Viewing Posts by Carlene Szostak
Upcoming Presentation: Is Your Team Connected and Productive? How Do You Know?
Categories: PMI Training
By: Carlene Szostak
Hybrid? Virtual? Face-to-face? We do 'em all!
The rise of remote work has caused a dramatic shift in how we collaborate and stay connected with our teams. With so many of us now working differently than ever before, it's essential to have the right tools and strategies to ensure everyone stays productive and connected. The question one must ask is, "How do you know how to choose?"
In this blog, we'll touch on a few of the best tools and strategies to ensure that you and your team can work both efficiently and effectively from wherever you are. So, what's the solution?
The short answer is C.A.T.
No, not the feline sort, but rather three distinct and needed steps for connectivity and productivity. First, there is "C" for celebration. Let me start with the end in mind. When speaking of celebration, it means something different to everyone.
Some team leaders might say that the success of a project well done should be celebration enough. This may have been true 40 years ago, but now generations matter. It has been learned that the younger your team demographics, the more expectation to celebrate. Big or small, a celebration is an expected part of the new normal. If you still need to make the time to celebrate, join us to learn some of the best practices.
Let's move to the letter "A." Assessing. Now that we have been virtual for a while, spend a few minutes assessing the tools selected by the company. Does it meet or exceed your needs? If so, great, don't change a thing. If it is difficult to use or has limitations, the chances of changing it might be slim unless you are the decision maker but know that you can enhance the tool with outside apps (assuming H.R. approves). Jack Box and Kahoot! are just a few app activities to help with team engagement. Integrate these tools within online meetings using Microsoft Teams, Zoom, GoToMeeting, etc., or create custom sessions around them.
What about fun? Try to build fun into meetings and brainstorming sessions as often as possible. These virtual events can be used to both collaborate and build camaraderie among team members. Assigning team members unique roles in meetings help too, such as assigning one person to facilitate the meeting, one person to note key points, etc. Finally, check in with team members frequently, even if it's simply a quick chat between formal meetings, so everyone feels heard and seen in the remote environment.
To get the most out of these meetings, it's important to ask questions that allow team members to share more than just task updates. Questions can include things like, "What's been your greatest accomplishment since we last spoke?" or "What challenges have you faced lately?" Asking these questions can help team members open up and ensure everyone stays connected despite being in different offices. Scheduling regular and consistent check-ins also give teams structure and keep them organized, which helps ensure tasks remain on track. Keep an open communication policy so any queries or concerns can be addressed quickly. Furthermore, give your team autonomy over how they plan and carry out tasks instead of micromanaging them. This will help create an environment of trust and collaboration between team members.
Mix it up. Not all teams need to be together all the time. Look at your world. Is there a natural break that will allow others to work together? Possibly, a sliver of a project that touches someone else. Or partner with others to create a new project paradigm.
The final letter is "T" for talk. Talk to me...no, really talk to me. The most significant barrier identified over the last 3+ years is associate retention. Employee satisfaction decreases significantly when it is limited or has no consistent face-to-face interactions. It could be as simple as associates feeling that out of sight is out of mind. Or you may be dealing with more complex issues like cultural differences, or lack of consistent collaboration.
The challenges are real. So, what do you do? Take a breath, devote specific time, and listen. This means providing communication channels where team members can feel comfortable expressing themselves and speaking up when necessary. Have clear communication guidelines such as an agreed-upon way to raise issues and resolve them quickly, decide who should take the lead on tasks, etc. Everyone should know how decisions will be made, who will make them, and how frequently meetings will occur.
Not to be overlooked is to establish ways to socialize with one another virtually — virtual coffee chats, team happy hours — so there can be some level of human connection among team members. Give team members guidance on how best to communicate their ideas online.
C.A.T. is only the tip of the connected and productive iceberg. Interested in learning more and furthering the dialogue? Join me at the upcoming PMI Training 2023 events for Critical Tools and Strategies for Virtual Teams scheduled July in Boston, September Virtual, & October in Atlanta. We will cover steps to ensure sustainable success with virtual teams. We will discuss how to set expectations, use effective communication tools, and take a deeper dive into recognizing individual contributions.
