Tips for Working from Home During the Covid-19 Crisis


As we face the current societal and organizational struggles of a worldwide health crisis, many employees and teams are finding themselves working from home for the first time, or for the first time on a daily basis. Managing a virtual team isn’t easy, and it’s easy to become disconnected from your team members if you are used to working in an office environment. The key to organizational success in a work from home setting is communication. Keep in touch. Over communicating is far better than under-communicating. Establishing a routine and habit of being responsive and proactive with your team members and superiors is the best way to ensure success in a virtual team. Here are some other tips for working from home:

Getting Started

  • It’s easy to work a 16-hour day from home – so don’t! Schedule your day. Establish some structure by documenting when you are supposed to start and finish. It’s easy to keep working or return to work late in the evening, as you have everything you need right there. But it’s healthier to maintain set work hours, and your superiors may have specific hour requirements for you so be sure to establish this right away.

 

  • Before getting straight to work, set up your home office. It doesn’t have to be elaborate, but it needs to be separate from the home activities, especially since many kids are out of school. It should have the basic supplies so that you don’t have to go search for a pen and paper if you need to take notes and your computer suddenly freezes. Make it your own, and make it cozy but structured. Sit up straight and maintain a general office environment. This will keep your head in “office mode” and less likely to drift off-task

 

  • Install any new software or communications tools and apps being used to increase productivity and communication among teams and employees. MS Teams and Skype or Skype for Business are the primary messaging and meeting apps. Use Toggl or other handy tools to track your time. Use Project Management tools and charts for maintenance tasks. Trello and MeisterTask are the most commonly used at IIL. We can assist you in setting up and managing these boards.

 

  • Tell your family what your requirements, hours, deadlines, and rules will be. Let them know what to expect, and how important it is to not be interrupted during work hours. Working from home needs to be as similar to your office working environment as possible to stay on track. Let them know you have obligations that have to be met, and set clear boundaries for breaks and when it is okay to interrupt.
To to support all of our clients in this time of global crisis, we are offering free registration to our self-paced, online course on Virtual Agile Teams 

Day to Day Operations

  • Get dressed!! Don’t make the mistake of lounging in your pajamas. Waking up and doing a normal daily routine will keep you on track. Splash some water on your face, wear a decent blouse or button-up, particularly for face to face virtual meetings.

 

  • Avoid bringing work into the family environment. If you have deadlines, escalations, and other intense (which is code for “stressful”) situations, be aware of the impact it can have on your family members. They may see or overhear you handling difficult issues and, as a result, they might internalize that stress or worry.

 

  • Manage your home time carefully. Not having that commute can be fantastic. In fact, staying home makes it easier to engage in family time. But it’s important to manage it so you don’t get burned out by being home all day (and night).

 

  • Be respectful and patient of other team members’ home office environments. Some folks will have home offices that are well established, with a professional look and configuration. Others, who are new to working from home, may not. Some may struggle to carve out a workspace in their homes or need to share that work environment with a spouse or significant other, which can cause background noise and distractions. If you hear a dog bark or a baby cry, please be patient with them, and try to minimize noises in your home office as much as possible.

 

  • Structure your day with breaks. Walk the block, smell the roses, or do a call from the garden. If the walls start closing in, change your scenery. Rest your eyes and stretch your legs every hour for just a few minutes.

 

  • Schedule lunch and eat it away from your office. Don’t put in 12-hour days (or later) with back-to-back calls and forget to eat or eat poorly. You need both a mental and nutritional break, so take a lunch break. But do it away from your computer. Read a magazine or a book, or catch up on personal messages.
  • Don’t forget to exercise. Some folks will squeeze in a quick run, hit the Peloton, or go to the gym for 30 minutes. Follow their leads – it’s a great way to clear out the mental cobwebs and re-energize your body.

 

  • Schedule quick 10-minute calls with colleagues or friends. Under normal office circumstances, you might enjoy catching up with folks over the water cooler. While you are home, simulate that connection by scheduling WebEx calls with your buddies. Talking to them not only refreshes your brain but is great therapy.
  • Avoid taking personal calls during work hours. Extended family should know about your situation to avoid interruptions.

