team Archives - Appointment - Online Appointment Scheduling Software

How to Run an Efficient Team With Fewer People

By | Business Tips | No Comments
How to Run an Efficient Team With Fewer People

A quick glance at the Fortune 500 will show you some well-oiled corporate machines that dominate their respective industries. Small companies and startups will try to emulate those same business models with varying degrees of success. Is it possible for a small organization to run as efficiently as a business behemoth?

The answer is yes, but you might have to customize your approach to fit your specific team. Running a small-scale team is a much more intimate and detail-oriented matter, but when done correctly, it can be just as efficient as any company you compare yourself to.

This article will help you and your team increase your efficiency and help your small business find great success even with fewer people on deck.

Lean on Automation

When operating with a small team, look for ways to automate basic tasks that take up a lot of time when performed manually. This frees up your team members and allows them to focus their attention elsewhere, getting much more done in a regular day. 

Take online appointment software, for example. With this solution in place, customers can book their own appointments, check future availability, and even make payments without the help of a customer representative. You’ll no longer need to have a team member on the phones all day helping customers do those things.

You can automate a whole bunch of tasks — outreach emails, invoice reminders, social media posts — if you have the right tools for it. Look for solutions that will take control of basic tasks so that your team can focus on more complex assignments. 

Focus on Communication

You’ve heard it before, and you’ll hear it once again. Communication is absolutely vital for teams of all shapes and sizes. Even one miscommunication can be quite disruptive.

Improving team communication doesn’t have to be complicated. Try using project management software or an instant messaging platform to keep everyone on the same page. Hold consistent meetings and touch base with your employees on a regular basis. Ultimately, successful communication comes down to the effort you put into it, so don’t let a day go by where you’re not communicating with your team in some way. 

Another important aspect of communication is gathering feedback. Ask your team about what’s working and what’s not working, then use that information to change your workflows. Few things will improve your team’s efficiency more than listening to their process improvement ideas and putting them into practice. 

Manage Workloads

Some miscommunications are worse than others. One side effect of bad communication is poor workload management. With a small team, especially in a startup, there’s a chance that some members are taking on far more tasks than their peers, which creates a distinct disparity between co-workers. If the imbalance persists, it can begin to breed resentment.

You might appreciate that your hardest-working employee is taking on as many assignments as possible, but the truth is that they’re likely experiencing some diminishing returns on their productivity. If they’re biting off more than they can chew, it won’t be long before errors occur or something has to be pushed aside.

By managing the workload over your entire team, projects can be distributed more evenly. This will likely result in tasks being completed much faster than if a single person was trying to do everything on their own. 

Build a Positive Culture

Company culture might seem superficial, but employees are valuing culture more now than ever. A positive company culture will draw in better employee prospects, which will naturally increase your efficiency by introducing more good workers into the mix.

In addition, your culture will directly affect team morale on a daily basis. If your team enjoys coming to work every day and mingling with their co-workers, they’ll work harder and more efficiently together. A poor culture will cause team members to drag their feet and potentially even look for a different employer.

How do you build a positive culture? There are a number of different approaches, and the ones you choose will depend on your team’s values. Casual wear, a revamped break room, team lunches, and after-work activities are all possibilities to consider. 

Promote Autonomy

As a leader, it’s important to be hands-on with your team. However, you need to avoid becoming a micromanager. Going too far in the “helping” direction can actually hurt productivity and efficiency. 

While remaining involved, promote autonomy throughout your team. Make yourself available for questions and guidance, but don’t stick your nose in when you’re not needed. This might be difficult to achieve if you’re an entrepreneur working on your startup, but it’ll pay off in the long run.

If you want to measure how these tips are working for your team, start tracking some key metrics (hours worked per process, cost of goods/services sold, etc.) that you can compare over time. As you see those numbers improve, you’ll know you’re turning your small team into an efficiency powerhouse. 

How a ‘Back to School’ Mindset Can Boost Your Team’s Motivation

By | Business Tips | No Comments
How a ‘Back to School’ Mindset Can Boost Your Team’s Motivation

Fall means going back to school, as you’re sure to have noticed with all the August and September sales that took place at retail stores across the country. Those first couple of months back can be exciting for kids as they move up a grade or even change schools entirely. 

Now that we’re further into the academic year, some of that excitement may have faded, but that doesn’t make school any less important. Maintaining that excitement throughout the school year often leads to better grades, a fuller social life, and less stress. 

There are a lot of parallels between the classroom and the workplace. We can get excited when starting a new job or getting a promotion, but that enthusiasm can quickly fade into a case of the Mondays. These feelings can really bog a team down, so here’s why and how a “back to school” mindset can kickstart your team’s motivation.

Starting Fresh

Entering a new school year is all about starting fresh. Unless you’re beginning a new job, getting that feeling at work is a little more challenging. However, there are still ways you can bring that fresh-start vibe to your workplace and reenergize even your longest-tenured employees. 

Getting a renewed start might be as simple as rearranging seating in the office, adding some different amenities, or giving everyone a potted plant for their desk. Small changes like these can make a considerable impact on productivity just by injecting novel elements into the regular routine.

Try not to get too carried away and change everything up, though. A complete revamp of your office space or work approach introduces a lot of variables that can be unpredictable. It’s often better to begin with one thing at a time to see how your team responds to each change. 

Looking to Learn

Some people outgrow the learning mindset they developed during their school years. Even though there are no homework assignments or lectures to stay on top of, learning should remain an integral part of your life. It will help you become better at your job or even open up new career opportunities. 

Encourage your employees to keep learning and enable them to do so. Some companies offer tuition reimbursements to their workers who want to take college or grad school courses. While you don’t have to go as far as paying off student loans, you should at least look for ways to help your team continue to learn and grow.

For example, you can pay your team members’ way to a conference in your industry. They’ll get some great new ideas from industry experts, network with other professionals, and bond together as a squad. Assisting team members in obtaining new certifications is another way to help them and your business grow simultaneously. 

Making New Friends

A new school year means new friends to meet in classes, at lunch, and on sports teams. Camaraderie with teammates sure makes school more enjoyable, and the same can be said for the office. After all, you spend a significant percentage of your time among co-workers, so it makes sense that being friends with them would make the workplace a more pleasant place to be. 

Team-building activities will help even longtime co-workers share a laugh and learn something new about each other. Take your team out for dinner, host a poker tournament in the break room, or make time for some speed meeting (i.e., workplace speed dating) during lunchtime. Teams that play hard together work even harder together.

