Video Series: Managing a Remote Marketing Team

Day 5 - Communication


Today, I want to share with you five tips to streamline communication, improve accountability, and boost productivity. Now, just one of these five tips could dramatically improve the efficiency and effectiveness of your team, and just imagine what would happen if you were to implement more than one of these.

So let’s get started.

Tip number one is to avoid email like the plague.

If you’re like most people, you already get too much email and it’s hard enough to keep on top of it and to get to inbox zero, this mythical inbox zero. So you need to avoid email like the plague. You need to make sure that your team also avoid email like the plague.

The number one way to do that is to use tools for collaboration and communication like Slack. Some people like Slack, some people don’t. Regardless of the tool you use, you need to make sure you use it efficiently and effectively. With Slack, that means using channels. So instead of having different group conversations with different people set up channels for specific projects, for specific clients, et cetera. Slack is a very efficient tool for communication and allows for collaboration among different team members, but you have to use it correctly.

In addition, make sure you update your statuses with icons, for example, when you’re out to lunch or in a meeting, et cetera. Especially now during this time of crisis, people have different responsibilities personally and at home when they’re working from home, so it’s important to respect those, but also to make sure that people know how to communicate those through their statuses on a tool like Slack.

Tip number two is to host a daily or weekly stand-up.

The idea of a stand-up comes from Scrum. In a stand-up, it’s a meeting where your whole team gets together and everyone remains standing, hence being called a stand-up. The reason for that is to make sure the meeting doesn’t go on very long because everyone’s standing.

The objective of a stand-up is to maintain accountability among the team so that everyone knows what everyone else is doing and to identify any bottlenecks and eliminate them. But also, the benefit is that you can become aware of what your team is doing and the challenges that you’re facing. So it helps you manage your team better.

In a typical stand-up, you go around and everyone answers three preset questions. But in this time of crisis with COVID-19, I’ve added an additional two questions, making it five questions. This should still only take about three minutes per team member to answer these five questions. They’re very simple questions as you’ll see, but that means that for a team of six for example, this still takes less than 20 minutes.

So in 20 minutes every day, you can become aware of what your team’s working on, the challenges that they’re facing, and everyone in the team understands what everyone else is doing and where they need to help out or collaborate. So this is a very effective tool to maintain accountability and also promote collaboration among your team.

Here are the five questions:

The first, which I’ve added, is how are you doing today?

So again, especially in this time of crisis, it’s important to understand how your team is doing both personally and professionally. A lot of people have a lot on their mind and they’re struggling in a lot of different areas, and so we just want to check in with people and see how they’re doing. This is a way to provide encouragement and support to your team. Again, especially now with everyone working from home, it’s a really important question to ask.

The second question is, are there any responsibilities you have that will take you away from your priorities for today?

By responsibilities, I’m referring to personal responsibilities. So again, for example, people may be caring for elderly parents, they may have to take their kids to the doctor, et cetera. So you want to be aware of these things so that if people are not available later in the day, you don’t feel like they’re messing around at home instead of doing work. So just bringing those to light can help give people the cover that they need to get the things done that they need to get done.

Now, we follow with the standard three stand-up questions.

The first is, what did you accomplish yesterday?

This is where the accountability comes in. Just a quick recap of what you did yesterday. Now, sometimes that’ll be something transformative. Most times, it’s going to be kind of mundane, but it just lets your team members share what they’ve done yesterday, and you can give them praise for that or not, but it helps you understand where they’re at and what they’re doing.

The next question is, what will you do today? What will you accomplish today?

Again, they should be specific to today, not just the same thing as yesterday, but what specific tasks or objectives will you accomplish today? This is letting them share what they’re working on so you can become aware of that, but also other team members may also be involved in those priorities or tasks, et cetera, and they’ll be aware and can collaborate.

The fifth and final question here is, what bottlenecks or challenges do you foresee that might prevent you from making progress on those items?

This will raise those as issues that you can address right there in real time, or so that each team member can get the help they need from other team members. So for example, someone may need more resources or more time or may need someone to step in and communicate with a vendor or a third-party on their behalf.

It’s at this point in the stand-up that a team member has that opportunity to raise that issue so you can become aware of it, and so that in real time they can get the assistance they need. This helps mitigate any issues from a week later becoming known and you could have resolved it much earlier.

Stand-ups are incredibly effective, very simple to run. Again, typically you run them every day because they’re so short. You can run a weekly stand-up and that’s still effective, but not as effective as a daily stand-up. I highly recommend implementing a daily stand-up in your marketing.

Tip number three is to create a project plan.

Now, a project plan is a document that outlines the scope, goals, objectives, people, action dates, et cetera, for a project. Given the name, it sounds like a project plan is only useful for large projects, but actually regardless of the size, and especially even for smaller projects, a project plan is a vital document.

This is a shared written document that again outlines what we’re doing, why we’re doing it, who’s doing it, how they’re doing it, and when they’re doing it. This is incredibly useful because one of the biggest challenges I’ve seen of marketing teams in particular is a lack of clarity around what we’re doing, why we’re doing it, and who’s doing it.

Particularly if you have collaboration among the team or among different departments, a project plan can help provide that clarity and explain in detail what needs to be done, who needs to do it, and by when.