 

  • BE AVAILABLE. Don’t make your superiors or team members hunt you down. Respond to emails immediately, even if you are simply letting someone know you’ve received the message. In times like this, communication is of the utmost importance, as things are confusing enough with these new ways of life and everyone is trying to manage new work environments during the biggest health crises and societal disruptions in our lifetimes. So it is very easy to get distracted and forget you have promised someone a task will be done. Set timers and reminders to help you remember.

 

  • Don’t underestimate the benefits of a digital assistant. Siri, Alexa, and Bixby can all help you with reminders and lists and will integrate into many of the tools you will be using.

 

  • If you are able to order high-speed internet, you will be a lot less frustrated with your WFH experience. There are many service providers offering much lower prices during this crisis

 

Read more about Managing Virtual Teams Successfully from Dr. Willis Thomas, PMP, CPT.  His publications have received global recognition from associations such as the Project Management Institute (PMI) where he received the Cleland Award for “The Basics of Project Evaluation and Lessons Learned.”

 


About the Author

Roxi Nevin has worked in the support, On-Demand learning, and marketing departments for the International Institute for Learning for seven years. She is also the administrator of operations for the Center for Grateful Leadership. With an educational background in History, Psychology, Business administration and the tech sector, and a previous professional background in political action, her writings based on these broad experiences of topics in these areas have been published in various online publications and blogs. She currently writes a monthly column called Grateful Parenting. She enjoys cooking, painting, and photography in her spare time.


 


From Traditional to Non-Traditional Projects

By Harold Kerzner, Ph.D. | Senior Executive Director for Project Management, IIL

Background

For almost four decades, companies on a worldwide basis struggled with the creation of a singular methodology that could be used to manage all their projects. The singular methodology was a necessity for senior management that was reluctant to surrender their “command and control” posture over the project management community. The methodologies were designed so that senior management could retain some degree of standardization and control from the top down through the hierarchy and that project teams would not be allowed to make decisions that were reserved for the senior levels of management. Executives, marketing and sales personnel were fearful of what power and authority project managers might obtain.

Today’s project managers do not realize the degrees of mistrust that some of us had to endure as project managers years ago. At that time, if the choice were up to executives in the contractors’ organizations, project managers would not exist, and all projects would be managed by functional management, marketing or sales personnel. But the clients and stakeholders preferred to talk directly to the project managers (rather than communications with just sales and marketing personnel) and encouraged the contractors to recognize the need for creating project management positions.

The Growth of Nontraditional Projects

Singular methodologies provided the executives with the command and control they desired but there were some risks. Executives tried to enforce the belief that the singular methodology was the solution to their project management concerns and that one-size-fits-all, which meant that every project in the company would be required to use the same, singular approach. Unfortunately, executive soon began to realize that not all projects can use the one-size-fits-all methodology. Operational or traditional projects may be able to follow a singular methodology, but strategic and other forms of nontraditional projects may have to be managed differently.

The approach that companies then undertook was to have strategic and nontraditional projects managed by functional managers that were then allowed a great deal of freedom in how they chose to manage the projects. Executives trusted functional managers more so than project managers and were not perceived as a threat to senior management.

By the turn of the century, the number of nontraditional projects was growing. More trust was being placed in the hands of the project managers and companies began recognizing that the one-size-fits-all approach needed to be modified or replaced with flexible methodologies or frameworks, such as agile or Scrum, which provided more freedom and authority to the project managers.

The Impact of the Growth in Nontraditional Projects

In some companies, the number of nontraditional projects was perhaps 200% more than traditional projects as seen in the center of Exhibit 1 below. As the need for more flexibility in project management took hold, changes began to appear in the way that some of the traditional processes were being used.

