Project Management Leadership for Remote Teams

Project Management Leadership for Remote Teams

Business disruption globally due to COVID-19 has called for on the fly evolution of project management leadership and remote teams. Organizations with a matured work from home strategy have been able to adapt to the changing business scenario faster than others.

Getting the business operational with functional remote teams and crisis management teams was just the beginning.

The initial sole objective was to protect the organization, the customers’ interests and its employees.

But as companies got back on their feet with the right set of remote team deployment, a lot of unprecedented challenges came to the fore.

Dispelling fears, motivating employees, keeping the eye on the goal, answering to anxious customers and till continuing to deliver business as usual has been an uphill task for organizations the world over.

Some organizations did better than the rest. The key differentiator was the robust project management leadership.

If you take a quick look at some of the strategies implemented by global giants or savvy companies were around

  • Being sincere towards their customers’ challenges
  • Addressing customers’ fears first and relieving their pain
  • Use to top of the edge remote work management tools
  • Increasing communication and collaboration across the board
  • Facilitating home office setup
  • Providing thought leadership to their employees
  • Allowing employees to take care of their family
  • Preventing job cuts
  • Being compassionate
  • Innovative solutions with faster go-to market

The key thing to note here is that companies had to fight at multiple front.

  • Customer retention
  • Growing the business or preventing loss of revenue
  • Protecting their employees
  • Boosting employee morale

All of these require extensive leadership and foresight.

Let us see some of the key project management leadership that prove handy in crisis like COVID-19 and help sustain & scale business to new levels.

3As– Accept, Appreciate and Assess

The foremost thing for leaders to do during extra-ordinary circumstances is to assess, appreciate and accept.

Accept – skirting or ignoring a problem isn’t a good idea. Rather it’s a hallmark of poor leadership. Leaders are always the first ones to accept that there indeed is a problem that needs to be dealt with and also share their honest thoughts around it.

Appreciate – take cognizance of the fact that the matter could have been lot worse & analyse existing measures that allow to control the impact of the situation.

Assess – to understand the extent of the situation at hand, identify things within their circle of influence and devise a rapid action plan to mitigate further risk.

Communicate with the team

Sharing honest thoughts and a clear way forward with the team is very crucial. Great leaders know it. And hence they are always upfront in their communication.

Leaders also know that it’s the team that will be doing the heavy lifting and if they aren’t provided the right information and required motivation the entire rebound strategy would fail.

Clarity of action is what the teams look up to the leader for.

More than that it’s the subtle cues that leaders exhibit by means of their body language, memo and messaging that drives home the point (intended or unintended).

It is always preferred that leaders share their plan, let the team know if there isn’t a plan yet and invite for suggestions and great ideas.

This shows that the leader is all but human and not afraid to share his own vulnerabilities, thereby builds further trust and confidence with the team.

On the other hand, if you have a sure fire way of keeping things under control lay out specific actionable guidelines to be practiced by all employees.

When there is enough clarity, employee anxiety is curtailed, chaos are prevented and all team efforts are rightly used in dealing with the problem rather than feeding to speculations.

Similarly when all your project management office is well informed, decision making is swift and risks are handled in time.

Bring out the visionary in you

Desperate times call for desperate measures. Only a handful of leaders have the courage to think of the unthinkable and pursue it to success.

Steve Jobs is an extra ordinary example of being a visionary. It requires a lot of self-belief and the ability to trust and operate from the gut.

One needs to pull in all their experience, expertise and ability to do a 360 degree analysis of the situation at hand, circumstantial conditions and layout the got forward strategy.

It is true that one cannot be a 100% sure if it would work or not, but the key lies in the execution.

The more effective, time bound and outcome focused the execution, more the likelihood of success.

Exuding confidence, sharing the benefits, cause and effect data points all are crucial in getting the team on-board.

Unless the leader believes in his idea, no one else will!

More importantly, the team sees your foresightedness, your ability to stay on top of things, the willingness to take risks and the ability to go in great detail and layout the minutest of actions right there for all to see!

Project management leadership is all about thorough action plan, execution and improvisation.

Nothing can foster confidence and generate motivation like a leader taking charge and showing how it is done!

Be the Innovator!

Sound cliché! But, finding indigenous solutions, re-looking into the portfolio and identifying parts of your offering to pivot is always a welcome move.

Timing and quick go to market is equally important.

I do not have to remind you of 1000s of mask, sanitizer and other health products that flooded our markets within 30 days of announcing COVID-19 as a global pandemic.

Being an innovator is not about going all out and build an expensive product or service out of the blue. Rather it is more about improvising and pivoting.

Segmenting services to cater to a larger user segment.

Or in case of your project management, it is about finding the right approach, change of delivery strategy, schedule etc. to ensure the project goal is met.

Many companies came up with innovating pricing structure, COVID discounts, Work from Home plans, extended trials, pausing subscriptions, introducing payment moratoriums, revising add-on services and restructuring the prices accordingly etc.

The central theme all along was to alleviate customer pain, help them deal with the crisis rather than worry about paying for your services.

Note: cost cutting and reduction is the first thing companies do during a crisis and all non-essential services and functions take a hit. Hence, the idea is to ensure how you can protect your business and retain customers with minimal loss of revenue.

Having deep understanding of your customer base, their preferences, how they view & consume your offerings is key to laying out new plans that keep your customers delighted.

Lot of tech companies invested in hosting webinars, learning series, podcasts etc. on how their product and services can be remodelled or used to run business during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Thus, implementing robust project management leadership requires a thorough understanding of the direct relationship and impact of your services to your end users.

Conclusion

Leadership in itself is difficult and leveraging the same results from remote teams requires a lot of hard work from the leaders to get going.

As a leader your team is equally important to you. You cannot come in with a wish list or an order list and lash out or give ultimatums.

Crisis is when your teams needs to see you walk the talk. More importantly, they want to “see you”. More and more of you.

What does that mean?

  • The way leaders communicate with the team.
  • What does their message convey?
  • Is the way forward clear?
  • What actions are required from each department or business function?
  • Are there well-defined KPI and performance metrics to track progress?
  • How will the employees and teams be assessed?
  • What benefits and cushion is the company going to provide to allow employees to deal with any personal impact due to the ongoing crisis?

Remember, face time with your teams is crucial and so is the messaging. You are the brand ambassador of “solution & relief” to your teams.

So, leadership is all about providing answers, almost all of them, all of the time with as much certainty and genuineness as possible. Be the “go-to man” your team expects you to be. Simple!

Remember that remote teams have the circumstantial need to be in touch and receive communication directly from their leaders. Be compassionate, deal with empathy and drive home the point that you are there when they need you.

What’s your leadership tip that worked for you in the last quarter?

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