Part of working on a project with a team means constantly checking in with everyone for status updates. Even though you’re on track to complete your leg of the project, you get dragged into long team meetings or discussions that may not pertain to you. Simple 15 minute check-ins soon become a big waste of time.
Unfortunately, this situation is very common, especially in growing agencies that are still working out the kinks of collaborating with team members they don’t regularly see in person. It may seem like a good idea to hold daily meetings to keep everyone on the same page, but these meetings start to interrupt productivity and cause even more aggravation when they’re unnecessary for the group.
Now, I’m not saying that you should cancel all of your meetings from here on out. But you can utilize a few collaboration tactics to reduce the number of meetings you hold each week. With the help of today’s article, I’ll show you how to communicate effectively with your team without wasting everyone’s time in the process.
Tools of the Collaboration Trade
Whether your team is in-house or virtual, communication is essential. Without it, due dates are likely to be missed and projects will quickly decline into messy rush jobs. This leads to stress, lost contracts, and unhappy clients. We want to avoid this.
Just like a carpenter can’t build without the proper tools, you’ll need to get your hands on a few virtual tools to easily communicate with your teammates — even when you’re not in the same country or timezone.
Use Slack for Easy Communication
Slack is a helpful collaboration tool that connects your whole team. Essentially, Slack is a platform that allows you to share project or client-related documents and communicate together. Now you may be thinking, “Isn’t that what emails are for? What’s different?”
If you’ve ever been the unfortunate recipient of a long email thread, unsure of where you fit in specifically, you already know how frustrating team emails can be. Within a matter of hours, your inbox is flooded with replies that may not even pertain to you. As soon as someone hits ‘Reply all’, we’re all doomed.
Well, Slack is not like this.
Slack is set up more like little chat rooms. You’ll need to go in and create a channel, or chatroom, for each project or task. Only those involved in that particular part of the project are kept in the loop.
Users can direct message (ping) each other privately so the conversation is kept active without everyone being notified each time someone replies. Slack is like keeping all of your work text messages in one place. Did I mention that Slack also has an easy-to-use app to keep your messages at your fingertips just like your texts?
Plus, unlike email threads (especially Gmail ones that seem to get sucked into the abyss the most), the conversation and pertaining documents are easily searchable. This means you can find exactly what you need in a matter of seconds. Keep everything for a certain client — from PDFs, spreadsheets, and customized logos — all in one place for your team to see whenever they want. It’s like a virtual filing cabinet that’s accessible by your team no matter where they are.
You can also confirm the status of a project by checking what’s been updated by your teammates. Each project can have its own status bar that resembles a checklist of items to get done and displays a percentage of how much of the project has been completed to kick your team into gear.
Easy-to-Navigate Project Management Software
In addition to using Slack for communication, you’ll also want to use a project management software that everyone on the team has access to. My favorite tool for this is Trello just because it’s so user-friendly and helps to keep everything nice and organized.
To use Trello, you’ll set up different “boards” for each project that your team works on. Anyone on the team can comment, upload documents or images, and change specifics like due dates for each card or Trello board you create. You can monitor every stage of each project at a glance and leave notes (comments) for the next person.
You can also use tools such as Asana or Basecamp to accomplish this as well. I have used all three platforms in the past, but still prefer Trello as my go-to. Find what works for your team and get comfortable with whatever platform you choose.
Set Expectations Immediately
Instead of dumping these tools in your co-workers’ laps, explain the benefits of each platform so they’ll understand the reasoning behind adding more components to their already full toolbelt.
Make a plan and stick to it. You could let your team know that Slack is for communication between teammates, while Trello or your project management software should keep the project organized and on schedule.
Explain that the direct message feature in both Slack and Trello should be used to “ping” specific teammates so they’ll immediately get the alert that something is waiting for them. All you have to do is type the @ symbol and your teammate’s name and they’ll immediately get an alert that someone is trying to reach them.
You can move on to the delegate and conquer stage once your team has an understanding of how each tool will help their productivity specifically.
Delegate and Conquer
This stage is important because it’s where you’ll hold your team accountable. It’s also the most likely point of communication breakdowns. If you’ve ever heard the ol’, “I didn’t know I was supposed to work on that; I thought he was taking care of that part of the project!” scenario, this feature will be a lifesaver.
In your project management program, assign teammates to particular tasks and set due dates accordingly. This keeps everyone on the same page and tosses the “It wasn’t my job” excuse out the window.
Most project management software is designed to send friendly reminders once a due date is approaching. By assigning a specific person to each task, they’ll have that reminder waiting for them in their inbox.
Communication is Key
Leave notes or comments on your Trello cards so anyone on the team can look at the board to understand what’s going on without having to ask someone else. Problems, extra details, and source files should be mentioned in the comments so everyone has access to the same information.
To keep communication running even smoother, share these updates via Slack. Just add a comment to your Trello card and ping the teammates who need this information in Slack. This double buffer acts as the perfect safety net so nothing falls through the digital cracks.
By staying in virtual contact with your team every step of the way, you can easily cut down on the number of meetings you’ll have to hold without sacrificing important communication or timely updates. I know it may seem like more work to add these tools to your arsenal, but they will definitely make your job easier in the long run.
Start by getting your team comfortable with using software like Slack and Trello. Assign teammates to specific tasks to keep the project moving and hold people accountable when due dates approach. Send direct messages that are simple and to the point only to those team members who need that particular information. After all, you don’t want to send hundreds of messages in order to avoid holding one meeting.