These activities are just as important for remote teams. Employees who work from home often feel detached from their team, which can cause motivation and company identity to deteriorate. Start planning biweekly Zoom happy hours to bring your virtual team together and give remote workers something to look forward to. 

Pay Attention to Deadlines

School is all about juggling different class schedules and making sure you don’t miss a single due date. At work, deadlines are still an important factor in maintaining productivity and motivation. When deadlines loom, people naturally tend to work harder to get things done.

Talk with your team about how to implement more effective deadlines and use them to boost motivation. They might be feeling overwhelmed by the number of deadlines you set and need you to cut back a little. Other individuals might ask for more granular deadlines to help them focus their attention on intermediate checkpoints.

A rewards system is also worth considering. Schools have used incentives for many years, be they end-of-year pizza parties or upcoming field trips for students who turn in all their assignments on time. You can use a similar approach to give your team members the motivation they need even on the most difficult of days. 

Just as a teacher is responsible for making learning effective and enjoyable, as a leader, you are expected to keep team motivation high all year round. So follow these tips to rekindle the back-to-school flame in your team. The results will speak for themselves as your newly motivated team moves your business further forward. 

5 Strategies for Keeping Your Team on the Same Page

By | Business Tips | No Comments
5 Strategies for Keeping Your Team on the Same Page

Every manager wants their team to run like a well-oiled machine. Unfortunately, good intentions often fall short. In an effort to keep teams informed and connected, calendars can get overloaded with meetings, and employees can get more confused than when they started.

To get and keep your team on the same page, you need a better approach. This guide will outline five different strategies that you can use in any combination to take your leadership to the next level. A coordinated team, after all, is much easier and enjoyable to manage.

1. Up Your Meeting Game

A survey of employees in the UK showed that respondents considered 37% of meetings to be pointless and unnecessary. That’s over a third of meeting time that’s going to waste! Changing your approach to meetings will make better use of your time in the conference room while making sure your team is always in sync.

Start by outlining your meetings thoroughly before even adding them to your team calendar. Each meeting should have a specific purpose or goal in mind. Holding a meeting just to have a meeting is a pointless endeavor.

Next, make sure you show up to the meeting prepared with everything you could possibly need. With an adequate game plan, you can ensure that meetings don’t run too long or go off topic. You can get straight to the point and focus on getting your team on the same page before dispersing once again. 

2. Keep the Conversation Going

Even while you’re tuning up your meetings, you shouldn’t rely on them exclusively. The best way to keep your team connected and informed is to keep the conversation going long after a formal meeting has concluded. Discussion should be happening every day, whether it’s a clarifying question or checking in on the progress of a weekly assignment.

Numerous companies faced communication crises during the Covid-19 pandemic. Trying to keep remote teams pulling in the same direction was more difficult than it was in an office setting. This led to a large increase in the use of communications software such as Zoom and Slack.

One tool that you should look into for your team, regardless of its composition, is project management software. With a tool like this, project-related communications are visible to everyone on the team, and automatic task notifications keep interested parties in the know. This works great for remote teams, office-centric companies, and every organization in between. 

3. List Out Project Details

Another great use of project management software is the ability to break out key project details. Outlining your projects in such a way helps inform teams of all the important steps of a project, even if they’re only responsible for a few of them. 

There are different ways to list out project details, usually depending on the type of software you use. Let’s use ClickUp as an example. Within this program, you can create an assignment complete with a description, due date, and assignees. In addition, you can add a checklist of items that must be completed in order for the assignment to be finished. Last but not least, you can view a complete history of all the changes that have been made to the project and who initiated them. 

4. Share Schedules

An essential aspect of staying on the same page is coordinating time and individual schedules. What happens when a project is in crisis and team members cannot contact the team leader? Such situations can be avoided or at least mitigated by sharing schedules with one another. 

Now, let it be said that there’s such a thing as sharing too much information. Unless you have a great relationship with your team, they don’t need to know about your date night or your plans to go disc golfing over lunch. What’s more important is establishing the times where you’re available and unavailable and letting teammates know when and how you can be reached.

Online calendars are nifty tools for ironing out those details. You can create a custom scheduling link that can be embedded into a website or posted in your company database. With a simple click, team members and even clients can see whether you have any openings for a meeting or phone call without disturbing you. 

5. Embrace Transparency

Transparency does a lot of good for your company. Not only will it keep employees happy and boost their morale, but it will also develop a culture and atmosphere where collaboration can thrive. It’s so much easier to keep your team in the loop when transparency is a high priority.

Think of transparency as the willingness to freely share information from the top to the bottom of your organization. As the leader, it’s up to you to set the example that others will follow.

You can do this by clearly setting expectations, checking in with individual team members, and being honest about how you’re spending your time. Secrets that don’t pertain to birthday parties or Christmas bonuses tend to tear a company down rather than build it up. 

No business can thrive when its right hand doesn’t know what its left hand is doing. But with the right combination of communication, tech-enabled organization, and transparency, your team members will be able to pull together and achieve your organization’s goals.

4 Tips for Revamping Team Synergy Now

By | Knowledge Base | No Comments
Revamp Your Team Synergy

The whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Two heads are better than one. Many hands make light work.

There are so many ways we talk about working together, but one word seems to pop up a lot: synergy. However you choose to characterize work, synergy is the way companies get things done. Synergy leads to higher productivity, fewer duplicative efforts, and optimal use of talent. But these days, it’s not always an easy dynamic to achieve.

Remote and hybrid working arrangements can make achieving synergy among teams and across departments challenging. You might once have thought these measures were temporary and things would return to a pre-pandemic normal. But the workplace has changed forever, and your team’s expectations have changed right along with it. Here are four tips for revamping your team’s synergy now.

1. Give the Gift of Time

The pandemic has changed the way we think about time when it comes to work. Normal routines have been altered by closures, safety concerns, and the voluntary cessation of unnecessary activities. The distortion is particularly acute to those working remotely.

Nonetheless, work life goes on. There is still a need to schedule appointments, meetings, and interviews, even if they’re going to be virtual. These interactions still need to occur with customers, with clients, within teams, and across departments.

You can increase synergy by using scheduling software that uncomplicates the entire process. Give everyone 24/7 access to everyone else’s calendar, and anyone can put a meeting in an open slot. It’s also a hassle-free way to accommodate the work schedule for remote workers who may not be clocking in for a traditional 9-to-5 work day.