 

Exhibit 1. Changes in Our View of Project Management Processes

 

The Hexagon of Excellence

The hexagon of excellence identifies some of the changes that companies made as they began to use project management on the nontraditional projects:

  • Integrated processes: Project managers were now expected to make business-based decisions as well as the traditional technical or project-based decisions. As such, business processes were now integrated with project management processes in flexible project management approaches.
  • Culture: Project management was now recognized as processes that can and will affect the entire company rather than just specific functional areas. As such, a project management culture that supports company-wide cooperation must be developed and enforced by senior management.
  • Management Support: Management support is essential. Senior management must realize that they must actively function as project sponsors and serve on governance committees. They must also realize project governance is NOT the same as functional governance and must be willing to understand and accept new levels of authority, responsibility and decision making.
  • Training and Education: Providing training to just the project managers no longer works. If a corporate-wide project management culture is to be created, then it is possible that the entire organization may need to undergo some training.
  • Informal Project Management: Part of the training must promote informal project management practices that are predicated upon people working together and without being forced to rely upon the use of superior-subordinate relationships. Titles and levels of authority should not be critical when working on project teams.
  • Behavioral Excellence: Human resource management courses will grow. Rather than emphasize the traditional behavioral theories, the focus will be on communication, cooperation, teamwork, and trust, with trust perhaps being the most important item.

Capturing Best Practices

For decades, we relied entirely upon capturing best practices, but just those related to project management. Today, we believe that, if you are managing a project, you are managing part of a business and are expected to make business decisions as well as project decisions. Therefore, we are now capturing best practices in all parts of the business rather than in just project management. What we discover as part of our findings are now part of an information warehouse rather than just a best practices library. As seen in Exhibit 1, we are now developing a structured process by which all forms of best practices can be discovered.

Project Management Maturity Models

Typical project management maturity models, as shown in Exhibit 1 still apply, but more models are entering the marketplace. In Exhibit 1, Level 3 may be replaced with flexible methodologies rather than a singular approach. Level 4 is expected to grow significantly as companies realize that benchmarking against companies that are world class leaders in project management may give better results than just benchmarking against companies in their own industry. In Level 5, companies are demonstrating a greater willingness to implement changes in the best interest of the company rather than worrying about their own power base and authority.

Networked PMOs

Companies have recognized the need for PMOs for more than three decades. However, there were significant power struggles for which executive would maintain control of the PMO. There was a belief that “information is power” and whichever executive would control the PMO would become more powerful than his/her contemporaries.

As nontraditional projects grew, there was an apparent need for multiple PMOs. The situation becomes more complex as companies began expanding globally and recognized the need for geographically dispersed PMOs. But some executive still felt threatened by the PMO concept and opted for the creation of “master” and “subordinate” PMOs. Today, this concept seems to have diminished as companies have recognized the importance of networking their PMOs as shown in Exhibit 1.

Conclusion

There is significantly more information we could have discussed related to each component in Exhibit 1 resulting from the growth of nontraditional projects. But what appears obvious is that change is happening and appears to be for the betterment of the project management community. Where project management will take us, we do not know. But what is certain is that there is a growth in the use of nontraditional projects and the accompanying project management processes.

Have a question for Dr. Kerzner? Leave your comment below.

 

About the Author
Harold Kerzner (M.S., Ph.D., Engineering, and M.B.A) is IIL’s Senior Executive Director for Project Management. He is a globally recognized expert on project management and strategic planning, and the author of many best-selling textbooks including Project Management: A Systems Approach to Planning, Scheduling, and Controlling and Project Management 2.0. Dr. Kerzner has previously taught project management and business administration at Baldwin-Wallace University, engineering at the University of Illinois and business administration at Utah State University. He obtained his industrial experience at Thiokol Corporation where he held both program management and project engineering responsibilities on a variety of NASA, Air Force, Army, Navy, and internal R&D programs.

PMBOK and PMI are registered marks of the Project Management Institute, Inc.


