In today’s business climate, having a diverse and nimble workforce, especially in the creative, tech and entrepreneurial realms is imperative for survival, not to mention success. The days of the nine to five, Monday through Friday routine, and having your entire team housed at the same location are gone, thanks in part to technology and its advances, which have generated significant change and literally disrupted standard models of white collar professions. These changes in the workplace often challenges managers to figure out new ways of effectively communicating with their teams.
Working from Anywhere
We can now work from home, work from a coffee shop, work from our children’s sporting events and we can work while we travel. Some may argue that this boundary breaking new norm of having the ability to work whenever and from wherever is a travesty, however many professionals welcome the destruction of traditional workplace models of conducting business. They favor the cultural shift of being responsive and creative when it comes to recruiting the best pool of talent without regard to geographical and time-based limitations.
Managing Telecommuters with Update Captain
One of the primary challenges in having a team/workforce that telecommutes from different locations and operate on varying schedules is communication. How can business leaders effectively message to their teams about project expectations, status and goals? How can team members communicate with each other and to their leaders about the status of projects and tasks when they rarely meet face to face?
Managers typically require telecommuters to engage in several time-intensive activities to ensure everyone is on the same page. They include:
If you have been in the telecommuting workforce for any length of time, you have most likely contributed to some form of report or update, or have been tasked with collating information for updates from multiple coworkers. The process often involves excessive communication and becomes a drain on company resources.
Update Captain was specifically created to remove the busy-work from preparing updates and status reports to increase productivity and save a significant amount of time. The platform is an easy to use communications tool for telecommuters and other business professionals. It provides a user-friendly collaborative environment for remote teams to quickly and efficiently create and edit status reports and updates without the need for meetings, phone calls and email. They simply schedule an update and create a deadline for everyone to contribute their information. When all team members have contributed, the update is distributed to the people who need to receive it.
Update Captain has saved companies many hours of busy work and has efficiently connected project teams from around the world.
If you’re like many in the workplace, you rank writing a status report right up there with activities like going to the dentist and filing taxes. It’s something that’s got to be done, but you keep your expectations for enjoying the process, well, modest.
What if there were an easy, organized way to write not only a good status report, but a better status report? And to do it quickly?
There is. Here’s how:
1. Think in terms of your boss’s busy schedule
Why are you reading this how-to article? It’s to quickly glean what you need from it, right? Your boss will do the same. So, to write a better status report, adhere to the principle of keeping your report simple and brief and confined to one page. Write it to the requested length, and no longer.
2. Focus on results
If you’ve achieved successes on a project, cite them. But be sparring in discussing all the work that you put into achieving your results. A better status report reflects how your having hit a milestone — by installing, say, a new billing system — has not only accelerated payments to the company, but freed up staff in accounting to perform other projects.
3. Use graphics to illustrate gains
Since you installed that new billing system, has the company’s operating income significantly grown or even spiked from one month or quarter to the next? if yes, show that by constructing a simple bar graph. A quick visual can make your point.
4. Include a brief summary at the top of your report.
A better status report starts with a concise narrative — one that’s made up of just two or three sentences — that sums up key points.
5. Think towards the future — in your head or on a separate piece of paper.
After reading your better status report, your boss may have follow-up questions. Be prepared to consider what they might be, and do a little research so you can have ready responses in hand. But these responses can be delivered in conversation or via email — they don’t have to go into your brief, one-page status report.
Preparing updates on the status of projects and activities is a function of virtually all businesses.
Clients, co-workers, supervisors, team members and other stakeholders are often updated using methods such as email, meetings, shared documents and conference calls.
If you’re tasked with gathering information from a team that contributes to a project and/or client update, you might find yourself spending many hours collecting, reviewing, editing and collating that combined information before sending updates to people who need to receive them.
A Simple Solution
Update Captain is a platform which can simplify the process of soliciting feedback from coworkers and team members on the status of projects and activities.
Multiple contributors can easily collaborate and provide their input to a project on Update Captain. When ready, the update is then distributed to the people who need to receive it in the form of an easy to read email.
Features to Make Updates a Breeze
Our goal is to continue to introduce features that streamline the way people collaborate on updates and status reports. And with features such as internal messaging, notifications and approval requirements, Update Captain makes it easier to know when members of your team are contributing to a conversation or adding to an existing update.
Here’s a quick overview of some of our standard features:
Quick view of pending updates and notifications
Drag and Drop Prioritization
Updates are made up of various topics where collaborators can contribute information. These user-generated categories can be prioritized up or down and in any order at any time prior to sending an update.
Internal Update Messaging
Need to discuss the status of a topic within a project category? Update Captain has category specific discussions to help you get the information you need.
Mobile Responsive Interface
Whether you’re standing in line at a coffee shop or stuck in a busy airport, Update Captain’s responsive website lets you login from anywhere using any device so you can get your work done on the fly.
Sometimes updates and status reports are created for one person or a group of people. Update Captain allows you to include multiple recipients in your update distribution list. When your update is complete, it is sent to your recipients and includes all the people who have contributed to the update.
