Summary: Passion for Projects – Gothenburg. March 2018

I’ve recently come back from Gothenburg and speaking at the ‘Passion for Projects’ conference. I presented the topic: ‘The questions you should be asking your team’ and it was great to get some feedback from the attendees about what questions they will ask and how they’ll change their questions moving forward.

Passion for Projects‘ is Scandinavia’s largest Project Management conference and brings some of the most passionate minds together to discuss and share knowledge. This year’s conference focused on organisational agility.

The conference itself was held in a great location in central Gothenburg and the set up was perfect for the size of the conference with great spacious rooms and excellent organisation.


One thing that really impressed me with this conference was the response and questions from the attendees. The quality and detailed nature of the questions really made me appreciate the knowledge and expertise in the room.

The presentation focused not only on the ‘Questions that you should ask your team’ but also about how you can change your behaviour as a Project Manager to better serve your team and foster a good team spirit. I go through a few questions that can be adjusted from our ‘current way of asking’ to a newer slightly different way to encourage a more open dialogue but also to look at how our questions can be interpreted by different cultures.

This presentation is one of my favourites to present as I really love seeing the reactions as people start to understand what small changes it can be and why it’s important. One attendee came up to me afterwards and told me that they really appreciated me telling the ‘human side’ of Project Management and why we need to look at that in our projects and not just our baselines.

Constant improvement – what we’ve learnt

The past month I’ve been working with some colleagues on what we can improve in our daily lives and every week discussing what we’ve been able to achieve and whether it was good/ bad etc. It’s been really interesting to see the improvements that we’ve been able to make to improve our lives not only as Project Managers but also as colleagues and individuals. Here’s a collection of some of them:

  • Improving e-mail communication with stakeholders
    1. They decided to have a brief chat with their stakeholders about what improvements could be made and if there was anything different that they could do
  • Different questions to their team
    1. After watching my webinar they decided to look at the questions that they were asking their team and if it could be adjusted.
  • Time Management
    1. They decided to timebox the activities that they were doing to see if they could manage their time better. They said “I started with 10minute timeboxes for common activities like E-mail checks, ‘breaks’ for getting coffee and started to look at where I could improve my efficiency during my day. It was astounding to see how much ‘wasted’ time I had! After a week of timeboxing, I really started becoming stricter with myself and I’ve really improved how much work I can do in one day”.
  • Team communication/building
    1. They had a few issues with team building and working with some difficult personalities so they decided to try and see what they could improve in their team communication and helping build a team. They decided to use a ‘trick’ that they learnt from their child and using a “Peace Table”. A Peace table is where you can talk through disagreements. There’s an object used (in this case a coffee cup) that indicates who can speak, so they can talk it out and come to an agreement/solution. This helped to work through some team disagreements and helped build a stronger team
  • Leaving on time
    1. After working a lot of overtime, this PM decided to try and leave on time for a week and not do ‘one more thing’ before they left. They said that it really helped them with their work/life balance because they had time to do sports in the evening or spend time with their family.
  • Personal development
    1. This Project Manager had been putting off attending a course and doing some personal development because they had been so busy with their work so every week they decided to do some webinars/develop personally on topics they wanted to research/learn about. This included attending some seminars and networking events held by industry organisations.
  • Work/life balance
    1. After a really intensive few months with their project going live, they wanted to try and re-establish a better work/life balance. This included taking some vacation days but also not replying to emails in the evening/weekend. They said it was tough for the first few days but after a week or so, it became more of a habit.
  • Listening
    1. One thing that Project Managers need to do is listen but some of us aren’t very good at really listening to what we’re told or accepting what we’re hearing. This Project Manager wanted to work on listening to their team and what they were trying to say

Why don’t you try doing this? What small little improvements could you make this week to improve yourself or your life as a Project Manager. Let me know what you do!

Suffering from stress

Stress management is one of those things that everyone has to deal with. Being stressed seems to be a common condition for most of us in our daily lives. I’ve had a full on burn out once and been very close to it another two times. Burn outs and exhaustion is not something that is easily spoken about or it’s perceived as a weakness but I think it’s actually the opposite. Everyone that I know that has had a burn out has been some of the strongest Project Managers and team members that I know.

What is a burn out?