You can’t cultivate synergy without encouraging people to spend quality time together. If you give your team an easy way to make that happen, they’ll have more opportunities to collaborate. And that is the timeless way to make them measurably productive no matter where they are.

2. Blow Lines of Communication Wide Open

Clear, open, and honest communication is a cornerstone of team synergy. Without that type of communication occurring at all levels, teams become breeding grounds for misinformation. That, in turn, feeds distrust and anxiety, which are completely antithetical to creating positive synergy.

Synergy also relies on the exchange of information and ideas, so communication must be a two-way channel. You may be the person charged with setting goals for your team, but you shouldn’t do so in a vacuum. Remember, you’ve hired some talented people, so give them a shot at weighing in on the discussion.

Many team members may work remotely all or part of the time, so make sure your team has the tech tools they need to keep ideas flowing freely. Messaging, meeting, and collaboration software are essential to synergy.

One-on-one, team, and departmental communication isn’t as easy as walking down the hall anymore. Providing a safe space for frank discussion and expression of ideas, and the tools required to facilitate them, keeps everyone part of the conversation. Remember that many voices make for good synergy.

3. Switch Up the Players on the Field

You can have all the very best talent on your team, but it won’t be a winner without the right chemistry. Given the changes to the work environment, the formula might have changed. If so, you might need to switch it up to get your synergy back on.

Of course, the differences between individual team members are critical. A football team needs slow, fast, beefy, svelte, feet-on-the-ground, and fly-through-the-air players to win. A field full of quarterbacks only will fail miserably.

To foster your team’s success, you need to have the right combination of players in the right positions, using their individual strengths to play as a unit. A pre-pandemic team leader might need to take a supporting role due to work-from-home realities. Another might be stepping up in unexpected ways. Aim to synthesize everyone’s strengths while honoring the new realities of how they work. 

You are the coach in this analogy, which means it’s your job to shake up the lineup if the team’s synergy is waning. It’s OK if you don’t get the combination right the first time. But once you do, make no substitutions as long as your team is on a winning streak.

4. Empower Your People

There’s always the temptation for leaders to micromanage team members, but never more so than when they can’t keep an eye on them. Don’t merely resist the temptation. Do the opposite.

Lead with generosity by giving your team more control and being less of an overlord. You might be disappointed with some results but ridiculously delighted with others. You will be providing your team with some valuable lessons that will encourage them to be better employees.

Among the benefits of empowering team members are increases in creativity, collaboration, and corporate loyalty. This doesn’t mean you hand over total control, since, after all, the proverbial buck will continue to stop with you. Your empowered team will still count on you for input and guidance.

Team members are not unlike students who want to impress the teacher. But what they’ll realize is they can’t complete an assignment without the talent and insight of the other members of the team. For that, they need synergy.

There Is No “I” in Synergy

Synergistic results are unpredictable because you never know for sure what solutions will emerge from the intersection of diverse talents and skills. Not to worry — innovation is unpredictable.

What is predictable is that teams without synergy are lackluster and unproductive. Time, communication, and empowerment were easier deliverables back in the day. Although more challenging, they aren’t impossible to deliver now.

All it takes are the right tools, agile leadership, and a commitment to getting all those moving parts working together. The team may look a little different now, but there’s still no “I” in team — or in synergy.

5 Tech Solutions to Help Your Hybrid Team Work Together More Smoothly

By | Time Management | No Comments
Tech Solutions to Help Your Hybrid Team Work Together More Smoothly

Working from home has kept individuals and families safe from the spread of the COVID-19 virus. At the same time, it allowed employees to make an income and contribute to the companies they work for. Home offices were set up in record time, and we discovered a whole new meaning to the term “business casual.” 

Since then, numerous workers have decided to continue working remotely at least some of the time. Shelter-at-home orders caused many to come to an important realization. Being closer to family, having more flexibility, and leaving their morning commute behind made them happier and more productive. According to McKinsey, more than 50% of employees would prefer to work from home three or more days per week. 

Demand for solutions that allow teams to collaborate across long distances in real time was high, and tech companies were happy to provide them. Now there are hundreds of team collaboration tools that span multiple uses and purposes. For those in leadership positions, learning how to leverage productivity software can make every workday more efficient than the last. 

In this article, we’ll talk about managing hybrid teams and what tech solutions are available to make every project run more smoothly. 

Managing Hybrid Teams in 2021

The pandemic undoubtedly forced companies to experiment with new ways of operating. Bosses got used to not seeing their subordinates at their desks, and employees became increasingly accustomed to working from home. 

When pandemic restrictions began to lift, it brought further change. The transition back to the workplace from all-remote work gave birth to an in-office and remote work experience. Leaders were faced with organizing hybrid teams with no definitive guidance to direct them. 

Feeling their way toward the optimal hybrid workplace, managers have had to balance the requirements of two groups of employees. Fortunately, there are many tech solutions that make collaboration across hybrid teams both effective and efficient. 

Hybrid Tech Solutions

Hybrid teams need specialized tools that cater to both in-office and remote team members’ needs without compromising productivity. Here are some of the ways that technology can help leaders manage their hybrid teams:

1. Team Communication

Effective communication is key to a successful hybrid working environment. Instant messaging platforms allow teams to communicate in real time. Questions can get answered in an instant, preventing project bottlenecks from arising. When team brainstorming is required, video conferencing tools enable both remote and in-office workers to participate equally. 

Popular apps like Slack and Zoom also offer integrations, making them easy to use in conjunction with your other collaboration tools. Other examples of team communication tools include Flowdock for messaging and file sharing and GoToMeeting for video conferencing.

2. Scheduling

Working remotely has some perks, but it’s easy to lose track of time and blur the lines between work and home. Keeping everyone organized and in step although working in separate spaces can be quite tricky. 

That’s where appointment scheduling software can come in handy, while also helping remote workers instill more structure in their workdays. Scheduling tools like Google Calendar, Calendar.com, and Appointment.com all provide digital calendars that sync across several devices, allowing teams to plan together. 

3. Project Management

Managing projects and tasks when your team members are separated by distance is no mean feat. Project management tools help leaders coordinate, monitor progress, and keep track of objectives no matter where team members are located. Managers can clearly communicate action items by incorporating tools such as Asana, Monday.com, ProofHub, and Trello into their hybrid workflows. 