That’s a key detail here. The project plan shall list the objective, the big picture, but it also needs to list the specific tasks in order that need to be accomplished for the project to be successful.

Every task needs to have a person or people assigned and a date that that task will be complete. People, action, date. This is vitally important because if you have a task and no people or no date, it will not happen. So make sure that every task has a person or multiple people and the date aside of when that’s going to get done. Again, this is going to help you hold those people accountable, and by being a shared document, there’ll be no ambiguity at all about who’s doing what by when.

For your next project, regardless of its size, and especially if you have recurring projects, things that you do on a recurring basis, campaigns that you run, et cetera, having a project plan can help save a tremendous amount of time, getting people on the same page, sharing the big picture idea, but also creating those tasks. Create a project plan template and use it for every project.

Tip number four is to redefine meetings.

The reality is most meetings are a complete waste of time. So much time is wasted in meetings and we can easily fix that with three simple steps.

The first is to understand that meetings are not about sharing information. Information, documents, slides, et cetera, can be shared offline through email, through Slack, et cetera. So meetings are not to be used to share information. Instead, meetings should be used to brainstorm and discuss big ideas and challenges.

In other words, meetings should be interactive, engaging, and collaborative, not just someone presenting something and other people listening. That’s the first big shift that you need to make if you want to have effective and powerful meetings.

The second is to timebox your meetings.

People get tired mentally and thinking, listening, there’s a lot of distractions, especially now that people are working from home, so you need to shorten your meetings. You need to timebox them and set a limit.

I recommend starting at 30 minutes and trying to work down to 20 minutes. The shorter your meetings are, the more prepared people have to be for those meetings, and the more engaged people will be in those meetings. So timeboxing meetings is a critical aspect here.

You have to be ruthless about this though, and at the time limit, 30 minutes for example, cut off the meeting. End it. If you need to discuss further, you can reschedule another meeting or you can have offline conversations, but you have to end it. If you’re lax about this, people will abuse that.

The third and most important item here with meetings is to have an agenda.

Here are three questions that you can use as an outline for your agenda for a meeting:

The first is, what will be accomplished at the end of this meeting?

So many meetings are started with no goal in mind or no end, so you have to know what you’re going to accomplish at the end of the meeting or what the desired outcome is. Before you know that, you can’t have a meeting. You have to know what the result will be of the meeting.

The second is, what questions will we be answering in this meeting?

This is kind of what’s the purpose of the meeting, but what specific questions are we going to be answering? When you have a list of specific questions that need to be answered in a meeting, that will facilitate and guide the conversation that needs to happen in that meeting. It will also dictate who needs to be involved with that meeting. Oftentimes, there are people involved with meetings who don’t need to be there, so this helps eliminate some of those people.

The third and final question is, what preparation needs to be done and by whom before the meeting can begin?

Again, making sure people are prepared for meetings is a key to making the meetings as efficient as possible. One of the biggest challenges with meetings is that people aren’t prepared, or they didn’t know what the meeting was about, or they didn’t know that you’re going to call it upon or what was expected of them. So who needs to have what prepared is really important part of the agenda so that people can come fully prepared and ready to have a conversation that needs to happen in this meeting.

Follow those three steps: Use meetings for engaging, collaborative discussion; not for sharing information; timebox and limit your meetings, and then use an effective simple agenda to make sure that people are prepared and that you know the outcome and the objective of your meeting.

Tip number five is to share weekly wins.

Once a week, you want to praise your team for the successes, wins, and accomplishments that they’ve made throughout the week. So pick a day. Typically, Friday is best and choose two or three accomplishments, small or big. It doesn’t matter, and share them with your team.

This can be through email, through Slack, through a meeting, et cetera. You can choose how to do that, but basically you just want to communicate your team, “Here’s the wins that we’ve accomplished this week.” You want to thank your team for their contribution and give them the praise and recognition that they need and deserve.

Now, this is a great way to boost morale.

It creates a positive atmosphere and culture. In addition, it helps people realize that you see what they’re doing and that you appreciate what they’re doing, and that they are valued. When people feel valued, they want to contribute more and they’re willing to work harder for the organization as a whole.

So this is a really great thing to add to your organization and a great thing, especially on a Friday, for people to look forward to after a long, hard week. So I highly recommend you build a habit of sharing weekly wins.

Your action item for today is very simple.

Just take any one of these five items and implement it this week with your team.

Now given the current situation, I would recommend starting with the daily stand-up or the weekly wins.

Now, the daily stand-up I’ve seen rapidly transform teams and increase the productivity overnight, literally overnight. So it’s very easy to implement and it has a lot of different benefits, accountability, et cetera. But with the additional two questions I’ve added to it, especially given the current situation, it can help to really check in with your team and understand how people are doing working from home.

So if your team is working remotely and this is new to them, I recommend a daily stand-up with a video call and those additional two questions.

Likewise, the weekly wins is a great way to add positivity and encouragement to the end of people’s week. Right now more than ever, people need positivity and encouragement, and that’s a great way to do so, and again, a very easy thing to add.

But regardless of which of these you choose to implement, and I recommend implementing all of them, pick one and implement it this week. You will be amazed at the difference and the impact that just such a simple change can have to the effectiveness of your team.