No matter what your profession, you have projects. Projects are larger-scale tasks/initiatives that gather multiple people with a myriad of steps to accomplish something of impact for a recipient. They take a lot of energy and time. And, I believe that anything worth doing is worth evaluating–both for what worked and what could be improved for the next project.
Sure, the main metric for effectiveness is whether we got ‘er done, but what about looking at many different gears in the process for fine-tuning. Doing a post-mortem following a project’s completion might include a rating scale of 1-10 on these statements:
- The team worked together well (good communication, dynamics, and relational connections).
- The team was able to succeed without the leader.
- We did our best work within the time frame allotted.
- Everyone was given the big picture. Expectations were aligned to the vision and well-communicated on the front end and clarified throughout based on ongoing results. Feedback flowed freely–with respectful candor.
- The team held themselves accountable to their action items.
- Status reports were timely and well-communicated to those who needed to be included.
- We hit our milestones along the way and celebrated them. The final product accomplished what was intended.
- We included those who needed to be engaged.
- Our constituents were pleased with the results.
- We stayed on or under budget.
- Our work benefited our organization and each team member.
Then there are questions to ask yourself as team leader (or team member) for evaluating your part in the project:
- Did I contribute quality work?
- Did I meet the deadlines with my tasks?
- Did I improve the project in some way?
- Did I learn something that will help me in future projects from someone else?
- Did I stretch myself outside my comfort zone?
- Did I help someone get over some hurdles, stay out of trouble, and succeed?
- Did I delegate appropriately both responsibility and authority?
- Were the expectations on my role fulfilled?
- Did I stand on high moral ground and take the high road when in conflict?
- Did I self-regulate any negative feelings along the way?
- Was I approachable for communication and never a bottleneck to progress?
You might want to add your own questions to mine to customize it to your situation, or to emphasize an area of greater importance to what success looks like. I’d love to hear your additions to the list! I’m at firstname.lastname@example.org
Pressure mounts at work when:
- someone retires or gets fired, and it’s been determined the position won’t be filled
- someone goes out on leave for an extended amount of time
- responsibilities get added to your plate that aren’t in your job description
- new regulations force a new way of doing things
- you have a sudden increase in customers/clients to keep happy
- you have a new supervisor with higher expectations
Now what? You can’t clone yourself! But you only have so many hours in the day, and there doesn’t seem to be an end in sight! That’s a recipe for burnout if you don’t find a way to either shed some responsibilities to ease your load, or increase your capacity–and still make it happen. Let’s pretend you’ve delegated all you can, and your plate is still over-full.
- Improve specific skills. One way to increase capacity is to get better at what you do so that it takes less time. Your efficiency gets you through one task and on to another one more quickly instead of all the hesitation that comes with not knowing what to do next.
- Set boundaries and practice self-care. Since it’s time to put on your cape and be a superhero, it’s going to take you being in tip-top performance shape. By getting plenty of quality sleep, daily exercise of 10,000 steps, food that is fuel and not garbage, and a healthy NO that rolls off your tongue when even more “opportunities” come your way, you will be able to cope with the increased, sustained stress.
- Stay in your strengths zone. You are one talented worker. Do you remember why? For what elements of your job have people praised you, for years and years? What tasks give you the most energy at work, where it almost seems effortless? You’ve got to do more of THAT. Working too long in your weak areas will make you feel weak, and it will take twice as long, too.
- Get incredibly organized. To keep up with the influx of email, paperwork and people to serve–and technologies and supervisors to adapt to–, your work space and systems must be a well-oiled machine. Make sure there’s an easy home for everything that crosses your desk so that piles don’t form, causing distracting clutter (and thus, overwhelm). Take care of quick tasks in the moment, and block out productivity time for more critical thinking tasks–and honor those appointments with yourself!
- Triage tasks and then prioritize. You now must become a time management ninja. Actually, let’s call it priority management. As request for your time flow your direction via multiple media, have a master task list in one place to capture each task. Unless it’s urgent to do right away (and only YOU determine if something is truly urgent), set a daily time to review your day and preview the next day. During this half-hour of prime time, you’ll refresh your to-do list and choose your top 3 tasks for tomorrow that you MUST do, to make it a good day. Rank the other tasks by importance, urgency, and significance and tackle them accordingly as the week progresses.
- Use available resources. Sing it with me, “We all need somebody to lean on.” When under additional stress, enlist the help of anyone you can–even if they just can take a piece of a project. Talk to your mentor or coach for advice. Find a way to automate some tasks using technology.
Deep breath. You can do this! Increase your capacity when your load can’t be lightened “the easy ways” and you’ll keep Growing Forward!
Still feeling overwhelmed? Check out my blog on that topic for some practical tips to deal with overwhelm.
I mentioned time management, and I have a free tool for you at www.takebackmycalendar.com Pick up my free Control My Calendar Checklist to get those first systems started.
The trend towards working remotely has been accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic. However, before 2020, working remotely was a rapidly growing implementation by many organizations around the world.