Stay informed and be responsive. Receive notifications when a new update is generated and respond to discussions. Receive reminders so you never forget about your updates.
Providing status reports and updates is a best practice to keep everyone on the same page with your projects and activities. When an update is scheduled with an assigned due-date, all collaborators get a notification so they know their response is needed.
Update Captain archives all past updates. Custom time-based reports can be generated and exported at any time.
Save time, money and increase the productivity of your organization by collaborating on updates with Update Captain.
UpdateCaptain.com. A better way to communicate.
Conducting productive office meetings sounds difficult but it doesn’t have to be. We promise. In this post we’re going to give you the downside to meetings and tell you how to kick it back into high gear, and turn them into time-worthy and beneficial sources of workplace efficiency.
Meetings are important because they are where a team can develop a sense of community within a company. They are important because, done right, they will empower a team with pride and motivation. When continuing to conduct bad meetings, you’re setting the tone for the rest of the day’s, week’s, month’s and perhaps even a year’s worth of work.
Bad meeting scenario #1: Meetings are rarely taken seriously. Attendees will usually arrive late and leave early. Meetings end up being more of a dignified break than a useful tactic to increase productivity.
Solution: According to an article by fastcompany.org, the company Intel is a great model for success in the meeting department, wherein everyone attending must ask themselves four questions: “Do you know the purpose of this meeting? Do you have an agenda? Do you know your role? Do you follow the rules for good minutes?”
The article goes on to say that, “Indeed, every new employee, from the most junior production worker to the highest ranking executive, is required to take the company's home-grown course on effective meetings. For years, the course was taught by CEO Andy Grove himself, who believed that good meetings were such an important part of Intel's culture that it was worth his time to train the troops.”
It is important that when conducting a meeting, to come into it with a clear and precise agenda. In this agenda, list the desired goals to attain by the end of the meeting and instruction on how to do so. It also wouldn’t hurt to send this agenda to the team so they come in to the meeting prepared with their roles for a desired outcome.
Bad meeting scenario #2: A meeting that lasts too long.
Solution: Keep in mind the cost of holding a meeting that lasts too long. Fastcompany.org says that “James B. Rieley, director of the Center for Continuous Quality Improvement at the Milwaukee Area Technical College, recently decided to change all that. He did a survey of the college's 130-person management council to find out how much time its members spent in meetings. When he multiplied their time by their salaries, he determined that the college was spending $3 million per year on management-council meetings alone.”
A great way to help reduce meeting time and create a sense of urgency when a meeting is being held, is by reaching out to a source such as Update Captain. This divine tool allows multiple users to communicate within the platform on various subjects of any given project. The subjects are listed out and can be added to or edited. When it comes to meeting time, everyone will already be updated with all necessary information. This great resource may even reduce the need for meetings.
Bad meeting scenario #3: Wandering off topic. There’s a lot of discussion going on in the conference room, but none of it has anything to do with the topic at hand.
Solution: Here’s where we go back to the advice of creating and sticking to an agenda. When a meeting’s topics are listed out into specific time blocks, it is very important to stick with these time blocks to produce effective results that help to build better working relationships within the company, in turn, creating a better working company. Sending the meeting agenda to everyone attending will give them the chance to review and prepare before walking into the conference room. Team members should be asked to come ready with discussion points or appropriate solutions to reach the goal, or goals, of the meeting.
Many would say that the sure-fire way to do so would be to give everyone a raise, but let’s keep the reality in check. As much as we would love to pay our employees more, this doesn’t always ensure top quality work or happy staff. We’ve listed out the top 4 ways to keep your employees happy, borrowed from Entrepreneur.com’s 4 Ways to Keep Your Employees Motivated and Productive.
1. It’s Okay to Rest and Reboot
Everyone needs a break from time to time. If employees are expected to be on point and hustling at all times, they will inevitably become burnt out. From executive to artist, every person will lose motivation and creativity if worked too hard, even if paid more than anyone on the planet for services they’re providing. Remember to take some time to reflect and review before moving on too quickly.
2. Share the Good and the Bad, Just Keep Sharing
Be transparent with your staff. There are few things in the workplace that create a sense of community like treating your staff as if they were investors. Tell them what you tell investors, update them with company news as you would like to be updated. If they feel that they are a part of, they will work and act like they are a part of, as they should because they are.
3. Be Ready for Anything
Change is what informs us that it is time to re-direct the course of action. It is very important to not fight change and to let it happen. If you stay open-minded and you have the right employees, this will ensure that your company can handle anything that comes up. With that in mind, it is imperative to keep your ultra-worthy staff in the loop at all times.
4. Track Your Time and Your Tasks
Be sure to use timeline based tools in your company, such as Update Captain. This allows you, your employees, and even your clients, to stay up to date with any necessary information needed to continue and complete a project.
Ever heard the expression, “Sometimes things must get messier before they get tidier”? Well, in the case of de-cluttering and organization, this is most definitely true. It can be a little hard to start a project when the project is a behemoth pile of unorganized paperwork or items staring you in the face.