A Burn out can be defined as a prolonged period of working too long and under too much stress/pressure. The causes of Burn out could be anything from having too much to do or to not having control in what you’re doing. My burn out was simply due to too much work that I had with immediate deadlines. I was working 18-20hours a day and it still wasn’t enough to get all of the work done. It also didn’t help that I was working with multiple contrasting timezones so I felt like I had to be working with them to get the most out of the day.

I’ve known colleagues who struggle when their values are conflicted by the work that they are being asked to do. This could be ethically like gold plating or morally when looking at the working conditions.

Spot the signs

There are a few signs but it will depend on your personality and circumstances for what it could look like. One thing to make sure that you’re aware of is knowing yourself and what’s different for you and it could look like any of the following:

  • Physical or emotional exhaustion
  • Depression / Detachment from people
  • Feeling inadequate/ feeling like you cannot achieve anything
  • Unable to function emotionally or physically. This was described to me as being in a forest and not knowing where the trees are.

What to do if you think you’re having a burn out?

I know that in my situation, I was unable to see that I was having a burn out. It was only a friend telling me that she thought I might want to see someone as I was struggling that I finally took help but on my subsequent times where I was close to a burn out – I recognised the symptoms and took some active steps to re-address the balance and make some small but critical changes.

If you are having a burnout; talk to your doctor and also to your boss/ HR Dept about getting some support and help in reducing your stress levels. This could be a period of leave or it could be reducing /removing stressful work.

Coming back from a burnout

You need to understand what caused your burn out and make some active changes. This should not just be done with your work but also on a personal level. Some ideas for personal changes:

  • Do not answer your phone in the evenings or if you must, limit it to one or two times
  • Do not sleep with your phone in your bedroom. Ideally, have it turned off or away from your bedroom
  • Work with your team and bosses about controlling your workload and managing it effectively. Managing expectations here is key. For me, having the team understand that I would only be working one time zone a day helped them focus their demands and needs from me.
  • Find a sport/activity that relaxes and chill you out.
  • Work with your family and friends and rediscover your work/life balance.

It was important for me to work with my bosses and team to make sure that I could control the issues that caused my burn out and make some positive, proactive changes to it. I was fully supported in this by my bosses and this made all the difference.

Another factor that will be beneficial is to understand your stress levels, understand what causes you stress and work on your coping strategies for how to cope with stress.

Having a burn out is not a weakness. It’s a sign of strength and battling for too long.

Let’s talk about equality in Project Management

I was recently sent a link to an article from a Project Management training provider about what people who work in Project Management want for Valentines Day. This post, unfortunately, wasn’t talking about a great training opportunity like I was expecting or about how we can level the playing field equality. It instead, focused on how:

For women, Valentine’s Day signifies hearts and flowers and, for ladies who are romantically entangled, it is a day when the man in their lives has to live up to expectations. For men in this situation, particularly those with certificates in project management, Valentine’s Day is when they learn the true meaning of a mandatory constraint on the schedule”.

After reading this blog post, I checked when it was written and low and behold it wasn’t from 1950 as I suspected; instead it was from January 2017. I’d like to think very positively and this post was intended as a ‘tongue in cheek’ take on Valentines Day but in this day and age, aren’t we passed the times of belittling women in Professional roles?

There are some fantastic women Project Managers and there are numerous studies available regarding the inequality that exists in our field. It’s very disappointing that instead of embracing the diversity, skills, and experience that women bring to the table, we have established training providers reducing down their qualities to stereotypes and presuming that only men can understand the “true meaning of a mandatory constraint on the schedule”.

My first introduction to Project Management was through a fantastic female boss who showed me what Project Management ‘really was’ and helped to guide me through my own journey in Project Management. She also showed me that not only does the glass ceiling exist but it’s vital that we work our hardest to break down those barriers and demand fair treatment in comparison to our male counterparts. According to a survey by the APM, there are only 28% women listed as Project Professionals and for those that do work in the profession, they can struggle with gaining sufficient experience and earning a considerable amount less than their male counterparts.

