I can't tell you how many times I say this to both my team members and my clients. When it comes to working together and getting the projects done – it's always all about communication.
But what does that mean, really? Here are a couple of examples.
First, Good or Bad
I don't care how good you think you are or how good anyone tells you THEY are, things go sideways or bad things happen… it's business.
But through that, you have to be willing to take the blame, the heat and simply just be upfront about what's going on.
You don't necessarily need to share every detail. In fact, I'm willing to bet the other party doesn't want to hear those details in most cases; if they do, they'll ask.
They just want to get the update, understand high-level what's going on, and to know you're working on it. Then they can turn around and adjust their expectations; maybe communicate to other stakeholders in the project.
The worst thing you can do is drop off the radar and not give the other party a clue about what's happening and why it's delayed. Be brave. 🙂
And know, as long as it's not total incompetence or there's a troubling pattern, the other parties should understand (they may freak out a little.. but understand). If they don't, that might be their problem, not yours.
Things Are Taking Longer
Yep, this happens too.
Sometimes the scope turns out to be a little more than anticipated. Other things can interrupt or delay a project.
Recently I had a team member working on something for a client and I noticed it was taking a little longer than usual. I'm essentially wearing the ‘project manager' hat here but from a distance.
For the most part, she manages her projects as they come in with little oversight. But in this case, I sent her a quick note and had her just give the client an update at the end of the week. So going into the weekend the client would know where she's at with things.
So we weren't done, but we sent a message to a client with a bullet list of what was complete, roadblocks, or what's left.
Very simple. Client was happy… and she got it done early the next week.
In my agency, I want to make sure the client gets regular updates (even if just on a weekly basis) so they don't have to shoot out an email asking how things are going.
So I was a Scrum Master for a few years, officially (certified).. I've since let my certification expire, but I still have much of the methodology in tow. I use pieces of that framework along with other things I've picked up along the way to run my teams.
This includes how we communicate.
Depending on what their role is, we might have regular meetings. I have a virtual assistant that I meet with every Monday morning to do a retrospective of the previous week and talk about what we're doing this week.
We identify any issues, how we might resolve them.. how we might improve. Strategy..
It's a VERY useful meeting.
I also have a special 1 on 1 meeting every month with my team. This serves as a way to build a relationship with each individual and see how things are going in general. In those discussions, we could talk just about anything.. including personal things if they so choose.
Communication doesn't always have to come in the form of a Zoom call.
I also get daily updates in Trello (text comment) from my developers. They update and answer 3 things.
- What did you do yesterday?
- What are you working on today?
- Are there any roadblocks or issues?
Super simple. But it's a fantastic way for me to get a high-level understanding of what they are working on for our clients.
Tools for Communication
In 2020, the pandemic ushered in a new, expanded world of remote work and communication. If you haven't heard of Zoom by now, you're probably on Mars. 😉
I'll just share with you some of the tools we use in our agency. But certainly, every agency and company is different and some of this will be trial and error (like it was for us).
- Zoom for Video Conferencing (or just audio)
- It's dependable – I don't know if I've ever had a Zoom crash in the years I've been using it?
- Good Video features
- Great for screen-sharing – important to our type of business.
- Besides team calls, we do a lot of client calls this way as well.
- Slack for Team Communications & with Tech Companies
- We use it for all our own internal communication.
- We communicate with other client organizations.
- And some products (including WordPress) use Slack.
- Trello for Project Management (we recently moved to Trello from Asana)
- Too many great features to go into here, but…
- Contextual communications are great.. on a project or task level.
- Kanban boards keep things organized so you always know the state of a task or project..
- And more..
- Zendesk – Help desk
- We sell and support products so this was essential for that – in fact, we integrate with another companies' Zendesk account; sharing tickets.
- But it's also very useful for client requests, support, etc..
- Email – Google Workspace
- Still plays a role in communicating with clients, notifications, invites, etc..
- Phone !!
- Some clients still love their phones… 🙂
Those are the most frequently used tools to communicate with our teams and clients.
Certainly, we can over-communicate too. That's something you have to guard against. We've probably all heard stories about companies that have too many meetings for example.
Same with email.. too many email chains, long emails, having to constantly check email; context switching (which is a whole ‘nuther topic) can destroy productivity and focus.
There's a balance with communication and you might have to play with it to get it right for your agency or company. But it's worth thinking about because it can make for a smoother operation, better relationships all around and great productivity when done right.