Historically, shared in-person team-building experiences were effective ways of bringing together a group of colleagues outside of the mundane work environment. Unfortunately, this is no longer a possibility, at least not for a while. However, modern technology makes it feasible to spend time with work colleagues without being in the same location.
Given the current global climate, team building is still critical. Team-building exercises, whether in-person or virtual, are more important than ever.
Why Hold Remote Team Building Exercises
While some see remote team-building exercises as wasting precious company resources, there are compelling reasons and hard data for holding them:
- One conflict within a team of six high-level earners (over $100,00 per year) costs the company around $255,000.
- Team building increases employee engagement, which can double a company’s profits.
- 94.2% of employees say that team-building exercises improve employer-employee relationships.
- 94.5% of employees say team building facilitates open dialogue in the workplace.
- 96.3% of employees find that team building has a positive influence on employee-employee relationships.
Other reasons why continuing team-building in a remote world is important include:
In the corporate world, trust is a major factor among work colleagues. As a team, you need to be able to rely on one another when working on projects, gathering information, or making presentations to upper management. Maintaining that sense of mission and unity is more difficult when the team members are seldom in the same room. Remote team building reinforces that sense of trust.
Communication is the backbone of any successful endeavor in life. In the remote office, being able to effectively communicate ideas is even more critical. Remote team building activities open the communication flood gates within departments or groups.
Even when sitting at a laptop at home, fun and interactive team-building experiences can get the creative juices flowing,
Many employees live alone and feel isolated and out-of-the-loop without face-to-face interactions during the regular workday. Team building exercises help many employees feel more included as part of the team, even if they are not in the same room. This is especially true for those dealing with family members that have substance abuse and need to find nearby Al-Anon meetings for their sanity.
As with in-person team-building experiences, virtual team building can help reveal to management and other employees who has hidden talents that could be an asset to the corporation.
Team Building Strategies
The lack of in-office social interaction has left large swaths of the population feeling like the metaphorical rug has been ripped from beneath them. Now, even more than in the past, it is critical to facilitate a healthy social environment, even when virtual.
Here are a few key strategies for remote team building.
Assemble a Pep Squad
Learning the new rules of virtual socialization can be so awkward and unfamiliar that there is less enthusiasm for remote team building. Combat this by recruiting spirited employees to motivate the rest of the team. Encourage employees with a positive dynamic and a knack for building up colleagues and socializing to volunteer for a remote team-building pep squad. They may be able to transfer their excitement to the virtual world.
While many companies feel that in most areas the best action is to play it safe, team-building exercises are not one. Try to innovate.
Sharing a fun fact about oneself during a Zoom meeting is boring, unengaging, not specific to the company culture, and has been done a thousand times already. Find or create a more interesting activity, such as virtual trivia, a company talent show, or a public employee recognition program.
With employees performing their functions in different work environments, the importance of including everyone is higher than ever. Some employees are isolated in a studio apartment and others are attempting to balance a fused work-and-family life. When you plan remote team building activities, consider the following factors:
- Communication methods
- Family life
- Socialization style
- Substance use
- Time zones
Well-planned and -executed remote team-building activities have many positive aspects that can contribute to the morale of a department and be beneficial to those involved. Even though it may seem like a major investment in resources, in the long run, it saves money and leads to the best results.
Author Bio: Patrick Bailey is a professional writer mainly in the fields of mental health, addiction, and living in recovery. He attempts to stay on top of the latest news in the addiction and the mental health world and enjoys writing about these topics to break the stigma associated with them.
- shrm.org – Building Team Bonds
- employer-employee relationships – nulab.com/blog/collaboration/team-bonding-exploring-how-mandatory-and-optional-activities-affect-employees/ – Team bonding: Exploring how mandatory and optional activities affect employees
- fond.co – 4 Ways for Employers to Help Ease the Sudden Shift to Remote Work Because of COVID
- teambuildingwithtaste.com – Why Team Building is Critical For Virtual Teams
So, yeah, I “nerd-out on non-fiction”: primarily reading personal growth and leadership books, and 2020 was no exception, reading 45 books–some, while exercising, on Audible, some on the local library Libby app, and the rest, in my morning routine by paperback/hard cover.
My habit is to highlight pieces of books that impact me so that I can journal those takeaways later in the year, giving the information time to “settle” in my brain; then, the next year I cull those journaled gems and file them by category for use in my trainings, blogs, radio spots, or to make into a mini-book in the future.
For those of you who are looking for a good read in 2021, here are some of the ones I enjoyed from the first half of last year.
- Jump Start Your Growth by John Maxwell
- The Infinite Game by Simon Sinek
- Instinct by T.D. Jakes
- Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl
- Switch by Chip/Dan Heath
- Enchantment by Guy Kawasaki
- Radical Candor by Kim Scott
- The Courageous Leader by Angela Sebaly
- Principles by Ray Dalio
- Awaken the Giant Within by Tony Robbins
- The 21 Most Important Minutes in a Leader’s Day by John Maxwell
- Life is Good: the Book by Bert/John Jacobs
Stay tuned for part 2 of my recommends, later in the spring. This should get you started. I’d love to know your non-fiction “keepers” that shaped your thinking in the past year. Please comment in Facebook on the Growing Forward Services page, and LIKE it if you haven’t yet done so, pretty please.
