PMXPO: Speaking summary

PMXPO is one of the most established virtual conferences and has been around for several years. This year it has been brought into the #ExperiencePMI conference series and has some great highlights and speakers. There were over 60,000 registered attendees.

The Platform

Last year, I took part in the Twitter Takeover of the @PMIevents twitter handle to follow and tweet my experience of the event. This year, I was a speaker and had a different experience where I could spend time joining video chats with our participants, answer questions from my session and take part in the “After hours Piano session”. Having so many people attend a conference, can be very daunting and trying to make a presentation that can apply to many of the attendees was also incredibly difficult!

As we did not have time to do a full Q&A, I managed to copy a few questions that I received through the session and afterwards and I wanted to spend time answering it via a blog post.

QuestionAnswer
How do you stay focused on the meeting you are in and not multi-task?This really does take discipline. Consider putting on “do not disturb” on your Teams/ Outlook or close outlook when you are in meetings so that you are not disturbed by the notifications.   You can also practice: Active Listening as a soft skill to keep focused on the task
How do you facilitate retrospectives virtually?I manage this as a normal workshop and use collaboration tools to gather feedback and get them to actively participate.
How can you make retrospectives effective? E.g. avoiding blame/ or encouraging others to speak upI think that having clear expectation management at the start of a session is critical. I would then facilitate a positive discussion with the team and when something negative does occur, that you try to adjust the comment into a constructive comment.
How many teams are you managing?It depends. Between 3-5 teams at once but that can be multiple projects.
How does this work for you if you are in a service industry working with clients?I try to keep the same foundation rules as with my ‘internal’ team but some things may be more formal (e.g. staying at my desk rather than walking on a call but that can be open to negotiation).   The biggest difference is ensuring that all information remains professional, courteous etc.
What other tools do you use for collaboration?I use Microsoft Teams, Conceptboard, Murio.
How can you manage team members that are uncooperative?This can be a challenge. I try to work through why they are not cooperating, what the reason could be and what I can do to manage them more effectively. This involves talking to them, understanding their motivations and getting them involved in the discussion.
What virtual tools do you use for teambuilding?I’ve done a few different things. We have used Kahoot for quizzes, Skribbl.io for Pictionary.
What do you do if someone uses personal information shared during team building against the person who shared it?This would be something that I’d pick up with the individual and discuss why this was happening.
What are the most important soft skills that you’d recommend for training?This would depend on the individual and their improvement points. I think everyone can use skills around: Conflict, time management and listening
Do you have any tips for managing virtual teams with difficult timezones?I think you need to realise that you cannot be everything to every timezone and pick the hours that you can work with both timezones and manage this as effectively as you can.   E.g. if you’re based in Europe, working with Tokyo and Los Angeles, you could consider working certain days a little earlier to work more with Tokyo and then the next day a little later to utilize the time available with Los Angeles.
Why do you think that it’s the Project Manager’s responsibility to train people? Wouldn’t this be the function of their Direct Manager?I think that as a Project Manager we have a unique role and position to be able to suggest trainings/personal development to line managers / HR for team members. I actively coach my team and encourage them to look for training and learning opportunities both within and outside the project.
Do you foresee businesses selling off or breaking leases for permanent businesses?Yes, that has already happened in a few European cities and I do think that as we move forward, the way that we work/ collaborate will be more of a hybrid role than it was before
Do you pre-plan the well-being calls with your team?Yes. I tend to just put a 15min meeting in the agenda just so that they’re prepared and we can set the time aside without rushing.
How do you overcome people’s reluctance to share or have personal communication or relationship?I try to share a bit of my own personal information / read the team to learn what is something that’s good to share. This could be something simple as a sport that you like, something you watched on TV etc.
What if your team doesn’t want to send pictures of their working environment?That’s fine! I wont push anyone to share this information/ picture if they don’t want to
What if some of your team are customers? Do you have any suggestions for how to handle?I think that keeping clear ground rules is vital for this and making sure that everyone understands the rules. We can still work together, share knowledge, share information about ourselves and still have a positive working relationship.