Grateful Leadership: A Tool to Build Engagement

By Joanna Durand, Citi Managing Director, GPMO Head, CPMC/SEPG Chair

On June 9, I visited the International Institute for Learning (IIL), to film a segment on Grateful Leadership, with Judy Umlas. Judy, a Senior Vice President at IIL, is an expert on the concept of Grateful Leadership. In fact, she literally wrote the book on it, titled, as you might expect, Grateful Leadership.

We sat down for a few minutes to discuss Grateful Leadership.

What is Grateful Leadership?

On page 9 of her book, Judy introduces the concept of Grateful Leadership by saying the following: “I believe we are on the verge of creating the next wave of vision, inspiration, workability and success in leadership, which will turn many current ideas and philosophies of leadership upside down: Grateful Leadership.”

Judy’s Grateful Leadership model refutes former models calling for employees to be grateful to their leader (the “just be thankful you have a job” line of reasoning), pointing out that Grateful Leaders will realize much more success by having engaged employees. Judy goes on to say on page 9, “Grateful Leaders are those who see, recognize, and express appreciation for their employees’ and other stakeholders contributions and for their passionate engagement, on an ongoing basis.” She continues on page 11, “By creating a culture of appreciation… in which people truly feel valued, these leaders motivate their followers to strive for continuous improvement and always greater results.

Isn’t this the core of what leaders want?

Employee loyalty is tied to feeling respected and validated, and people are more likely to continue working every day in a place where they are part of a fundamental practice of recognizing and acknowledging one another’s value. Conversely, if we do not practice grateful leadership, while we might not lose people right away, people will lose interest and start looking elsewhere if they feel that they are not acknowledged and validated.

It’s Not Just for Managers

One does not need to be a manager to lead, and one does not need to be organizationally at the forefront to be a leader. The tenets of Grateful Leadership are useful and applicable for all sorts of leaders, including those of us who are parents, and those of us who need to interact with others regularly.

The Practical Applications of Grateful Leadership

In my role, I have the opportunity to put Grateful Leadership concepts into practice every day. A few of the ways I lead by these concepts and practice them with my team include:

• Making an effort to meet as many team members in person as I can
• Implementing changes as a result of employee feedback to improve employee experience
• Encouraging people on the team to nominate others for awards, and dedicating time in our quarterly team meetings to formal and informal recognition
• Sending personal thank-you messages and other forms of recognition to individuals on the team when they go above and beyond

It Isn’t Always Easy Being a Grateful Leader

One of the topics Judy touched upon in our interview was that it’s not always easy to be a Grateful Leader. Here are two major reasons why:

• Grateful Leadership (and grateful behavior) takes a willingness to be vulnerable. For a manager, this could look like someone wanting a raise when you offer praise. For a non-manager, the vulnerability is required because you are saying something personal about yourself, and any personal revelation takes strength.
• Grateful Leadership takes commitment. It needs to be deliberately practiced or, in the pressure of our individual roles, we can get swept up – and swept away from practicing acknowledgement/ validation. We must avoid the trap of saying we are too busy, or we just forgot.

Move Forward into Grateful Leadership

Like mastering any new skill, or beginning any new and deliberate practice, Grateful Leadership takes discipline. Start small, by acknowledging someone in the moment when it occurs to you to do so. Or, as Judy suggests, acknowledge someone you wouldn’t normally think to acknowledge. In either case, choose something personal that you believe will resonate with the person you are acknowledging.

I look forward to many more conversations with Judy, and I am grateful to IIL for being an excellent partner over the years.

Originally posted on Citi’s internal enterprise social media platform.

Joanna Durand is a Managing Director at Citi; she has been with Citi for more than eight years, having joined in February 2007. In August 2009, Joanna was named Citi’s Head of Global Program Management. Joanna has over 20 years of diverse leadership experience in global financial services organizations.

Joanna chairs the Citi Program Management Council and Software Engineering Process Governance (CPMC-SEPG), a formally chartered enterprise-wide governing body focusing on Enterprise PM Domain Governance.  She also heads the Global Program Management Office (GPMO),  which acts as the execution arm of the CPMC/SEPG.


Passing the Torch...