If you are like most workers, you look forward to Fridays. Some people have chosen to intentionally set aside Fridays for one big activity every week, to close out the week strong. Consider one of these “themes” for your Fridays as we enter a new year.
- Finish It Fridays: Got lots of tabs open on your computer? You know, those things you said you’d come back to later and wrap up. Got emails needing some deeper thought before you respond? What about half-completed to-do list items or post-its gone wild around your desk? Use Friday as a finisher to get things officially crossed off your lists.
- Forward-looking Fridays: With potentially fewer emails come in from co-workers, this might be the time to block out an hour or two each week to preview your next week and two or three weeks beyond that. You are looking for what preparation is needed prior to appointments or meetings or deadlines so that you can get prep time onto your calendar next week. Sometimes this is a good habit to do with your team or assistant.
- Follow-up Fridays: If you are in a business that is always on the lookout for new customers, use Fridays to prospect those leads that you met or were referred to during the past week. Call or email those contacts, reminding them of when you met, and seeing if you can be of service to them. Or, this them could entail responding to clients or co-workers who needed one item from you during your weekly meeting so that they can move forward with you.
- Favorites Fridays: After you have surveyed your team for what they enjoy most, recognize them more thoughtfully by buying them something to make their day. Favorite coffee drink, snack, flower, office supply–lots of options here.
- Face-it Fridays: Put one big, hairy, audacious goal (BHAG) on the last day of the workweek, and move the needle on it. No more procrastination. You can’t do anything else until you Eat That Frog! Ah, the weekend already seems lighter.
- Face-time Fridays: Tell your team that you have open office hours during a block on Friday for them to touch-base with you about any concerns or ideas they might have. Or use Friday to go on the road and bring a gift to your top customers to show appreciation for doing business with you.
That was fun to brainstorm! Do you have another positive F-verb that could become a Friday theme? Let me know your thoughts at email@example.com. And, speaking of Forward-looking Fridays, I have a new free tool to share with you: it’s a quick tips sheet on Crafting, casting, and carrying a compelling vision. Just text Beyond to 72000, and we’ll get it to you. Vision time!
I read a stat last week in one of my trade magazines that said fully one-third of employees are looking to switch jobs in the next year! Yikes! To keep the best employees, leaders must be strategic in creating a culture where the team feels content, supported, trusted, empowered, and valued. While not any single item below is enough to retain every employee (since every person has different motivations), a combination of them will most likely form a culture where the team will want to stay with you and build something great.
- Training/professional development. Most employees want to grow their skills to be the best at what they do. Paying for their continuing education is an investment that keeps on giving, especially if you require them to pass on what they learn to the rest of the team.
- Mentoring. This retention strategy goes both ways. If you are assigned a mentor within your company, there’s a good chance that that mentor cares about you enough to help you fit into the culture and to thrive within it. And, if you are mentoring someone else, it raises the ante for being a good role model of company culture as you show the mentee the ropes, deepening both people’s roots.
- Leadership opportunities. While not every employee wants to be an official leader, everyone does have a strength (or two or three) in which they lead the pack with their skills and knowledge. Give opportunities for each team member to step up and teach the team, or to lead portions of staff meetings, or run point on a community initiative or staff development focus.
- Support. We tend to trust leaders whom we see frequently. Be the leader who wanders around (or virtually) checking in on the team, asking them how they are doing, what they are working on, and how you can help. By putting yourself in front of them regularly, easy dialogue can happen about any obstacles that need to be removed for those employees to keep moving forward on their main things. Resolving conflict quickly in a respectful way also demonstrates support.
- Compensation packages. While most surveys would reveal that money is not the primary motivator for most employees, if salary/benefits are not viewed as fair/adequate for the amount of responsibility one has, it becomes a de-motivator. Assure competitive rates, give bonuses/profit-sharing, and keep looking for ways to add benefits to the package whenever budget allows.
- Input. People tend to support what they help co-create. If decisions that affect employees’ jobs keep coming down from above, without any conversations with front-line employees, you will not get people’s discretionary efforts. Weighing-in leads to buying-in. Do employee surveys, conduct stay-interviews (exit interviews while still employed), and bounce ideas off the team in 1-to-1’s or small groups–then do something about their suggestions.
- Social events. Not that everyone will want to become bowling-buddies with everyone else on the team, but there is something bonding that happens when people hang out outside of work–whether that’s going out for lunch, volunteering together at a community outreach, having company barbecues with families invited, or going on staff retreats.
- The best tools. Every occupation has certain equipment that is of highest quality, and as your budget allows, get them what they need to take pride in their work. I’ve seen custodian light up with a new vacuum cleaner or IT professionals grin from ear to ear with the largest monitors.
Let’s keep adding to this list. What have you seen that leads to employee retention at other companies you’ve watched? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. And let’s stay in touch. One small way is to subscribe to my Target Practice e-inspiration that I send out each month with little articles like this one. Go to www.paulcasey.org–it’ll pop up.