respect. Really value the relationships you have with the team both individually and as a whole. Create an environment of mutual respect and honesty. Be mindful of each of your team member’s contribution to a project, especially when they are under pressure. Understanding and appreciating each team member as well as their contribution means that every member of team is treated as a valued contributor.
"We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak." Epictetus
Our emotions influence every aspect of our lives — how we learn, how we communicate, how we make decisions. Yet they’re absent from our digital lives; the devices and apps we interact with have no way of knowing how we feel. Scientist Rana el Kaliouby aims to change that. She demos a powerful new technology that reads your facial expressions and matches them to corresponding emotions. This “emotion engine” has big implications, she says, and could change not just how we interact with machines — but with each other.
Listen – Online we have far less access to non-verbal cues but we still need to pay attention to them. Get better also at detecting changes in peoples’ tones of voice – vital clues to what else may be going on for them or an insight into what they are not saying. Above all, be present – minimise any potential distractions during meetings.
Use your words well – When you do speak, learn to adapt your use of language, words, tone and gestures according to the person or team in front of you at that time. Get to know how each member of your team absorbs information. For example, with the more ‘visual’ members of your team, use language like ‘I see what you mean’, ‘I want the big picture’. This will help them assimilate information more easily, which in turn helps to reach a shared understanding.
Contextualise – Continually assess the context of the situation you are presented with there and then, ask questions and actively listen to the responses. Contextualising helps you get everybody (team and client) on the same page and questioning cuts through unproven assumptions. This in turn can save lots of time and potentially the cost of the project delivery.