Just like any time consuming or difficult task, the start will seem impossible, but as always, you have to start somewhere, and there’s nothing wrong with starting small.
Let’s say, for instance, your office is the mess in question. There are documents stacked as high as the Eiffel Tower and your desk looks like your two-year-old spent the day conducting business at the office. First and foremost, set a date on your calendar to tackle the situation. Once you’re ready start, clear everything from all hard surfaces. This doesn’t have to be done in an orderly fashion at first, but this is where getting messier before getting more organized takes place.
Sort it Out
Once you have an abundant amount of free surface space in your office, grab a small pile, pull up a chair and start sorting through paperwork or miscellaneous items. Designate a name for each stack of organized items by placing a labeled sticky note next to each pile, so that the more things you go through, the easier it will be to sort. This is when you’ll start to see that you actually are capable of mastering this once impossible task.
Once you’ve organized everything from the drawers to the floor, begin to neatly place everything back into your office in designated areas. When doing so, keep in mind that where you place your now organized items will most likely end up being their permanent home, so make sure that when you place them, that they are not in a visually obstructing location. If necessary, purchase extra storage for the office such as plastic bins, a filing cabinet, etc.
Now, Do a Little Each Day
The ultimate key to staying organized is to put everything back in its place when not being used, and to spend about 10 minutes every day straightening up. If this is put into action every day, it will soon become second nature.
There’s a large variety of different groups and organizations that can benefit greatly from using status report software like Update Captain. Keeping constituents, clients and teams up-to-date on task list progress, project goals & completion, and overall strategic plans will enhance internal communications and increase productivity for all involved, while simultaneously reducing the need for a number of in-person/web-based meetings and/or conference calls.
Here we’ll identify how Update Captain can create status reports that are ideal for some specific (and easily recognizable) users and user-groups.
In Part 1 we discussed 2 ways to project confidence; 1. Play to your strengths, and 2. Watch your posture. In this Part 2 discussion, we’ll go over 3 more ways to boost your confidence in the meeting room and why it is important to do so. We’ve chosen Carol Kinsey Goman’s article on Forbes.com as a good reference for achieving the confidence you need in the work place.
3. Let Your Worries Wash Away
Goman mentions, “Long before Dale Carnegie, the human potential movement, or self-help videos, a positive outlook was acknowledged to be a crucial part of high-level achievement and confidence. In today’s fast-moving, competitive business environment, a positive, upbeat, ‘can-do’ attitude is vital for success.”
Worrying about what could happen has proven, repeatedly, to be a waste of energy and productivity. Although we know that not worrying is easier said than done, we encourage you to try and ease the worry monster inside of you by reminding it that, most of the time, outcomes do not turn out as bad as you thought they would; and sometimes they end up even better than you could’ve imagined.
4. Expect the Unexpected
All the planning in the world will never guarantee the outcome that you are hoping for. In the bigger picture, you may get to your outcome, but there is no guarantee that you will not run into obstacles along the way. Although planning is essential for a much smoother execution of a task or project, being prepared to adapt to whatever may go wrong, is more useful than continuing to believe that you’ve planned for any possible negative scenario, and that nothing can go wrong.
5. Failure Can Be Your Friend
Learning to embrace failure will most definitely increase confidence, but one must learn from a failure to achieve confidence from it. We have all been through failures, but the key is, think back to a failure, and then think forward to a time when that failure came into good use. For example, was there a time that you failed, vowed to never make the mistake again that caused you to fail, and dodged close calls because you’ve “made that mistake before”?
As Goman says, “Fear of failure is a huge obstacle to developing and projecting self-confidence. But when you know that your failures can’t stop you (if they are learning experiences and “no big deal”), then you increase your confidence that nothing can stop you!”
You know when someone walks into a room and you can just see the confidence in them? Confident people have a certain air about them that projects an attitude of charisma and charm, along with a demeanor of being able to handle just about anything thrown their way.
Confident people are not afraid to try new ideas, making them the perfect candidate for running an office meeting and coming up with productive new ways to increase work flow in the office.
According to Carol Kinsey Goman’s article on Forbes.com, there are 5 ways to build your self-confidence and she’s listed them out for us.
1. Summon Up Success
Goman says, “Competence, strangely enough, bears little relationship to confidence. The fact that you do your job extremely well does not, by itself, insure that you are also confident of your abilities. It is only when you are aware of your competence that you become confident.”
Before entering a meeting room or preparing to walk on stage during a conference, it would be a great idea to rekindle any past successes wherein you felt extremely confident in the results and how you executed a project. This will help to bring about the same feelings and emotions to attain confidence in your current meeting or conference situation.
2. Be Aware of Body Language
Studies have shown that people come to conclusions about another person based on how they feel about them, and not as much from what they are saying. If a person walks into a room slouched and unaware of their surroundings, say not as enthused about being present, this is more apparent than one might think. This will put off signals to others that you may not be a pleasant person to be around. On the other hand, if you walk into a room with a supremely confident wide stance while holding your head high, you will begin to project self-assuredness, and this is what will gain the attention and trust of the others you’re trying to reach within the meeting.
Stay tuned for Part 2.