To tell the truth, I never thought I would ever be writing a blog post like this one. Ever since I wrote my first book, The Power of Acknowledgment in 2006, and IIL put me on the road training leaders and emerging leaders with the courses we developed around the book, I have to admit that I believed that this course and the ones to follow on Grateful Leadership could only be taught by me. That’s because I had discovered this work to be my passion, my mission and my purpose. And I have been lucky enough to have IIL’s total support in delivering them, in writing the three books on this subject and much more that extends the message and its awesome results.

So when I taught two back-to-back Grateful Leadership courses at Volvo Construction Equipment in Shippensburg, PA last year,  I was pleased and surprised when Michelle Madsen, Delivery Specialist, Volvo Group University, said she planned to fully participate as a student in one of the two day sessions. She had popped in and out of the numerous other courses I had taught there and in Hagerstown, MD, since she was part of the HR organization and was involved in much of the training that went on in both places. At the end of the session she was part of, she came up to me and said in a clear, highly intentioned voice, “You HAVE to certify me to teach the Grateful Leadership course at Volvo.” “We don’t have a certification program for this course,” I said adamantly, not wanting to tell her that we couldn’t have such a program as I was the only person on the planet who could possibly teach it! “Well, then create one!“ she said with persistence and purpose. I promised to look into this, not really believing it could happen.

But my IIL colleague Chris Gregg had always told me that one day there would be a “lot of little Judy’s” running around teaching Grateful Leadership. I always laughed this off when he said this. But he and Michelle conspired, collaborated and with Volvo’s total support, I was given the “privilege” of spending the next six months trying to figure out how I did what I did and always with transformational results that shocked even me. It was nearly as challenging a task as writing all three of my books on the subject. But Michelle was both patient and single-minded about this. “I just have to lead this course,” she would tell me, again and again. “I want to change the world and make a difference.” I started to really see this in action with her follow up to the students in our classes. She wrote this to class participants with the subject line “It’s Amazing!”:

“The positive, uplifting effects on yourself and on others when you acknowledge people is amazing! I challenge you to “Knock Someone’s Socks off” just by giving them a heartfelt acknowledgment (appreciation of a person for who they are).  Be courageous and make a commitment right now to communicate your acknowledgement within the next 2 days! It’s POWERFUL!

I loved seeing this! And just when I was thinking I could never create a Train the Trainer certification program, she wrote to me:

“I am continually in awe of how many people you touch with your message every week!  Isn’t it amazing how a concept so simple and so powerfully positive is missing from our lives?  In a society that is increasing its numbers of depressed, stressed out, and anxiety-laden individuals it is wonderful to have the opportunity to show people a way to deliberately go about lifting each other up. It’s exciting to see the exponential effect of your message growing through trainers!”

So what choice did I have? We worked together to fine tune a program, with its many steps and pieces. We had a virtual run through two months before Michelle was scheduled to deliver her first class to Volvo participants, then a mock session at IIL at which our people misbehaved and challenged her, but she held her ground and her purpose. And finally the big day came. I was by this time very excited and a bit nervous for my “first born,” as I called her affectionately. I decided (with a little coaching from our CEO) to not contribute anything during this class, but just to observe and take notes and autograph books at the end of the day. And it was truly an amazing experience to watch the material “live and breathe” from the mind, heart and spirit of another. Michelle did an awesome job. Her students didn’t have any sense that this was her first delivery — ever — and gave her almost all 9’s and 10’s on the evaluations. What they noted in the comments section was how they loved her passion for the material she taught. I was shocked and delighted! She was delivering IIL’s material, but found her own stories to add to it, her own passion to pass on to others, with her own total adoption of my personal mission — to repair the world!

I was thrilled to officially certify her right after this amazing day. Michelle, with her commitment, her sense of purpose and the total resonance of her being to this message, had proved that this could be done. I knew then that the woman named Kathy who had come up to me after a class at another major organization, who also told me, “Judy, I have to become certified as a Grateful Leadership instructor! It is my life’s work!” wasn’t just dreaming. She was creating her own reality. And now we are working toward making that reality be fulfilled.

