Positive thinking is a powerful tool for moving ahead in testing times such as the current challenges we are experiencing during the COVID-19 outbreak. John Maxwell tells us, “Positive thinking does not always change our circumstances, but it will always change us.” And Mr. Maxwell is correct - the first barrier to positivity and productivity is our own attitude, work that requires a process of introspection and self-knowledge. In team project settings, attitude analysis and motivation must be driven by the Project Manager. With the right attitude and even during challenging times, a team can accomplish and exceed project expectations. However, if the team is divided and lacks motivation, the objectives will be difficult to achieve, and team morale will further deteriorate.
Let us look at a few tools that will be helpful for leadership and project management in the times of COVID-19:
Communication: Maintain open and frank communication on a frequent basis. Due to social distancing, communication solely via electronic means does make it more difficult to interpret people, but short and complete messaging helps remove the guess work. When speaking in call and video conferences, be mindful of pausing to avoid interrupting sentences from other team members. Be mindful of delay, and repeat the ideas of your team members as a way of acknowledging agreement ensuring team buy-in. Look for varied ways of communicating to enhance the team’s morale. Create informal and casual spaces and meetings based around common interest, during which work topics are not discussed. Keep these interactions short, without forcing individual participation in a way that would put stress on group members.
Goals: Lack of personal and direct interaction may cause greater team dispersion due to the amount of incoming email and electronic messages, so setting clear goals every week is paramount to success. Use appropriate and centralized electronic media and project management systems so that the team can always see the project timeline, the baseline, the changes and adaptations that are taking place. Create standard practices around goals such as sending updated project Gantt charts twice a day at expected and regular times. Further, the use of the remote Scrum Board / Kanban methodology may be useful for follow-up in these times.
Balance: Life balance is always vital but may be even more so in the times of COVID-19. In many cases, our frameworks for work/recreation and family/personal life have now been reduced to a singular and shared space. Therefore, it is critical for project managers to ensure the emotional stability of our teams by emphasizing proper balance. As a leader, take charge of exchanging ideas for relaxation and recreation with our teams, and ensure that your team is working hard, but also taking appropriate breaks. The stress caused by the pandemic has resulted in different responses by different individuals, and we should seek to keep stress levels under control, with reading, exercise, and recreation. Team productivity depends on keeping a healthy balance, and the Project Manager must lead by example.
When project managers ensure that teams are balanced, well-informed, and understand objective with clarity, team productivity and positivity is not only possible, it is likely.