4. Task Collaboration

Employees are often required to work together to complete certain tasks and create the best outcomes. Collaboration tools allow multiple people to create together. Tools like CodingTeam that encourage visibility are perfect for collective code building. 

Services such as Google Docs and Quip enable both in-office and remote employees to edit spreadsheets and documents in real time. They also allow you to transfer and share files with vendors or clients outside the hybrid office.

5. Team Learning

Collaborative learning solutions help teams overcome obstacles by ensuring that everyone is up-to-date on the latest policies, practices, and procedures. Additionally, platforms like Gong allow teams to leverage best practices from high-achieving performers so that everyone can increase their productivity and overall success. 

Transparency and teamwork are imperative in a hybrid workspace. Collaborative learning platforms help managers consistently enforce new policies and employees learn new processes, keeping everyone on the same page.

Conclusion

The pandemic caused a dramatic shift in how we do almost everything, including the way that we work. We learned that productivity is possible outside of the office. We also learned how much we crave human connection. Lucky for us, the increase in collaboration tools means it has never been easier for employees to work together, separately. 

In these unprecedented times, it is likely that hybrid offices are here to stay. Some employees prefer to work from home, while others thrive in the office. Still others enjoy the flexibility of being able to do both. Fortunately, these tech tools can help you work out the kinks as you navigate the new normal in the workplace. 

5 Practical Tips for Keeping Your Team Organized

By | Business Tips | No Comments
5 Practical Tips for Keeping Your Team Organized

Your business might be made up of an organized, established, everyday team, or you might be assembling a project-oriented team to address a specific issue. Whatever the case, we all know that throwing people together on a team can produce mixed results. Productivity and effectiveness can vary widely based on skills, experience, personality, or simply placing the wrong person in the driver’s seat.

Whether your team is permanent or temporary, there are some basic, commonsense principles to apply. The way you handle team expectations can make or break any initiative.

Here are five tips you can use or modify to suit specific team needs.

1. Pick your communication tools carefully and use them effectively.

Nowadays, there are a number of communication tools designed to help teams share issues and progress. Effective and timely communication often makes the difference between project completion and seemingly endless delays. If you’re not currently using something to facilitate communication within teams, you might consider looking for a solution that works well in your particular context. Here are some options:

  • Trello allows users to create “cards” that help organize a list of tasks to be completed. Each card may include a checklist to indicate progress. All of your team members have the ability to edit a card, which makes for easier collaboration.
  • Asana limits the number of team members to 15. It features user-friendly “like” and “thumbs up” functions. The ability to view the popularity of an entry at a glance can bring enhanced clarity for decision-making. It can also cut down dramatically on the need for meetings.
  • Slack functions as a chat room for teams. Team members can get quick responses from colleagues even when they are scattered across the globe. Businesses that implement Slack tend to notice a sharp drop-off in the need to send and receive emails.
  • Basecamp syncs to Google Drive and Google Calendar and offers a cloud-based solution that tracks both productivity and time spent on specific projects. Companies that bill based on staff time tend to use Basecamp to evaluate ROI by project, customer, and assigned staff.
  • Teamwork Projects works best by breaking down large tasks into bite-size chunks and assigning them out to individuals. Each subtask can be given specific milestones and deadlines.

2. Use a team calendar for organized project reporting.

Your team members are routinely walking around with more computing horsepower in their pocket than was necessary to put Apollo 11 on the moon. You should only leverage smartphone apps to keep team members on task without being intrusive. While these devices make it possible for your team members to work constantly, you also want to avoid burning them out.

Step one is to create a project calendar on a platform that provides easy access to all staff. Many apps offer a granular approach to permission setting such that various team members can merely comment while others can make deadline edits. When setting up your team calendar, make sure you select a resource that allows you to evaluate progress regularly.

3. Assign specific tasks to specific individuals.

The importance of giving team members both responsibility and ownership can hardly be overstated. When these are lacking, confusion reigns and employees are encouraged to play a perpetual game of Pass the Buck.

Making sure an individual knows and accepts responsibility for the completion of a specific task is an art. If you are too “soft” or otherwise unclear, this can serve as an invitation to not take deadlines and milestones seriously. Should you veer into the opposite ditch and become overly authoritarian, you stifle employees’ willingness to be creative.

If you notice specific tasks that are falling behind schedule, reach out to the responsible team member privately. It may be necessary to reassign that individual, but they will appreciate your not shaming them in a team meeting. Another benefit is that you will learn things in a one-on-one conversation that you will never hear in a group setting.

4. Make team responsibilities organized and abundantly clear.

Be clear on roles and responsibilities. If team members must come to you or another manager to address every problem that arises, you can expect the team to get bogged down in frequent delays. Head off this common issue by designating a team leader to handle team problems. Each task should have one identified person responsible for reporting back.

Resist micromanagement. Give team members the authority to create subchannels using your communications tool. Encourage efficiency by allowing people to communicate only with the people affected by a specific issue. Allowing subchannel chatter encourages people to take greater ownership and frees you from managing the minutiae of every task.

Establishing responsibilities in this manner will make your team more efficient, as people can keep working without stopping to ask permission for every move they make. Clarify which types of issues require your approval. The rest of the time, your team can take primary responsibility for the details.

5. Hold only necessary meetings and require actionable agendas.

Keep organized team meetings few and short. Experiment with allowing meetings to last no longer than 15 minutes. After all, the purpose of meetings is to decide upon a course of action. Far too many discussions end up devolving into purposeless chatter. Make it clear that each team member should leave every meeting with action items.

As many meetings now occur remotely, inform team members that being on time and well prepared are still requirements. Urge your meeting moderator to avoid statements such as, “We still have 10 minutes left. Is there anything else?” Such questions imply that the purpose of the meeting is to use up the time rather than create a to-do list.

Once you draw up the action items, dismiss everyone. Results-oriented discussions help make meetings painless.

Keep in mind that “Your mileage may vary.”

Every business is unique. Even upper-level franchise managers will tell you that “identical” locations can vary greatly from another simply due to issues of geography, culture, population, and climate. The organizational principles listed above may or may not work flawlessly in your setting, so feel free to experiment with the practices that draw the best response from your team.