Michelle has made that a possibility for all of the others to follow. I am truly grateful to her for allowing me to pass the torch to all of those who come after her, while continuing to be able to express my personal passion about and belief in the power of this message. I  think that’s what is meant by “having it all.”

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A Stirring Story

A while back I led a virtual course in Grateful Leadership and The Power of Acknowledgment. One of the participants approached me by email afterward, telling me how valuable she had found the course to be for her, for her team and her organization. She wanted to know, however, if I could help her with her mother. “Sure!” I wrote back, and we arranged to have a chat. Well, it turned out that this lovely, caring, vivacious woman had such a challenged relationship with her mother that she told me that there wasn’t one thing she could think of to acknowledge her mother for. She really wanted to find something, though, knowing all of the benefits now after having completed IIL’s program,  and the enormous cost of withholding acknowledgments. “There is one thing you absolutely CAN acknowledge your mother for,” I told her. “What?” she asked in disbelief. “The gift she gave you,” I said. “What gift?” she asked, somewhat suspiciously. “The gift of life,” I said. And that, even by her standards, was inarguable.

Her next question made me giggle. “Well,” she said a bit shyly, “do you think you could send her an autographed book and acknowledge her for me?” I agreed to do it, knowing that this would be better than sending nothing at all. So I went into my flowery prose, and wrote on the inside page of the book how grateful her daughter was to her for giving her the gift of her life, and how well she planned to make use of that gift.” And then I sent it off.

About a week later, I got a very excited email from her, letting me know that her mother had received her gift and that when she went to pay an obligatory visit to her, she said her mother was moved to tears and thrilled with the acknowledgment. She told me that their entire relationship was transformed  by this one acknowledgment.

This Mother’s Day, be sure to acknowledge your mother, your sweetheart or your wife. Don’t hold back — it will go a long way. If you need a little help, you might consider IIL’s Mother’s Day Gratitude Gift. And if you need extra help, I will be happy to autograph one of the books and write of your appreciation for the immeasurable “gift” that you received from that special person.

Click here to purchase IIL’s Mother’s Day Gratitude Gift.


You Can’t Make That Stuff Up!


Sammie with Coopie

My colleague Nathalie Udo, IIL Author and Trainer,  shared this amazing and positive learning experience that occurred after she gave a copy of You’re Totally Awesome! The Power of Acknowledgment for Kids to a friend of hers.

Her friend Jarrod Jacobi wrote: “A while back you gave me a book by your friend Judy Umlas. I put it on the coffee table, and not long after I noticed Samantha reading it for a couple hours…Today when I picked her up from after care at school, I was hurrying her along as I always do while she finishes whatever it is she is working on. As we were walking out, she asked one of the teachers where the janitor was. I was curious why she was asking for the janitor, but I went with it…When we found him, she gave him an envelope she had made. Inside it was a double sided painting she created with the words, “Thank you for cleaning the school!!” written across the top. The janitor was clearly surprised, thanked Samantha solemnly, and said he was going to frame it. Guess where she learned that? (Jarrod is referring to the story from the book, which is called, “A Cupcake for Hector,” written by Michael Wagreich, age 7 at the time he submitted it to me. Hector was the janitor of his school). 

chapter for kids

“A couple weeks later when I picked her up on a Friday afternoon, the janitor came over and said to wait a second, as he had something for Samantha. He returned with a box of 36 freshly baked gourmet cupcakes!!! All the other kids still there were in awe as to why the janitor would give her 36 cup cakes. I told the teachers why and they thought it was a wonderful story and we headed off. When we got in the car, Samantha thought it might be a good idea to share  the cupcakes with the other kids, so we went back inside and passed them around. Ironically, it was her birthday that weekend, so the cupcakes were well timed. 

You can’t make that stuff up!”

And that is the beauty of the power of acknowledgment — when you see the results, you just “can’t make that stuff up!” Our thanks to Nathalie, Jarrod, to Michael…and of course, to Samantha!

Until the next time…Judy