Let’s talk hard cash for a moment. It’s interesting to note that Iceland is the only country in the world with a law demanding equal wages for both men and women whereas countries like the UK still acknowledge a 18% pair gap in the pay ratio between men and women. I’ve seen this happen very recently. A male counterpart and I were going for the same freelance position and when asked for our hourly rate, we gave the same amount. We have the same years of experience and qualifications so it wasn’t to be unexpected. I received a prompt reply that “that pay rate would never be accepted” and instead offering me an hourly rate of 20% less. When I spoke to my male counterpart about this, he said that he received no such thing and instead had been told that it wasn’t a problem. How did I react to this? Well, I made the vow to never work with this particular company again and to his credit, my male counterpart made a point of mentioning this to the head of the company as ‘a significant area of improvement’.

As a female Project Manager who works predominantly in a field of men, I am used to banter but I can count the number of times when that banter has been against my gender. I was always taught that we are all equal and it’s all about how hard we work and how good we are at our jobs. I’ll continue to try and prove this moving forward.

So, what can you do if you see inequality happening? What can you do to make sure that your organisation and working environment is as fair as possible? As women, we must keep demanding more. Making sure that we’re getting the training that we’re entitled to, pushing the barriers to ensure fair play in the workplace. Ladies, it’s 2018 and it’s time that things were equal and we must keep showing the inequality that exists in our industry.

Planning – it’s like herding cats blindfolded

Planning. As Project Managers it’s something that we tend to excel at and need to do on a daily basis but how can you ensure that you’re making a realistic planning that will fit with the different priorities and working schedule? What are the best ways that you can make a workable plan that will stick?

One of the common complaints that I hear is regarding setting realistic expectations and deadlines. They tend to notice that Project Managers set deadlines that are completely unrealistic or unattainable just to make senior Stakeholders happy. The result is often that deadlines then lose their function as everyone realises that they’re useless and instead of motivating people for the last sprint, they often give up and have the mentality: “we’ll never make it so why bother running at all?”.

If you’re working in an environment where your team has to work on multiple projects then it’s important then get consensus amongst your group of Project Managers for priority. Normally this is done in collaboration with your Project Management Office (PMO) and working alongside your Portfolio Managers to align priorities with your organisation. This is a major requirement and one that you need to make sure happens and is adhered to by all Project Managers. Without this alignment and agreement, your teams will be working on conflicting priorities and for different projects. This can also cause a lot of delays because they may be forced to switch several times a day to different projects and tasks which slows them down.


It sometimes feels like you’re herding cats whilst you’re trying to align priorities and get an understanding of what will be done, and when. I’ve come up with a handy set of hints that could help you if you’re struggling with your planning and priorities.

  • Make sure that you have a good understanding of the work that actually needs to be done. Is it scoped out enough? Is it in enough detail? If it’s not, then I’d work on this as a first priority before handing out planning to the wider team. If you don’t know what’s really required, how do you know how long it’ll really take?
  • Understand the priorities within your team and organisation. Is your project #1? Or is there something else that has a higher priority? This could help you plan buffer accordingly as if you’re not the highest priority there may be a delay in when your resources can become available.
  • How big is your team? Have you got all of the necessary skills? If not, look at making sure that you’ve got the necessary resources available in the timeframe that you need them. In the organisations that I’ve worked in this has been done through employing contractors that had specific skills that we needed (e.g. PeopleSoft, Specific Development code etc).
  • Does your planning make sense? I always like to discuss my planning and steps with a colleague to make sure that I’ve included everything that I need and more importantly, that I’m being realistic with my time frame. As you become more Senior, your colleagues could be asking this of you. Each organisation and project is slightly different and the timescales that are available may also be different but there could be some standards that are useful to know (e.g. User Acceptance Testing (UAT) will always take 4 weeks).
  • Does everyone understand the organisation’s priorities? If this isn’t the case, I’d talk to your Program Manager and PMO to make sure that this is established and communicated throughout the wider teams. It can be a simple miscommunication or misunderstanding which causes a lot of conflict regarding timeframes and resources.
  • Are your resources all trained to do the job that they need to be? At the start of every yearly cycle, I work with the Development Manager or Line Manager of the resources to understand the development of each of the resources that I work with and where this may impact their availability for my project. I do this for purely selfish reasons! If I know when that team member is trained on that specific area, I can then utilise them rather than pay for an external which would cost the project more money. It’s also important to understand if they’re being trained on company time or if it’s over a weekend
  • Do you have sufficient resources to complete the work? During certain periods of the year (e.g. summer, Christmas, national holidays) there will be a reduced number of hours available for work. Are you looking at the availability before finalising your planning? Have you taken this holiday planning into account?
  • Are you updating the planning throughout the project to make sure that it’s up to date and taking completion targets into account? Is everything running to plan? or are there delays? Having up to date planning will confirm if you’re really on track or if there are problems lying ahead.