6 Ways to Keep Your Team on Task Without Micromanaging

By | Business Tips | No Comments
6 Ways to Keep Your Team on Task Without Micromanaging

According to a study of U.S. workers, over 80% of employees admit to keeping their phones close by while working. While technology offers several benefits, it can be incredibly distracting. If you’re managing a team, you’ve probably seen firsthand just how often employees grab their phones while in the office. 

Whether they’re scrolling through social media or texting friends, smartphones are just one distraction that keeps team members from effectively performing tasks. How can you fight tech and other distractions and help your team stay productive in today’s often virtual environment? Read on for tips on how to keep your team on task without becoming Big Brother: 

1. Hire the Conscientious

You’ll have fewer problems keeping your team on track if you hire the right kind of people in the first place. During the interview process, focus on candidates’ traits as much as their skills and credentials. Look to hire individuals who are self-starters and able to focus their attention on the objectives at hand.   

Ask candidates to describe a time they had to take the initiative to see that a project or task was completed. Seek out those who have operated successfully in unsupervised work environments. When you hire people who have demonstrated the ability to work productively when no one’s watching, you’ll create a company culture of accountability.

2. Make Sure You’re Communicating Effectively 

If your team is struggling to stay on task, consider how well you’re communicating information. Ask yourself, “Am I making my priorities clear?” In today’s hybrid environment, it’s easier than ever for wires to get crossed and information to get lost. Even if you think you’re communicating effectively, your objectives might not be reaching everyone.  

Instead of sticking to what you’ve always done, experiment with other forms of communication. For example, integrate more video calls, schedule one-on-ones, and hold brief team standups. You might also want to consider reaching out to your employees and asking what forms of communication they prefer so you can make sure you’re getting your points across through the best means possible.  

3. Provide Regular Feedback 

Believe it or not, employees like feedback. In fact, according to a study by Officevibe, 82% of employees value both positive and negative feedback. On some level, they know that hearing both the good and the bad about their performance will help them improve it. 

If you’re not already providing your team with regular feedback, there’s no better time to start. One way to do so is with the aforementioned one-on-ones. In these meetings, you can bring up specific issues that are causing your employees to get off task. 

If, for example, you notice an employee spends a lot of time posting funny memes on the team Slack channel, point it out. You could ask them to confine the just-for-fun posts to Fridays, thus encouraging more on-task behavior during the week while not squelching team camaraderie altogether. 

4. Praise Good Work

According to HubSpot data, almost 70% of employees say they’d work harder if they felt more appreciated. In addition to providing feedback on performance, make sure you’re also recognizing good work.

When an employee completes a task successfully and in a timely manner, thank them. You don’t have to do anything huge, but acknowledge the hard work and dedication they’re putting in. For your employees to succeed — and want to keep succeeding — they need to feel appreciated. Whether that means sending a short email, featuring them in a social media post, or giving them a public shout-out at a team meeting, a little gesture of recognition goes a long way.

5. Integrate Remote Work Tools

Keeping your team on task may seem particularly challenging in a remote work environment. Fortunately, there are several project management tools that are ideal for remote workers. No longer do you need to rely on emails and phone calls to manage project tasks. Instead, you can integrate a project management system to help your virtual employees collaborate. 

Tools like Asana, Monday, and Basecamp let teams create projects, assign tasks, and track deadlines. If a task is overdue, the system will let the assignee — and the whole team — know it. There will be no need for you to ride herd on your team when the software does the task monitoring for you. 

6. Prioritize Work/Life Balance 

It’s all well and good to want your team to stay on task. To keep employees motivated, though, make sure you’re not requiring too much. While you want employees who are willing to work hard, you don’t want to overwork them. If you do, employees are likely to burn out, and then you’ll really be kissing effective task completion goodbye! 

To avoid this, make sure you’re prioritizing a good work/life balance for your team. Be flexible when it comes to when and where employees work. They’ll be better able to focus on the task at hand if they’re not worrying whether someone’s going to be home when the kids return from school. In addition, encourage your employees to take breaks during the day and offer paid time off. Employees will return from their time off energized and eager to get back down to work. 

As an employer, it’s important to make sure your employees are staying on task. With more people working from home, it can be a challenge to effectively manage what your employees are doing. But that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. From using the right tools to maintaining team motivation, the tips above will help you keep your employees on task without becoming overbearing. 

How to Foster a “Connected Culture” Remotely

By | Appointment | No Comments

While the COVID-19 may have resulted in more people working from home, the truth is, working from home was already having its moment. In fact, between 2005 – 2017, there was a 159% increase in remote work. And, regardless of what happens when there’s hopefully a vaccine, the majority of people who have been working from home would like to continue doing so — even it’s just a couple of days per week.

And while there are flaws, those who work from home tend to be happier and more productive. However, if you want to take it up a notch, then you need to foster a “connected culture.” According to a survey from RingCentral, “58% of employees who said their companies are attempting to help them connect said they feel physically healthy.”

Furthermore, “75% of employees reporting high levels of emotional well-being said they feel more connected to their colleagues.” In short, if you and your team want to thrive in a remote world, then you need to make this a priority. And you can accomplish this feat by taking the following steps.

1. Culture is more than just ping-pong tables.

“The first thing to realize is that your culture has to be built around more than ping pong tables,” writes Wade Foster for Zapier. “Games and other group activities that lend themselves to being in person are simply not a possibility on a day-to-day basis for remote teams.” As such, “your culture has to be built around something more than playing table tennis to unite the team.”

Instead, Foster states that culture is about how you work. Specifically, it should be rewarding. And, most importantly, it should be built around your mission and values.

2. Promote clear, open, and frequent communication.

“Communication – the human connection – is the key to personal and career success.” — Paul J. Meyer

Communication is, without question, the cornerstone of any healthy and productive community. In addition to making collaboration possible, this helps everyone get to know each other better. And, more imperative, this is how you share your company’s values and expectations.

What’s more, you need communication to give and receive feedback and address conflicts. And, it’s the only way that you’re going to keep everyone in the loop.

Tried and true solutions, like email, project management software, and conference calls are a start. But, you should also think outside the box. Some ideas would be:

  • Before your weekly Zoom team meeting, have everyone go around and recap their weekends.
  • At Buffer, team members share an aspect of their personal life they want to improve on Hackpad. You could also kick off each event by acknowledging a team member’s work or give them a birthday shoutout.
  • Host a weekly AMA (ask me anything) — make sure it’s the same time and day.
  • Plan a virtual lunch or after-hour events, such as a movie or game night.
  • Encourage virtual water coolers using tools Donut.
  • Have different Slack channels, like #Pets or #Music, so that your team can connect over common interests.
  • Create virtual clubs, like a book or film, for your peeps to bond over.
  • Schedule one-on-ones to check-in with your people.

