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5 Ways to Enhance Virtual Project Stakeholder Communication

Project stakeholders are the people who fund, provide workers, provide resources, are affected by the project’s outcome, and/or oversee the project from a legal or compliance perspective.  As a Project Manager, not having an agreement with any or all of your project stakeholders can have disastrous results for your project and potentially for your career. Communicating with and getting agreement from these diverse types of people can be difficult enough when everyone is at the same physical location.  However, when these people are geographically located around the block, around the country, or around the world, getting everyone on the same page becomes even more complex.  Distance can bring a lack of communication, cultural differences, organizational divide, and dramatic time zone differentials.   All this said, no matter where they are, stakeholders are stakeholders and must be dealt with properly for the good of your project and the good of your career. As the Project Manager, there are a number of things that can, and should, be done to help assure your stakeholders are properly aligned. These activities include: Getting to know stakeholders personally Assuring they understand the project’s purpose and importance to the organization The costs and/or benefits of the project to each stakeholder Verifying that each stakeholder knows his/her role The specific resources to be provided The specific timing of them and where the resources are needed Assure that all stakeholders agree on the project’s priority relative to other projects This previous list certainly contains important business strategies and organizational politicking that [...]

By | 2020-09-22T02:06:45+00:00 August 5th, 2020|

Virtual and Co-Located Team Communication

As the leader of a virtual team, properly interacting with your staff is much more complex and problematic than communicating with a group all working from the same location.   There are, however, many techniques and processes that can be employed to minimize the effect of distance on your ability to effectively communicate with and manage your staff. “Out of sight, out of mind” is one of the most obvious and insidious issues. When people work outside of the office, unless your company’s culture is very accustomed to this, it’s very easy to forget that your remote employees exist.  I don’t mean that this is done in a mean or calculating way.  I simply suggest that if six people are physically planning on meeting in a local conference room, it’s easy to forget to call the seventh person, who will be connecting in via phone. While forgetting to call someone for inclusion in a meeting is somewhat embarrassing, it’s the tip of the iceberg in regard to the issues that can occur. Remote employees may feel isolated and forgotten and leave the company. You may forget to assign them tasks, thus reducing department productivity. Without proper work direction, remote employees, wanting to keep busy, may perform the wrong task or perform the right task the wrong way. One way to minimize the “Out of sight, out of mind” phenomenon is to schedule regular one-on-one meetings with remote team members to assure they are receiving enough of your attention.  Regarding meetings, a quick trick [...]

By | 2020-09-22T02:06:54+00:00 July 28th, 2020|

Virtual Teams and Your Management Style

Managing people, even when they are all at the same physical location, certainly has its challenges, but when you add distance to the mix, the process of managing a team becomes even more complex.  One of these complexities is the potential need to modify your management style to effectively engage, supervise, instruct, and evaluate team members who work at distant locations, whether it be down the street, across the country, and/or around the world. When managing a virtual team, there are a number of things you should consider related to your management style.  Various leadership techniques that work very well in person are much less effective when attempted with employees at a distance.  The list that follows outlines some of these virtual management challenges: Managing by walking around     This is the management technique of simply walking around the office with the goal of interacting with those on your team, providing guidance where needed, and observing them at work as a way of assessing their work ethic and job effectiveness.  As you may imagine, this technique can be very effective if your team is outside your office door or down the hall, but virtually impossible if your team is at multiple physical locations. Communicating with team only by phone and email This technique can be very effective for your virtual employees.  Phone-based communication is a form of human interaction that can help you build trust, develop a working relationship, and quickly communicate information without the need of crafting detailed emails.  Email is also [...]