Planning is a critical task as a Project Manager and it’s something that you need to make sure is accurate before talking to your Stakeholders and team. I’ve done a webinar for on “The questions that you should be asking your team” and it can help you work on the questions that you’re asking your team and how to improve them.


Have you got any planning tips? Let me know what you think!

Tell me more!

Over the year, I’ve been asked a variety of questions from people over Twitter, LinkedIn, and e-mail and I wanted to give you a rundown of some of them in this blog post. I love hearing from you and being able to help you so feel free to reach out to me if you’ve got any questions!

  1. Question 1: I am a newly qualified Scrum Master. I listened to your webinar and I’m struggling to develop and perform in my role. What advice can you give me?
    1. Well done for getting qualified! I’d definitely look at understanding the requirements of your role and what your team needs from you as a Scrum Master. As you will have seen in my webinar; there are a few ‘stages’ that you go through when transitioning to become a Scrum Master and I’d look at what stage you’re at and what you can do to develop and move forward
  2.  Question 2: I’m working as a remote Project Manager with distributed teams across the globe. I’m having some problems dealing with some obvious culture conflicts and how to get over them. Can you give me some advice?
    1. The first thing to do is to understand your culture and the cultures that you’re working with and then develop and try to develop some common ground. It’s always good to have some ‘ground rules’ but also to ensure that you’re developing your ‘chameleon’ tendencies and adapting when you’re talking to your team so that you can make sure that you both understand what’s required and what the expectations are. The biggest thing about working remotely is to ensure that you’re all aligned and any miscommunication is kept as minimal as possible.
  3. Question 3: I think that I’m a good Project Manager but I’m working in a hopeless organisation. My boss is not supportive of my work or endeavours and the organisation is hostile to any sort of positive change. What can I do?
    1. This is a hard situation to be in. One thing that I’ve tried to do is to make those positive changes in the sphere of my direct influence. I would try to foster the spirit and changes within my team and the areas of my responsibility. I would also be an ‘advocate of change’ for the changes that I’d like to make to promote them within the organisation so that when they see the positive things that can happen, they can be adopted through the organisation
  4. Question 4: I’m currently failing with my work/life balance as I’m working across multiple time zones. Do you have any tips to readdress this balance?
    1. There are a few simple things that you can do to restore your work/life balance. Here are a few tips:
      1. Remember to take your holiday! You need to have that time to recharge your batteries
      2. Turn your phone off when you’re not working. This also includes not having your phone at the dinner table/in the car
      3. Encourage a healthy balance within your team. When there is no immediate deadline, work the time that you need to do
      4. Become more effective in what you’re doing. Look at what you need to be achieving and seeing if there’s a better way to do it
      5. De-stress! Take up running, go for a cycle or just have a nice walk outdoors. Being active is a great way to de-stress and you can always use this to have time with your family
  5. Question 5: I work from home a lot but I’m struggling to be productive. I’m finding that I’m not getting as much work done as I used to. My setup is good, but it’s just personal motivation. What can I  do to get back on track?
    1. Sometimes you need to be a location with others to feel motivated and get work done so it may be time to go back to the office for a few months and see if this helps with your motivation levels at home. You can also look into an assessment of your working conditions. Have you got any ‘distractions’ that you can eliminate? You could always try setting an alarm for a set item of work and then leave it and try something else?
  6. Question 6: I’ve been a Scrum Master for over 2 years now and have had many successful projects but I always get the feedback in the retrospectives that the team feels that I’m not committed to their project. I am but they don’t see it. Any ideas?
    1. The first thing that I would do is look at why they feel like this? Is there anything, in particular, you’re doing or not doing? Have you created a team manifesto together? Would it be an idea to go through together as a team and see if it needs to be developed?
    2. Are you enabling your team to be a success? or are you seen as more of a ‘monitor of tasks’?

Have you got a question that you’d like answered? or would you like some advice? Feel free to reach out to me via E-mail!

Did you earn your Jam today?