By Carlene Szostak
Recently I had the privilege to present Negotiation and Persuasion: Tactics to Influence and Win at PMI's Virtual Experience Series: PMXPO on 24 March. This global event attracted more than 64,000 attendees. It was a great event with featured speakers, exhibits and networking activities and the dueling pianos took my breath away.
Spending time with the participants talking about negotiations was a fantastic experience, and there were so many questions in chat I couldn't get to them all. I am taking this opportunity to respond to many of the questions I couldn't cover.
Question #1 - What if someone is not honorable or doesn't care about the relationship?
Unfortunately, there are some unethical negotiators out there. When I encounter a negotiator who utilizes unethical tactics, I am very cautious. You never know what trick they will try and pull, and any agreement with them may not ultimately be honored, or they may not even be the decision-maker.
I would first follow rule number #1, research. Then I am already better prepared to handle both good and not so honorable negotiations. My research would include the person and/or company that I am negotiating. In addition, I would talk to others who have spoken or worked with them. I might get a heads up on what I might be facing. There is so much that research provides; the person, the direction or problem the company is facing, or information gathered that might be misrepresented later. Knowledge is power. So again, research is always my first step.
If, in the negotiation, I realize that there may be some relationship issues, I try to adopt a collaborative approach. Finding out how the outcome can create mutual benefits and laser focus on that strategy. Finally, I make sure that I never stoop to their level.
Question #2 - What techniques are commonly used to prepare for a negotiation to achieve a win-win?
I would use start with being really, really prepared. Then the following six steps should be part of my outline and preparation.
Question #3 - Is it detrimental to the negotiation to come into it with a "battle" mentality?
It will depend on your definition of "battle." If I had to define "negotiations," it would be more of a strategic game. Two players, both with an objective that the other might not be aware of, that once information, expectations, and positions are shared, a better outcome can emerge than the separate original plans.
Question #4 - Any good tips on practicing negotiations? Seems difficult to train without another party.
Practice early and often. With my clients, I talk about "leaning into discomfort." What I mean by that is everything, including negotiations, becomes easier the more you do it. Practice with your vendors; some might take a cash payment for a discount. Or maybe with your kids on bedtimes and responsibilities. Look around. There are lots of places to "practice."
Question #5 - Is there any nonverbal courses on how to read better a person?
I believe that numerous courses are available, including LinkedIn Learning, Udemy, etc. However, I hone my non-verbal skills understanding by practicing observing. I also teach a class on Powerful Storytelling, and one of the exercises we practice is guessing an emotion by reading a nursery rhyme. Find your favorite. I use Mary Had A Little Lamb and then have each participant or friend act out a feeling (confused, angry, shy, aggressive), and everyone guesses. It’s a fun game you can play with friends, family, or even kids.
Question #6 - How do you persuade someone who is confrontational?
Confrontational is an interesting word. Are they acting like a bully? Are they just loud? Are they being aggressive? Look at it first from their lens. Is it cultural behavior? Based on what I learned, my actions would be different. But at a high level, I would lower my voice, look them straight in the eyes and say that we should reschedule for a later time.
Question #7 - What do you do when the other person talks talks talks with no break for you to talk?
I would ask myself why do I think the other person is talking, talking, talking…are they insecure? Are they not the key stakeholder? Are they nervous? Are they new to negotiations? After I made my guess, I would wait and listen. Remember, silence is power. Eventually, the time will either run out, or they will take a breath. I would then ask what ONE thing they are hoping to get out of this conversation. Then use the 7 seconds and see what happens.
Question #8 - Recommendations for books on how to deal with difficult people?
There are a lot of great books out there on negotiations. Some of my favorites are:
I just started to read Black Belt Negotiating (2007), Lee & Tabuchi, so I'll let you know how that goes.
Question #9 - What if they pull the 7 seconds of silence on ME?
Ha, ha…Leonardo da Vinci said that "Nothing strengthens authority so much as silence." If my opponent also appeared to be using the 7 seconds on me, I would act a little crazy and probably laugh at the end of the 7 seconds. Of course, I would ask them, "why the silence?" and wait 7 seconds and see what happens.
I had a great time presenting, and the entire presentation will be available on demand through the end of January 2023. Visit PMI Virtual Experience Series 2022 for more details. I am looking forward to seeing you at another event!