By | 2020-09-22T02:07:09+00:00 July 21st, 2020|

Office Influence: The Key Ingredient for CIOs to Get a Seat at the Strategy Table

Description: Enhancing your influential presence gives you the organizational clout needed to get you a seat at the business strategy table.  Understanding the key influence concepts of influence factors or influence currencies allows you to maximize the value of your clout and status. Blog text: In the 1980s there was a financial services firm named E. F. Hutton.  Their tag line was “When E. F. Hutton talks, people listen.”  I never worked at this firm.  I never invested in or through this firm.  I never knew anyone that worked there.  So why do I remember their tag line from so many years ago?  The reason is that I remember as a young man thinking “Wow, they must be really important if everyone is listening to them.”  Yes, this was just a marketing campaign, but it was also a self-fulfilling prophecy they wanted to achieve. What is your self-fulfilling prophecy?  How do you describe your role within the C-Suite and IT’s role within the organization?  If you describe yourself as the leader of the IT team and IT as an internal support function, then that’s how you and your group will be viewed. When I began my professional career, our technology group was named “Data Processing”.  The reason was that in the earlier days of computing, that’s all business computing could provide, the processing and summary of transaction data.  A decade later, as hardware increased in strength and power, software was able to become more sophisticated.  These advances provided the tools to mathematically [...]

By | 2020-09-22T02:07:42+00:00 July 17th, 2020|

Understanding Virtual Worker Needs

There has been an enormous amount written about how to manage virtual teams.  In fact, I have previously written on it a few times myself and teach a class for managers on the topic.  This blog post, however, is a little different.  Rather than discussing the management of virtual teams from the manager’s perspective, I’ll be discussing it from the remote worker’s point of view.  The reason for this change in headset is, that as managers, we can better lead those working for us if we understand their needs and issues. Three areas that you should consider, regarding the need of your remotely working employees, are socialization, physical surroundings, and management support. Socialization: By socialization, I’m referring to the ability for virtual employees to be part of a virtual (or occasionally physical) community with their fellow workers. There are number of reasons for this needed socialization.  Some of these reasons are personal and some are professional.  From a personal perspective, most humans are social creatures, as a result, working by yourself, all day every day, can get lonely, cause depression and/or a lack of motivation.  In a regular corporate environment there are coworkers to have lunch with, meetings to attend, and random meetings in the hallway on the way to the restroom and coffee machine.  Working alone at home, none of the human interaction exists.  At best, these virtual workers are connected to others via email, phone and/or video based. From a professional perspective, virtual workers can easily feel out of the loop [...]

By | 2020-09-22T02:07:50+00:00 July 14th, 2020|

9 IT Action/Reaction Office Influencer Techniques – Part 2

My last blog described the first four action/reaction influence techniques that IT professionals can use when trying to influence their business partners or others with the IT organization.  This week’s blog discusses the remaining five techniques. 5. Doing Tasks You Don’t Like  As a IT manager or executive, if you do all the fun stuff and leave the important but uninteresting or dangerous tasks to others, many issues will arise, including: Your team will resent you. Your staff will be unwilling to perform unwanted tasks. Your team’s motivation will be reduced, resulting in lower productivity and increased attrition. Your action of sharing the uninteresting or dangerous tasks has the reaction of: Showing people you are a team player, thus, increasing their willingness to follow your instruction. Causing your team (and others) to perform these tasks more willingly because they know you won’t ask them to do anything you wouldn’t do yourself. 6. Taking Logistical Control Taking logistical control is a negotiation trick that employs both influence and team-building-based concepts. From an influence perspective, being proactive and organizing the group’s logistical needs positions you to take a leadership role in the overall negotiation process. From a team-building perspective, once you have taken a leadership role and the group’s culture is formed, modifying that culture becomes very difficult, thus cementing your role as the overall negotiation leader. Continuing with the negotiation example, if you take care of the negotiation’s logistics, such as booking the conference room, sending out the meeting invitations, and ordering lunch, the [...]

By | 2020-03-18T14:53:31+00:00 May 20th, 2020|

9 IT Action/Reaction Office Influencer Techniques – Part 1

One of my favorite ways to influence others is to perform a task that needs to be done anyway and to do it a manner that causes the other person to react in a specific way. For example, if a Project Manager needs a project stakeholder to respond to emails more quickly, The Project Manger should respond to their emails quickly with the hope that they will return the favor. I worked with a an IT executive who took two or three days to respond to my emails. This was problematic because I was under a tight deadline and could not move forward without the executive’s input on certain aspects of the project. In an attempt to speed up his replies, I would answer his messages within five or ten minutes. Because I always replied to his email messages right away, over time, he felt guilty that he did not do the same for me. As a result of this guilt, he began to return my email messages as soon as they arrived. Truth be told, this story falls under the category of: If you can’t be smart, be lucky. Initially, I started responding to his emails so quickly because I thought he would email back right away if I could catch him while he was still working on email. It wasn’t until weeks later that he realized his change was an influence-based reaction to my action. I got the result I wanted, but not for the reason I expected. I had no [...]