I used to work with a colleague who before agreeing to do any piece of work would ask the group: “are we earning our jam with this”? They were not talking about the sweet product that you put on bread but more about: are we adding value to the company and the project by doing it. At first, I questioned what was the validity in asking questions like these when you are working in an approved project and have your set goals but as I soon learnt; there are many ways of reaching your end goal and which way you take is up to you. In this case, it was: which way do we go to add the most value to the organisation and to our project.

Value has always been a hot topic amongst project managers but it’s normally used in another sense, to discuss value for money or cost saving. I think it’s important to turn it around and instead ask: are we providing the most value to our organisation and to the project. As Project Managers we will always keep an eye on the final budget but there are also the considerations to be made that by being value orientated towards the final product, we can save money and effort in the entire project by working more efficiently.

What does looking for value mean in reality?

Looking for value in a project means critically analysing what you’re doing and seeing if there’s a better way that it could be done. An example being: You are managing the release of a new software and you need to manage the teams and get this done. One way to look at adding value is look at possible ways to innovate to deliver the end software using new technology or working styles to improve the quality of the code and thus the end product.

One of the core questions to ask would be exactly how the project could deliver what it needs and what’s the best way to do it? Instead of going through the motions and repeating the same steps, could we improve anything? Are we looking to make sure that we’re working efficiently and effectively?

Adding value to the organisation can be as simple as training juniors in a more cost-effective manner. I’ve done this recently with pair programming. You’d team up a more senior developer with a more junior developer so that they could learn quickly and get the job done. It worked out to save us a lot of time in the long run as our juniors understood what they needed to do and became proficient more quickly than if they were doing more basic tasks themselves. If you’re working in an organisation that does not work in an environment of looking for ‘constant’ improvement, I’d recommend implementing this in your project organisation. It could be introducing this at the end of every stage gate/lessons learned but it would ensure that you’re learning where improvements can be made and making them directly.

If you’ve not heard of it yet; I’d recommend looking into the improvement process of Kaizen. Kaizen is a Japanese philosophy of constant improvement and understanding that all things can be improved. It’s used by a lot of companies to improve their processes and establish a better way of working. I’ve used it in my projects to look critically at what we’re doing, how we’re doing it and seeing where improvements (no matter how small) can be made.


Image courtesy of:

Adding value as a Project Manager

Let’s talk about adding value personally. Are you making sure that you’re aligning with what you need as a Project Manager and are you making sure that you’re working the most effectively? Have you been looking at the improvements that you can make on a personal level? An example for increasing your value on a personal level could be as simple as looking at what you’re doing and seeing if you’re spending your time on the right things. Are you too busy being a ‘fire fighter’ and reacting to issues that occur or are you being proactive in looking at the changes that can be made.

I like to take some time every quarter to analyse what I’m currently spending my most effort on and if this is a valuable use of my time or not. If it’s not, then I look at what I can do to change it. This small activity takes less than an hour and has given me that chance of perspective and reflection that I was missing.

Using Scrum methodologies mean that you regularly spend time analysing improvements during the “Inspect and Adapt” phase. Some teams like to avoid this as they don’t see the value but I strongly encourage and coach my teams that this time is so valuable to ensure the success of our team and thus the project. It’s important to use all of the scrum events and not skip any to ‘save’ time.

Adding value should be something that you look at as a continuous activity rather than a ‘one-off’ thing that you do to just tick it off your to-do list.

So, did you earn your jam today?

Working with… a team that hates you

Have you been there? Have you been with a team that is very open in their dislike of you? Or has such poor team motivation that nothing that you seem to do motivates them to perform.

What does poor team motivation look like?

  • It could be an unwillingness to work with you or talk to you

The team could not want to work with you or answer your emails. They may not even show up to meetings. If they do show up, they could either be silent throughout or in the other extreme; extremely disruptive.

  • Personality clashes causing poor team atmosphere

It’s natural that there are different personalities in a team. Some people are naturally introverted and others are extroverted. If you’ve got some very strong personalities that don’t want to work with someone who is the complete opposite of their personality style, you may see a really disruptive and negative team atmosphere.

  • Open disrespect

Perhaps the team are so brazen with their lack of respect for you as a Project Manager that they’ll be openly rude, disruptive or negative towards you. It can be hard to not take this feeling personally when you are only trying to do your job.