And, to recreate an open-door policy, set your status to available on platforms like Slack or Hangouts. If others see that you’re online, then that’s when they can ask you quick questions or share a concern. If this will be a long time commitment, then share your calendar with them, so schedule a one-on-one.

3. Save teams from information overload and burnout.

Information overload, as described by Calendar co-founder John Hall, “is exposure to excessive amounts of information or data.” While not exactly a new phenomenon, we use media for an average of 12 hours and 9 minutes per day. Moreover, since we’re working from home, it’s becoming increasingly more difficult to unplug.

As if that’s not enough, we’re feeling overwhelmed by the amount of information being consumed. As a consequence, this is making us more stressed. It’s also negatively impacting our relationships and productivity.

While communication is critical, you also don’t want to over-communicate with your team. For instance, to avoid Zoom fatigue, you could replace video meetings with email, Slack, or whatever text method you prefer. Since this requires some extra effort, you’re more likely only to share relevant and essential information.

You could also follow in the footsteps of Help Scout. The company switched their weekly all-hands call with a video recap that’s sent every Monday.

“I love the Monday video updates,” states Nick Francis, Help Scout CEO. “They’re a great way to keep our remote team connected, celebrate accomplishments and update everyone on company news. The weekly team update has turned into something we all look forward to and talk about over the course of the week.”

4. Create psychological safety.

“A culture of psychological safety enables employees to be engaged,” writes Jake Herway for Gallup. “They can take risks and experiment. They can express themselves without the fear of failure or retribution.”

“Juxtapose this type of culture with one where employees feel too intimidated to speak up or share a new idea,” adds Herway. “It’s hard to imagine these employees can mentally allow themselves to be engaged at work.”

How can you cultivate psychological safety among remote teams? Start with the following techniques:

  • Share your mistakes, struggles, and weaknesses with your team.
  • Encourage feedback and ask for suggestions.
  • Invite them to challenge your ideas.
  • Rather than pointing fingers, use mistakes as learning opportunities.
  • Find ways for quieter members to contribute. For example, if they’re not comfortable speaking in front of others, they can share their ideas with you through email or one-on-one.
  • Let all team members be involved in the decision-making process.
  • Grant autonomy by letting them work when and however is best for them.

5. Overcome a challenge together.

While this may seem impossible when apart, you and your team can still bond over a challenge remotely. At Calendar, we’ve set up health and fitness challenges over Slack. Groove HQ has also done this with a 30-day push-up challenge.

“It may sound a bit odd, but right away, it felt energizing,” noted CEO Alex Turnbull. “Like we had just developed a deeper relationship across the team in a matter of hours.” In fact, over the next month, “tackling a shared goal has helped us connect on a deeper level than we do in our regular day-to-day work.”

The challenge was also “another touchpoint for our team to communicate with each other on,” says Turnbull. And, it helped counter the dark side of working alone.

“Even those of us who prefer to work ‘alone’ can struggle with that isolation every now and then,” he writes. “That’s why it’s so important to take breaks, play, have a social life, or do whatever it is that keeps you sane.”

6. Create a mentorship program.

One study found that mentors were more satisfied with their jobs and committed to the organization. Additionally, mentoring programs can develop new leaders, increase diversity, and retain your top talent. Also, they create a learning culture, promote personal and professional development, and reduce stress and anxiety.

Best of all? You can use your existing communication methods. For example, you could pair a new sales team member with a seasoned vet. From there, they could have weekly video meetups or quick chats with instant messaging apps or MentorcliQ.

7. Listen to Bill and Ted.

Finally, as William “Bill” S. Preston Esq. famously said, “Be excellent to each other!” How you decide to be kind and show gratitude is totally up to you. It could be something as simple as letting a colleague vent or offering to help them solve a problem.

You could also randomly send them a handwritten note or text thanking them for all of their hard work. If you have the budget for it, you could also send them snack boxes or goodies for their families, like books or dog toys.

And, if your entire team knocked it out of the park this past month, throw a pizza party. Just pick a time and then order some pies from their local pizzerias. Once you arrived, you could hop on Zoom for your virtual celebration.

Why Business Leaders Should Talk About Their Mental Health

By | Time Management | No Comments

For those of a certain age, I’m sure that being transparent about your mental health was taboo. Take my friends’ father, who’s a boomer, as an example. He never opened up about how he was feeling until one day he lost it. The stress, and the emotional and physical toll it took on him, finally came to head. And, he just started crying. I was floored. I mean I was always told that boys don’t cry. Here is why business leaders should talk about their mental health.

There’s been a sea of change when talking about mental health, and we can all learn from the shift.

Take Gen Z. They are more likely to seek help then other generations. Unfortunately, that figure is still low with only 37% reporting that they’ve received help from a psychologist or mental health professional.

Considering that some 450 million people suffer from a mental disorder, we still have a long way to go. And, this is particularly true for those in a leadership role.

For starters, as noted by the World Health Organization, “mental disorders among the leading causes of ill-health and disability worldwide.” As a consequence, this can affect people’s behaviorally, emotionally, and physically, such as:

The Link Between Mental Health and Work

Economically, mental health costs the global economy $ 1 trillion per year in lost productivity! Aetna Behavioral Health has also found that employee mental health costs rise twice as fast as other medical costs.

More specifically, mental health can be negatively affected by businesses:

What’s more, via the CDC, “Depression interferes with a person’s ability to complete physical job tasks about 20% of the time and reduces cognitive performance about 35% of the time.”

Besides impacting your bottom line, there’s another reason why you need to prioritize mental health at your company; employees demand it.

One study has found that 62% of employees want leadership to speak openly about mental health. But, other research has found this to be higher.

“Mental health is becoming the next frontier of diversity and inclusion, and employees want their companies to address it, write Kelly Greenwood, Vivek Bapat, and Mike Maughan over at HBR. “Eighty-six percent of our respondents thought that a company’s culture should support mental health.” However, it “was even higher for Millennials and Gen Zers, who have higher turnover rates and are the largest demographic in the workforce.”

