How to Stay Connected and Deliver Outcomes in an Age of Isolation

– by Michelle Todd

The last few weeks have given us all an insight into the inevitable changes we will need to adapt to. ‘Top ten tips when working from home’, ‘how to remain productive when working from home’, ‘how to continue engaging with colleagues remotely’ – I’m sure you get the idea.

I too have been working from home.

Let’s be honest, this is new for a lot of us. The way we work and interact with each other needs to change – but this doesn’t mean it cannot be just as successful. While my focus is delivering outcomes for my clients, I have navigated the physical disconnect from others, including my colleagues, and have had to embrace new and collaborative ways of getting things done.

Adaptability

It is inevitable that we will need to change our habits, in both personal and professional contexts – that’s a given. What is not so clear is the how, in a professional setting.

I’m not going to explore how to work from home – rather, what I did to adapt to dynamic and evolving circumstances managing a complex project. Let me walk through an example.

I am managing a workforce planning activity with a large government department. Part of that requires the project team to engage heavily across the organization via (yep, you guessed it) face-to-face workshops. Now you might be thinking ‘just change to video conferencing’ and whilst you’re spot on, the challenge changes. It focuses more on eliciting the right information from a remotely connected audience, in a timely way. This completely changes the engagement dynamic and critically the activities and the process you go through.

Here’s how to successfully facilitate a remotely connected audience, deliver a productive session and achieve client objectives.

What Why How
Communicate and talk through the situation Ensures everyone understands the situation, current climate and other nuanced details. Walk through what the minimum requirements are for success, and then baseline all your options and activities around that objective. Be open and transparent.

Ensure that everyone knows that this isn’t the best or most preferred method but a necessary one. This doesn’t mean you cannot get the desired outcome, it’s just a different way of exploring it.

Create scalable contingency options (most preferred to least preferred) Provides a mechanism to determine and decide which options are most appropriate for the organisation. Also allows you to plan effectively internally – including identifying extra resources or additional capabilities. Outline the positives and negatives of all options.

Talk about the logistics of each option, include roles and responsibilities as well as critical dependencies. If you can identify ways to mitigate challenges, then do so.

Set deadlines and timeframes Deadlines and expectations are critical for the ongoing successful delivery of work. Formalizing the process makes it easy to track when you’re remote. Discuss and communicate critical pathways, dependencies and actions (link to roles and responsibilities for transparency). Send gentle reminders, pick-up the phone, plan for change.
Consider being on the receiving end when you develop options It is essential to consider how something will be received and responded to. You’re helping your client solve their challenge and you need to find efficient and immersive ways to do this. Remember your minimum requirements. Think about logistics. Create plans that consider how to capture information if IT doesn’t work. Engage people throughout and invite them to voice their ideas and concerns. Be realistic and consider things might not go to plan – that’s OK, this is new to most, so plan for the best.

Community

With all the ongoing change, it’s important to remember that we are all navigating the uncertainty together. This requires increased communication to ensure people know what they’re doing (and when) and what they can do to support effective outcomes.

Make sure your team knows what’s on the agenda, what the priorities are and when to deliver (including drafts/concepts). This is critical, because the last thing you need when you’re all working remotely, is for anyone to feel anxious, unsure or uneasy about their role and what they need to be doing.

Create mini-communities; collaboration zones or huddles – using tools to help daily (such as messaging tools); pick-up the phone and check-in with colleagues, and importantly your client.

We are all in this together and collectively we can make a difference. Adapting to the changes and creating new ways of interacting, new ways of working we can continue to achieve outcomes and critically, support the health of our broader community, including those at higher-risk.