  • Will only work if it’s high profile

I’ve seen a few teams that dragged their heels or were openly hostile if they knew that the project they were working on was low profile. They would work begrudgingly but they’d be much happier working on a high profile project where there would be appropriate visibility from management/stakeholders.


What can you do about it?

If you’re noticing that this is part of your project, I think that one of the hardest things to do is not get demotivated and negative yourself.

Work on investigating why the team are behaving like they are and what the root cause is.

Is it poor management? Are they fearful of losing their job and thus negative about everything and the company? Were they treated badly recently by a colleague/manager? If you can work out why a person is aggrieved it’ll help you be able to see if there’s anything that you can do to resolve it or at least make it better.

Team Building

This can be really difficult at first but if you can work on building a stronger team and go through the ‘storming’ and ‘norming’ phases of team development then you can work on getting better as a single team unit.

Get the required mandate

I would strongly recommend that if you’re seeing a poor team motivation or rationale that you look at getting the necessary mandate from your management or key stakeholders to be able to action some of your changes and furthermore, escalate if this doesn’t resolve it. You need to make sure that you give enough leeway to ensure that you’ve tried to improve team morale and motivation but if this doesn’t work, you’ll need to make some more radical changes.

Don’t gossip or be cynical

This one will be difficult. Especially as you know that you’re struggling and the team could be annoying you a lot! Be the bigger person and do not gossip about your team or too cynical in your professional life. Wait until you get home and de-stress then. Shout in the car as you drive home, rant to the trees on a walk but don’t let your team see you as being part of the problem when you’re the solution.


One thing that I’ve found really helps when there is a lot of negativity is communication. I make sure that I’m openly transparent and communicating even more than normal. I make sure that they understand that I’ve listened to their concerns and what we’re going to do. I also make sure that I’m not bombarding them either. People will not remember the thousands of emails that you’ve written but they will know about the quality documents and positive changes that you’ve made.


When it comes to a negative team and what you’re able to achieve you need to give it time. You need to devote the time to analysing what is going wrong and make sure that you listen to the complaints and respond accordingly. I would strongly recommend that if you find that you’re struggling with specific personalities that you look at your behaviour and reaction to see if you’re helping the situation or causing further grievance.

Working from home – what you need to know

If you’re working remotely, then you’ll understand just how important it is to have the right set up for when you’re working from home/a remote location. By having an appropriate set up you’re removing possible barriers to working effectively from home. There’s a presumption that if you’re working from home that you may be ‘slacking off’ and I do not agree with that statement as I think it tars many hard working people with a ‘lazy’ brush.

What does a good set up look like?

  • Headset / comfortable headset with a microphone
    • Make sure that you try on a few different ones as they can fit differently and one might be more comfortable around your ears. I’d also recommend making sure that the connection will work with your laptop
  • Desk (either standing or at the right height for you)
    • I’d strongly recommend a desk where you can adjust the height to allow yourself some versatility during your work day
  • A comfortable chair
    • If you’re working from home, you need to be comfortable and to make sure that your back is supported. This is one thing to not scrimp on
  • Quiet location
    • This is critical. It doesn’t matter if you can work in noise, the people that you’re talking to during calls will not be able to hear you and the background noise
  • Stable, fast internet
    • This is another critical thing to have when you’re working remotely. This is not just needed for calls but for working in documents online and using the same tools ‘live’
  • Water
    • The benefits of being well hydrated are well known and numerous. It’s important to not forget to keep drinking water (and not just coffee/tea/coke)
  • Technology
    • Make sure that you have enough/big enough monitors, docking station, keyboard etc.

IMG_2046An example of a good work from home set up.

What else is good to have?

  • Timezone converter:
    • If you’re working with teams in other time zones; having a timezone converter or clocks available so you can see the time in the respective time zone.
  • Adequate lighting
    • If you’re staring at a screen for hours at a time, you need to make sure that you’ve got suitable lighting so you’re not straining your eyes
  • Additional Screens
    • Most of us use laptops in our daily job and it can be useful to have additional screens to be able to work more efficiently and work in various programs at the same time


What does remote working entail?