“Half of Millennials and 75% of Gen Zers had left roles in the past for mental health reasons, both voluntarily and involuntarily, compared with 34% of respondents overall — a finding that speaks to a generational shift in awareness,” add the authors. “It is not surprising then that providing employees with the support they need improves not only engagement but also recruitment and retention, whereas doing nothing reinforces an outdated and damaging stigma.”

How to Promote Mental Health Wellness in Your Workplace

So, yeah. Mental health needs to become a priority for your business. By being transparent and removing the stigma around mental health, you’ll improve every facet of your organization. And, to get started, here are the steps you should take.

Change the culture.

Changing the culture is a top-down process,” writes Greenwood, Bapat, and Maughan. “It starts with transforming leaders into allies. Encourage executive teams, managers, and senior employees to share their experiences (or those of close family members or friends) at all-staff meetings or in other interactions with their teams.”

“Modeling disclosure and vulnerability as strengths, not weaknesses, goes a long way toward reducing the stigma and setting the tone for transparency,” they add.

Considering that almost half of entrepreneurs have experienced at least one form of mental health condition during their lifetime, you probably already have first-hand knowledge of this struggle. The challenge is to be open up about your experience. Once you do, this will help remove the stigma and encourage others to be more open about their struggles.

Additionally, if you want to change the culture, then you need to walk the walk. That means setting an example by showing others that you are addressing your well-being. For example, take breaks throughout the day and eat a healthy lunch. Most importantly, offer suggestions on how you addressed your mental health. If you spoke with a counselor, then refer an employee to that mental health professional.

Create an employee wellness program.

If you’re unfamiliar, an employee wellness program simply encourages healthy habits within the workplace. More importantly, it helps create a culture where health and wellness is a top priority.

To get started though, Howie Jones in a previous Calendar piece suggests using a Health Risk Appraisal (HRA) to assess your needs. “This is a questionnaire that reviews lifestyle practices like smoking and exercise,” explains Howie. “You could also conduct an interest survey and have your team rank what they would want the program to include.”

With this information, you can then design a program that works best for your company. For example, if a majority of your employees have admitted to dealing with a mental illness, then you may want to select a health insurance plan that covers mental health. You could also offer gym memberships, support services, or training to help them combat stress.

Focus on early intervention/prevention.

Let’s say that your bathroom faucet has a drip. You keep ignoring it thinking that it’s no big deal. Eventually, you may have to replace your sink because of water stains. Leaky faucets may also deteriorate caulk, grout, and damage ceilings and floorboards.

In short, don’t wait to solve this problem before it gets any worse.

The same is true with mental health. Educate your team on how they can cope with stress and anxiety. Provide support services, even if it’s paying for an app like Headspace. And, don’t punish them if they need to take a mental health day or leave early to speak with a therapist.

Enforce working hours.

Promote a healthy work-life balance by establishing boundaries. For instance, limit communication outside of office hours. That means not emailing an employee at midnight asking them a question that could wait until the morning.

You should also encourage them to set an out-of-office message in their calendar. Google and Outlook calendars have this feature. And, it’s a simple way to automatically reject event invites when you’re not available.

Cultivate a healthy and positive work environment.

Besides boosting productivity, healthy and positive work environments can improve morale and decrease turnover. Best of all, it’s not all that complicated to implement if you do the following:

  • Establish organizational guidelines that prevent bullying and harassment.
  • Show your gratitude and appreciation to your team members by recognizing their hard work.
  • Invest in your team’s well-being by investing in ergonomic furniture, providing healthy snacks, and placing plants throughout the workplace.
  • Help your employees curb vices and unhealthy habits.
  • Never motivate your team using fear.
  • Celebrate milestones and have fun through games and volunteering.

Frequently check-in with your employees.

Yes. You’ve got a million things to do. But, spend quality time with each team member. Get to know them better and ask how they’re doing. You don’t want to pry into their personal lives. But, checking-in with them builds trust. That means if they do have a mental health concern, they won’t be afraid to come to you for assistance.

Grant autonomy and flexible schedules.

Don’t micromanage your employees. Even better, provide flexible schedules and working arrangements so that they have opportunities to attend to their well-being.

Help them solve their time management problems.

Finally, help your team members improve their time management. That may not sound like much. But, if they’re struggling in this area, then don’t have the time to attend to their mental health. For example, help them prioritize their time so that they aren’t taking their work home with them. In turn, they’ll have more availability to work with a mental health professional or engage in healthy habits like exercising or meditating.

Operations Team Productivity: What They Do (and How to Build and Improve Yours)

By | Knowledge Base | No Comments

Even with the most competitive offerings or the most capable people representing them, it’s almost impossible for companies to achieve great things without reliable operations.

Not all small and mid-sized businesses have dedicated operations support, of course. Until they grow more sustainable, smaller companies might integrate operations into other divisions instead. But the danger there is allowing your teams to work in silos. And “by denying the opportunity to collaborate and cross-pollinate ideas,” says The 20 Media founder Pratik Dholakiya, “businesses contribute to their own speedy demise.”

Guess what helps reconnect those dots to keep everyone working toward the same goal? A dedicated operations team.

If you think it’s time to scale your operations workforce, you’re in the right place. In this post, you’ll learn how ops teams run businesses like well-oiled machines and the best ways to build your own.

First, the basics: What are operations, and how does this business function work?

The Operations Team Productivity: Roles and Responsibilities

Would you climb Mount Denali without a guide?

It’s a little easier to climb a behemoth like Denali with a trained mountaineer who can plot the course, gather all the right supplies, and plan for emergencies like bad weather.

In a company, that’s the operations team’s job.

An ops team’s #1 mission is to manage and optimize the details that keep its organization running profitably. That means delivering the resources that enable other departments to do their job – at peak efficiency and effectiveness – and cost-effectively converting their efforts into products and services that meet customers’ needs.

Phew. Let’s break that down a little. Here are a few examples of how the team supports each of the company’s stakeholders:

Employees

Operations might be responsible for keeping plenty of talent in the recruitment pipeline, promoting interdepartmental communication, supervising other teams’ activities, and figuring out how to best leverage resources to prevent and solve problems.

Executive team

Operations also lead business predictability by helping the C-Suite plan KPIs and holding them financially accountable. Some ops professionals are specifically trained to neutralize legal issues, too.

Customers

Ops teams rarely come into direct contact with customers, but it’s still their responsibility to make sure the company delivers the right products to the right customers on time. The product team relies on operations to recommend improvements, as ops are best positioned to weigh customer feedback against the company’s capacity.

