Have you worked on a project where the team members aren’t participating in meetings, don’t show up to meetings, or aren’t collaborating on your projects? As a project manager, I am always concerned about stakeholder engagement on a project; and it is our responsibility to help ensure we are getting engagement from our team.
Regardless of the reason for which members are not engaged in your project, lack of engagement can be detrimental to any project. Lack of engagement can cause:
- Missed deadlines
- Stakeholder disappointment
- Project failure
What can we do, as a remote project manager, to improve stakeholder engagement on our projects?
As a remote project manager, we don’t get to see project team members in the hall or on our lunch breaks. Being out of sight can lead to our team members not being as engaged as they would be when project managers are not remote. Increasing interactions with the team help keep the project on the forefront of our team members’ mind. However, be careful about how these interactions are conducted. For example, we don’t want to contribute to inbox overload, so some interactions need to be outside the email communication channel. We also want to be sure we respect our team members’ time, so our interactions need to have purpose.
As a remote project manager, many of our interactions come in the form of conference calls. Project team members may find it easy to not be engaged during our conference calls. It is easy for team members to place their mic on mute and work on other tasks like responding to emails or having conversations with others in the vicinity. What can we do during conference calls to help ensure we are getting the level of engagement needed to make our project successful?
- One thing we can do is ensure we have heard from everyone during the conference call. If you know one of your team members cares about a specific part of the project, make sure you are hearing from that person when the topic is being discussed. Another option is to ask each team member open-ended questions throughout the call. A question like “What do you think about __________?” can be used to get your team participating in the discussions.
- One more tactic you can use on conference calls is to add a video. Adding videos allows the team members to feel more connected to the others on the call. Videos can also help with communication as you can see visual cues such as body language. Keep in mind that videos can impact a conference call quality due to bandwidth requirements, so care needs to be given to maintain a quality call.
- Another way to help increase engagement is to have a reward for those contributing the most, meeting determined criteria for engagement or a positive change in their engagement. This could include a gift card or even paid time off – with proper approval. You will want to mix up the incentive over time and consider varying the frequency of the incentive so the incentives don’t get stagnant and predictable. A little reward can help encourage people to speak up and stay engaged. Keep in mind when incentives are used, we want to make sure they are used for valuable contributions.
If these solutions don’t work, you must have an open and honest conversation with the team members who are not engaged. Your goal for this conversation is to identify the roadblocks that are causing the team member not to engage on the project and then, hopefully, work with the team member to identify solutions to the roadblocks. Depending on your level of authority, and the outcome of this tactic, you may have to elevate the issue to direct manager or senior leadership team.