In a fast-paced world, with an abundance of technology from AI, to Social Media, to Mobile Phones, and Computers, very seldom do we pause and listen.
The more consumed we become with technology the less social interaction we experience, and slowly we lose our ability to effectively read social and non-verbal cues.
Stop & Listen
When last did you stop to listen? Listen to understand, and not to respond.
When we listen with the goal of coming up with a response, we detach ourselves from what is being said and are unable to fully grasp what is being communicated.
I have fallen into this trap many times, and need to consciously remind myself to listen, to understand, and not just respond.
In today’s COVID-19 world our ability to communicate in person has been drastically limited, and in some countries this has been restricted entirely at many times.
South Africa, the beautiful country I get to call home, has been in a hard lockdown for the majority of the past year.
This lockdown meant that we were unable to see people in person, we were unable to see our families and loved ones, and were certainly unable to liaise face to face in our working environment.
And so, we all had to learn how to adapt, how to communicate through video calls, emails, and texting.
At first this felt very foreign to me and it took me a while to adjust to this new normal, however I have found that we are very easily able to adapt to a new way of living, even if at first it feels uncomfortable.
On top of being unable to meet face to face, there is also the issue of wearing masks that has been thrown into the mix.
In South Africa, this is currently still a legal requirement.
When out in public it is compulsory to wear masks, failure to do so can lead to one receiving a fine or being prosecuted.
Because of this we are limited even further in terms of the cues available to us in communicating.
So what does all of this have to do with project management?
With being unable to rely on non-verbal body language to fully understand our clients, it has become even more pressing that I listen, and that I listen to fully understand what it is our clients are hoping to achieve.
Without fully understanding this, the remainder of the project management process will be ineffective.
Being able to fully understand our client’s goals at the very beginning of their journey with Spark Outbound ensures that we are able to create custom campaigns that align with our client’s goals.
When liaising with a client, communication usually takes place through emails and video calls.
In combining these two platforms there is less room for miscommunication, and any misunderstandings can be clarified at the beginning of our process.
At times, when engaging with a client through a video call I do not necessarily have immediate feedback as I feel it best to rather process and ensure I understand what has been discussed, and will contact the client l if I have any follow-up questions.
In doing this, it allows me to fully engage with the client on our calls and allows me to listen to understand, and not just to respond.
In our initial consultation with our clients, I need to ensure that I thoroughly understand their objectives.
Along with this, it is also vital that the client’s expectations and timelines are communicated timeously and wholly to our team.
This is communicated through our project management software, as well as through email, and when needed, video calls.
On an operational level, I ensure that we have sufficient resources in order to help our clients reach their goals.
This includes re-evaluating our current organizational structure and employing the correct staff members to ensure we are able to provide a bespoke service to our clients at all times, assessing our processes both internally and in terms of our customer journey, as well as implementing new project management tools when necessary to ensure we are all aligned in terms of individual tasks, project timelines, client expectations, and the ongoing progress of campaigns.
All of these elements ensure that our clients receive the best possible quality of service at all times.
It is imperative that I am aware of all ongoing projects, the different components, as well as any projects in our pipeline. This allows me to make sure we are budgeting correctly, and that we have the necessary resources.
Being aware of this allows me to identify any delays in our process, as well as any problems, thus allowing us to address these immediately and find a solution.
Adapting To The COVID-19 World
How has Spark Outbound adapted to the COVID-19 world, ensuring that we consistently deliver a high-quality service to our clients?
Firstly, the use of technology has been paramount in maintaining communication between our internal team and clients.
As an international company with an office in Tampa, Florida and Cape Town, South Africa we have become accustomed to communicating through technology on a daily basis.
It is important that we do not undermine the value of face-to-face meetings, even if this is done through technology.
Our new project management software that I have recently implemented ensures that all expectations are clearly communicated to our internal team.
Secondly, as an international company, it is essential that we are conscious of possible language and cultural barriers.
As a team, if we are unable to do this, we would be unable to effectively communicate.
Having the awareness of this possible setback is of critical importance.
This awareness is not only relevant to our internal team but also includes our clients who in my case are predominantly based in the US.
Although we are both English-speaking countries, I have had to adapt certain phrases and specific words that I would have used in South Africa.
This adaptation is needed for a multitude of reasons, such as being inappropriate historically or politically, or an uncommon phrase that is not used in the US.
Thirdly, as the Director of Operations I need to ensure that the relevant information is accurately relayed to the correct team members.
It is not necessary that all team members are aware of everything that is happening, if they were this could lead to confusion over their specific tasks and roles.
When liaising with team members I need to determine the best method of communicating within a specific situation.
As an example, in order to illustrate a new process, it may be beneficial to do a screenshare as opposed to sending an email.
The same concept applies when communicating with our clients, for some clients it may be due to a personal preference or based on what is most appropriate for what needs to be communicated.
Fourthly, we ensure that there is regular communication with all our clients and the relevant internal team members.
Personally, I like to take detailed notes during each meeting and I still prefer the old-fashioned way of writing them by hand.
It is also important that I store these notes in the relevant place so that we can stay on top of any previous discussions, new ideas, concepts, etc.
And lastly, as a dynamic, remote, and creative team it is important that the team feels they have the space to bring new ideas to the table, any concerns, or any issues that are bothering them.
I try to ensure that the team is aware of our open-door policy and that they are most welcome to speak with me at any time.
It is also important that I am able to hold a safe and non-judgmental space for the team to feel that they can speak to me freely and that they will have my complete attention.
To sum it up, I believe that every individual has a right to their own opinions and perspectives and that it is up to us as a society to allow each other the space to express these, in both a social and business environment.
“Effective communication requires more than an exchange of information. When done right, communication fosters understanding, strengthens relationships, improves teamwork, and builds trust” – Liz Papadopoulos– Liz Papadopoulos