Vendors

As any great ops professional will tell you, ensuring quality output means ensuring value at the source. To do this, the ops team focuses on acquiring inventory and services that maximize productivity, minimize risk and costs, and deliver on customer expectations.

You might have noticed a common thread here. For just about all activities, operations teams prioritize quality management. Not necessarily Steve Jobs-level attention to every detail of the business, but enough to:

  • Produce what needs to be produced without delays, errors, or rework.
  • Drive down failure costs, both internally and externally.
  • Find the best possible solutions to problems in any situation.
  • Ultimately inspire all stakeholders to champion the company’s value.

Before it can manage the quality of other business units, of course, operations must first manage itself. What’s the best set-up to achieve all these goals?

How to Build an Effective Operations Team

Step 1: Start from the Top Down.

A functional and well-run operations team relies on great support from the top down. Beyond the usual traits of great leaders, your ops manager will need a solid grasp of:

  • Various processes across the company, so your team can confidently coordinate and develop new methods.
  • Supply chain management, including knowledge of manufacturing, logistics, and transportation, if you’re a product-based company.
  • Problem-solving means pulling information from both an analytical and creative perspective.
  • Learning how to communicate effectively with all stakeholders.

Sure, all leaders need to communicate and solve problems. But an ops manager uses these skills on a bigger scale to unite people and processes seamlessly across the entire organization.

TIP: You can make your ops manager’s job much easier by making lines of communication easy to access. Digital channels (like project management or messaging apps) should be accessible for your ops teams to use on the go when they’re on a call, for example, while regular meetings can be a powerful way to sync up teams (as long as they’re not too regular). A written manual on communications processes can help clear up any confusion.

With those resources in place, you’re ready to think about the structure of the rest of the team.

Step 2: Organize Your Operations Team Structure.

In their book, The Practice of Cloud System Administration, three Silicon Valley-based authors describe the three sources and categories of operational work:

Sources of work

  1. Life-cycle management or the functional work — means to run a service within the company.
  2. Stakeholder interaction means meeting the needs of the people who use the service.
  3. Process improvement and automation mean the operational work needed to improve and upgrade various processes continually.
 

Categories of work

  1. Emergencies like power outages or emergency requests from other teams.
  2. Standard requests include questions about how to use a service or reports of the problems users experience.
  3. Project work, or the projects that automate and optimize team/company systems.

“It can be tempting to organize an operations team into three subteams, each focusing on one source of work or one category of work,” the authors write. But that creates those dreaded “silos of responsibility.”

Luckily, there’s a much simpler way to organize your team: Make project work the priority.

If you want to run your ops team at peak efficiency, you’ll need to focus most of its bandwidth on projects. Projects save them running from emergency to emergency until they burn out, or from slowing down to deal with interruptions (a big productivity killer).

How do you prioritize project work while responding to emergencies and requests promptly? There are two ways:

  1. Assign an emergency response team. If one person owns emergencies, and other standard requests, means that the rest of the team is free to focus all its energy on projects. TIP: Make sure the ERT emails out reports to the rest of the team, including alerts logged, action taken, trends noticed, and recommendations going forward.
  2. Take turns. Using a useful calendar management tool, you can move the team through a rotation for on-call duty (emergencies) and ticket duty (standard requests). TIP: Schedule each shift for no more than a week. Say you had a team of eight people; this would give each member a full six weeks of the cycle to focus on projects.

Depending on the size of the team’s workload, your ops manager might want to assign both on-call and ticket duty to one person or multiple people to one task. As long as they cross-train all team members, you’ll always be able to cover unexpected absences.

Bear in mind, though, that it’s best to limit each rotation to one person for a smoother hand-off to the next. Involving entire teams might lead to unnecessary meetings. It’s also good practice for the ops manager to include him- or herself in the rotation so they can keep tabs on what’s going on.

Step 3: Optimize Your Teamwork.

Congratulations: you now have a well-organized ops team.

But team-building doesn’t end there. It’s a journey – starting with every team member’s commitment to using the following six practices.

A knowledge bank

By documenting and sharing processes and templates across the team, you can streamline project management, cut time and effort wasted on reinventing the wheel, and ultimately ensure customers get the best results.

TIP: As with your communication channels, make it as quick and easy as possible for everyone to find these resources – using a tool like Box, for example.

A system of delivery

Take a standardized approach to deliver high-quality products and services by establishing bite-sized, repeatable processes in which everyone knows their role.

TIP: Projects are best accomplished in small teams. While solo projects disconnect team members and inhibit feedback, large teams face setbacks from decision-making challenges.

A system of measurement

Collect objective data on everything you do. How else can you improve your team’s output?

TIP: Google’s Objective and Key Results (OKR) is a great model to use. The aim is to set aggressive quarterly or annual targets, create incentives for your team to hit them, then stack up against your results against your forecasts.

(Keep in mind that because they’re so aggressive, you should only run 70% of your OKR goals.)

Productivity tracking.

To meet their many demands, operations teams should focus on getting the most done with as little time and resources as possible. Enter: time-tracking and productivity tools.

Here are a few ideas to get you started.

Team building.

Team-building activities are beneficial for many reasons, including productivity. Think of opportunities to bring the team together to take a break, reconnect, celebrate wins, and have a little fun.

Team sports are a simplified example and one of the best ways to foster teamwork and personal connections.

A safe space to vent.

Operations are one of the most complex and demanding functions of the business. That’s why it’s also the most in need of transparency.

There will be times when team members need to deliver criticism, hold others accountable, and admit their own failures to reach goals. The most important lesson they can learn, though, is that effective team performance isn’t always about hitting numbers. It’s about being agile enough to deal with missing them and confronting sensitive issues for the collective good of the team.

Is everyone on board with all six practices? Remember: Feedback makes the dream work.

Final Thoughts

By now, you should have all the ideas you need to build a capable operations team, assign smart roles, and streamline operations over time.

That leaves us with one last important question: What happens when challenges arise?

Nobody enjoys finding shortfalls in their teams or processes. But especially in operations, where one mistake sets off company-wide chains of events, it’s the name of the game. As the leader, your goal should be consistency: bringing underperformers up to standards, encouraging top performers to keep doing their very best, and keeping burnout at bay.

Does your company have a small operations team? What other best practices do you use to improve team performance? Share with us what worked for you in the comments.

Register Now & Get a 30 Day Trial Register Now