Did the team develop the rules together or were they set by the leader?I always encourage the team to develop and set the rules themselves
What steps do you take to set expectations early on in the partnership?I would set expectations in the Kick off meeting and first meetings with the client and teams. This can be in the form of Ground Rules but could also be “guidance” for how you want to work together
Not just your team, but how do you manage a client who you have to work with virtually?I handle them in nearly the same way but I also guide on some clear expectations for what they can expect from me as a vendor (e.g. how we deliver invoices, what to expect regarding project reporting etc).
Have you ever had to host a second kick off because the direction of the project has shifted so much that it’s essentially become a new project?Yes. This was actually the best way to do it. After a major change request, we did a “reorientation” meeting to realign on the scope, timeline and potential changes to working practices. This really helped us refocus
What should I do if my company keeps sending meeting requests for outside business hours?This is where I practice discipline. Depending on the project/organisation, I would be firm about availablity for “connect moments” and be strict about your availability and time to switch off. The only times I am flexible with this rule is where it is a one off event and/or timezones dictate it as a necessity. If that’s the case, then I indicate that a consequence of this late connect moment will be a later start time the following day.
With distributed teams, there would be someone in a time zone with an ‘awkward’ hour of time when a meeting is set… How can we accommodate everyone?This can be really difficult and something you might want to consider when looking at the location of your distributed teams. I have often had days where each team switches their day by 1-2 hours so that we can more time to work together. This would then help us remain connected but give us the time to work during “normal” hours.
If the team uses Jira to track work/sprints, how do you handle a situation in which a team says they prefer working via emails and they don’t like and won’t be using Jira?I think you need to agree on the tools that you’re going to use, when and why. If your company uses JIRA, then you use JIRA. There’s no discussions. What you can choose to do is either train them on JIRA so that they’re aware of all of the functionality or clearly agree on what should be maintained in JIRA, and what can be done in email (e.g. all status changes and comments must be done in JIRA but a secondary communication via email is acceptable)
How can I get my team to just turn on their camera for ONE meeting a week?I would make an agreement that for one single meeting a week, they can have their cameras on and for other meetings, it’s non mandatory. I try to show a little flexibility as I do understand that people may not like being on Camera but for Team Meetings it’s a mandatory rule
What will the online quizzes be about?Anything! Look at what your team are interested in and tailor it accordingly. E.g. technology questions, questions about culture/travelling etc.
How do you handle a team who isn’t responsive to any of these ideas?Very good question! I would aim to try different ideas and ask them what they want/ how they like to work. If I’m able to understand this, I might be able to think of ways that they like to work more effectively.
If you have a team that is slammed and they feel like this is all \”fluff\”, how do you get them to engage and show the importance of these soft skill interactions???It can take a bit of a leap of faith but you can just show them through active participation and the benefits that it can bring to a project. I have managed a very hostile team before and setting clear expectations and asking for their trust for a set period of time really helped
I work with a virtual team and we really struggle with the language barrier. Have you got any advice?This can be really difficult. Depending on the level of language skills, you need to consider having one or two key contacts who are more fluent be the “mouthpiece” between the teams and help the communication flow productively.

The rest of the conference had some great content and really made me think about my role as Project Manager and leader. What did you think of the conference?

2 comments

  1. Hello Emily, I trully ejoyed your presentation at the PMI EXPO.
    It was so inspiring to me, especially because I am one of those starting project managers, trying to find my way in.
    I switched my carrier just recently from health care profession/ education into PM. I passed the PMP and I am trying to land my first job as a project manager.
    Your presenation reminded me me (as an educator), trying to isnpire and help people you work with, so they can excell in what they do and hence excell as a team!
    Thank you for reinforcing my beliefs that I can make it in this new carrier. If you have any suggestions for me, please let me know. I would greatly apprecaite it.

    Wishing you lovely day.
    Kind regards
    Zuzana M.

    Liked by 1 person

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