By | 2020-03-18T14:53:23+00:00 May 13th, 2020|

9 Ways IT Professionals Can Say No Without Saying No

Saying no is an often-overlooked influence technique. It is not simply saying no; it’s saying no and suggesting you or the other person/people involved do something differently. For example, someone asks you to give them a recap of a meeting they missed, but you don’t have time to do so. Rather than just saying no, you could use a leading question, saying, “I’d like to help, but I’m afraid I might accidentally leave out an important point. Did you know that the meeting’s minutes are available online in the meeting notes? Do you think it would be better to look there?” This type of technique has the dual benefits of saving you from having to spend time recapping the meeting and simultaneously redirects the person to a place where they can get the needed information. Using these types of “redirection techniques” can save you from: Feeling confrontational by saying no. Offending non-IT business partners Agreeing to perform work you don’t want to do. Wanting to help but not having the needed time, information, and/or resources to provide assistance. The topics/techniques that follow are alternative ways to say no without actually saying no by either providing alternatives or redirecting the question. 1. Saying No Using Redirection This technique is best when you are willing to help but believe what they are asking you to do either won’t work or you would rather do it a different way. In this case, your reply should provide an alternative solution, such as: I’m sorry I won’t be [...]

By | 2020-03-18T14:53:15+00:00 May 6th, 2020|

5 Ways to Influence Business Partners Using Multi-Step Communication

Multi-step communication consists of predefined processes crafted to create a specific response and/or outcome. This communication type is often used in conflict resolution, difficult conversations, change management, motivation, and other related activities. At their core, however, they are influence vehicles generic enough to be used in situations of all types. 1. Problem/Vision Statements Within a business setting, this technique is primarily used to gain approval and/or funding for a specific project. The “problem statement” defines the issue that must be solved, and the “vision statement” describes the desired end-state once the problem has been corrected. The format for each statement is shown below: Problem statement: The problem is _____, resulting in ______, thereby causing ______. Vision statement: It would be great if _____, allowing us to ______, thereby having the effect of _________. For example, if the VP of sales wants funding to upgrade the company’s customer relationship management (CRM) system. The VP could say: Problem statement: The problem is the CRM system is running slowly, resulting in inefficiencies in our sales process, thereby causing lower company revenue. Vision statement: It would be great if we upgraded the CRM software, allowing us to increase sales personnel efficiency, having the effect of increasing company revenue. The concept is that the problem causes feelings of anxiety and urgency, and the vision describes the problem-free future state. The trick is to get decision-makers to buy into the problem statement. Then it is easier to influence them to approve the funding or solution. 2. Fear/Protection The Fear/Protection [...]

By | 2020-03-18T14:53:06+00:00 April 29th, 2020|

3 Key Types of Influential IT Communication

Sometimes it is not what you say, it is how you say it, when you say it, where you say it, and/or the process you use to say it. There are different techniques you can use in a seemingly ordinary conversation that dramatically enhance your ability to influence others. Your goal when experimenting with these techniques is to internalize them through practice, so using them does not seem calculated, disingenuous, or opportunistic. The beauty of these techniques, in addition to their general applicability as an influence-based tactic, is that they are easily incorporated into other types of interactions, such as negotiation, conflict resolution, delegation, vendor management, and other IT-related activities. While reading this blog, you should consider the following questions: Which techniques do I like most and want to incorporate into my personal conversational repertoire? How do others use these techniques on me, and why do they work? How can I use these tactics in other interpersonal communications like negotiation and conflict resolution to increase my effectiveness? Which tactics that I have observed others using would I like to use? 1. Storytelling Using stories to convey information, maintain historical records, influence others, and perpetuate cultures, religions, and family identities is as old as humanity itself. Humans are internally wired to enjoy stories. Don’t children want a bedtime story before going to sleep? Storytelling was the primary vehicle for passing information from generation to generation for a very long time. Politicians often begin speeches by defining their accomplishments in terms of facts and figures. [...]

By | 2020-03-18T14:52:57+00:00 April 22nd, 2020|
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