Working remotely can be very lonely if you’re doing it for long periods of time. There are differences between working for one day a week at home and working permanently but there are few rules regardless:

  • Discipline
    • You need to be disciplined and not use the excuse to sit and watch TV, do housework or other errands. If you’re working, then you’re working.
    • This also applies in the other direction. Working from home also means that you need to remember to take breaks and not just work solidly through the day
  • Loneliness
    • It can be very isolating and lonely working from home so if you find that you’re getting lonely, then I’d suggest you look at making some ‘office’ time or plan some time to get out of the house during your breaks to connect with people
  • Frustration
    • When you’re in another location to your team and things are becoming stressful it can be very easy to get frustrated with your team or alternatively with the lack of communication
  • Communication
    • Working remotely means that you need to make an anxious effort to ensure that the communication lines between you and your team remain open and you attempt to communicate more rather than less

Tips for working remotely:

There are a few ‘rules’ that I have for working from home and it’s helped me become more efficient and use my time the best.

  • Have your working space in a quiet location
  • Make sure that anyone around you (family members etc) understand that you’re working and that you should not be disturbed. Working in a different room with a door can help with this
  • Just like at work, set yourself time limits for activities and stick to it
  • Use your instant messenger and make sure that your status is always accurate
  • Make sure that you make an effort for the time onsite with your team and ensure that you’re onsite on a regular basis

Working from home can provide a lot of benefits to your project. From giving you a dedicated ‘quiet’ zone to focus on a topic or alternatively work through confidential meetings knowing that you cannot be overheard.

What made you leave your last job?

I bet if I ask that question, you’d be able to give me lots of answers: “I was offered something better”, “I hated my boss”, “I wasn’t being invested in”. It’s not too surprising that the reasons tend to be along similar lines: People are not being appreciated.

There’s a great article from Victor Lipman that describes why people leave companies. It’s rarely because of the job or not liking their team. Not only have I seen the effect that ineffective management can have not only on a person’s career but also on their general mental health and wellbeing. An employee who is constantly undermined, undervalued and criticised is not going to last long or give their best to their job if they feel that their contributions are not valued or appreciated. There’s also the wider issue of the environment of the organisation and the consequences that this can have on employee engagement and motivation. What are the reasons for why employees leave? I’ve collected a list of items from colleagues and friends that have left and there are some common traits:

  • Poor/ineffectual management
    1. Poor managers are the main reason why people leave a company. There are too many organisations who make the mistake of promoting people who are unsuitable for a managerial position and this has a knock on effect. A common phrase I use is: The right people need to be in the right positions.
  • Lack of support/ appreciation from Management and colleagues
    1. Everyone wants to be acknowledged when they’ve done something good and having lack of support when you need it is something that demotivates employees very quickly
  • Poor organisational environment
    1. This could be lack of flexibility towards the use of breaks/lunch, sick leave and education.
    2. In recent times, this has been one of the major reasons why colleagues have left. They are being demanded by their company to be more flexible in their availability or working patterns yet that flexibility is not returned by the company.
  • No career progression
    1. There are few people who want to remain in their position that they were employed to do.
  • Broken promises
    1. There are promises made to employees regarding education, progression in the company or other promises and these are either broken, delayed continuously or threatened if an employee doesn’t perform.
  • Lack of trust
    1. Micromanagement and lack of trust is a major reason why people choose to leave a company.

The role that effective Management plays in employee engagement is critical. Too often, employee motivation is pushed down the list of priorities when other items or issues appear. Its critical that this isn’t forgotten. As a Project Manager, you have the great ability to be able to focus your attention and being able to create an atmosphere of excellence within your team.

There is a great opportunity to be seen for increasing employee engagement and motivation. What can you do if you’re a Project Manager and you see your team experiencing any of the demotivating items mentioned above?

  • Create an environment in your team where your team want to excel
    1. This could include flexible working conditions (as much as you can within company regulations), trust and encouraging an environment where innovation and excellence is appreciated and expected
  • Protect the team from as much outside influence /pressure as possible
    1. If there are managerial issues or problems, act as an umbrella to protect your team from this as much as possible. This allows them to focus on their work rather than deal with micromanagement and issues.
  • Give your team the chance to develop and excel
    1. An example of this could be: you see that you need a skill in your project. Instead of looking outside the project, you could ask the team if anyone wants to learn/develop this skill to help. If they do, you can support them with training and aid in their professional development
  • Keep your promises and commitments
    1. Make sure that you’re abiding by the agreements that you make to your team

Do not underestimate the power of what being a good Manager can do to your team and also what a poor manager can do for a teams morale.