3.2 How Mentors Can Ensure the Successful Integration of Virtual Project Management

The importance of a mentor can be invaluable for ensuring staff realise their full potential, benefitting the individuals personally and the organization. Mentoring in project management can also be of huge value and importance to a company, especially when using a project management tool or platform. It is vital that as a mentor you are doing it in the most effective way possible. An unstable process, poor leadership, cultural barriers, and lack of resources and tools can lead to a failed attempt at implementing virtual project management. Mentors can ensure successful integration by ensuring the following steps are taken.

Establish stable communication tools

Communication as it is a vital element needed to succeed in virtual project management and should always be open. Your client should have all the reliable tools that they need to communicate to their team members. There should be communication software they can use for video conferences, there should be the ability to conduct direct interaction with each team member. Make sure that there is a backup system if ever the main communication tool is down to ensure continuous communication among team members.

An internal chatroom is essential too where team members can ask quick questions, or they can chit chat to relieve stress and not feel burnt out.

Have the right technology in place

Make sure the right technology is in place so the company can maximize the use of project management platforms and technology-mediated communication systems. Ensure that broadband is capable and adequate and that goes for both in-house and remote employees. Make sure that support is available related to technology, and you are also available whenever you are needed.

Build trust

This is important in a traditional office setting but is especially important in virtual project management. Remember that the client and employees are working with people from different locations are they don’t get to bump into each other during coffee breaks or lunch hours. They really can’t see through their feelings because you would rarely have small chit chats. Build trust by being a mentor you could create reliable voted team leaders to the employees. You can in turn mentor the employees through the leaders, ensure you are responsive to all involved, and set expectations not just for the leaders but for the team and manager as well. The virtual workers will feel more comfortable when they know that you and the leader will be there for them when they need you.

Again, communication is important. Answer important questions as soon as you can and don’t leave them hanging when they have concerns. Give them plenty of guidance and support tailored to their needs and individual projects. Praise them when they are doing well to ensure they continue doing what is expected, upkeep the momentum, and motivate them to work harder. An important part of this is knowing that what is said goes no further than the room you are in is essential for allowing the bond to develop

Conduct team meetings

This is the best way to communicate plans and goals across the board. This will also allow for team members to exchange their thoughts and ideas. A mentor needs to have good meeting management skills. Encourage team members to speak up during project management meetings and be sure to set goals. Let them know what is expected of them by the end of each meeting, and what is going well, and address the gaps with appropriate training when needed. Asking questions will ensure comprehension from members so make sure you ask questions frequently to determine their level of understanding. Be concise and speak a bit slowly. Use screen-sharing tools during meetings such as Skype and Zoom.

Track work hours, attendance, and work output

This is necessary to ensure the team’s productivity. It is a lot of the time a challenge to keep track of your client’s productivity since you can’t see exactly what they are doing. You might need to ask them for an end-of-day report. With virtual project management, you can see virtually how they are doing, track all their activity and actions, get automated reports, tasks assigned, etc. You can ensure ad-hoc and remotely how they are working to optimal capacity and capability, you will know how each team member is progressing, how long it takes to finish a task, etc. You can conduct mentoring sessions either virtually or in-house to improve their productivity. Provide assessments and be transparent in letting them know what they need to improve on.

Follow a system

Every business needs to follow a stable and solid system. Without it, things will be all over the place. Make sure that all members follow the same system and processes. Remember setting clear expectations and outlining protocols and guidelines, to ensure everyone is on the same page. Ensure everyone understands the appropriate behaviours of the system, such as, using effective problem-solving techniques; providing feedback, using the best approach to a task or project, supporting each other, and documenting resolutions on an issue log that is part of the knowledge repository. Monitoring this system and providing feedback through meetings and mentoring sessions allows you as a mentor to ensure the system is in check and you are enhancing the knowledge, skills, and competencies of all staff involved.

Consider the leadership of the company

Consider the leadership style or structure of the company, this means you might need to use a different leadership style than the one you use in a traditional work setting. It does not matter how effective the style is used with the in-house employees; you may need a different strategy for your remote workers, so you need to have flexible leadership skills. Remember that even though team members are on different sides of the world, they share the same purpose, and all have shared accountabilities. Focus on the managers. Communicating goals and plans effectively is important as well as supervision. They need to put extra effort to follow up on the team’s progress and provide updates to them whenever there are changes.

Create a roadmap

Provide a concrete plan or road map that is being followed so that all the people working on a project are on the same page. This sets the expectations from virtual team members and makes sure the interaction among team members is solid. The first step to take with the team/mentees is to explain the process and get something concrete written down and have a project management software that will allow you to track progress. It is key that they understand what they are trying to get out of the process and a roadmap helps to visualize the path that the company and projects will take. The roadmap can change over time but a good place to start is to write down some development and professional goals at important milestones, for example within six months, a year, and five years. After that, you can work out how these can be aligned and achieved.

Think long-term

It can be easy to focus on the immediate necessities of professional life and the things that must be learned straight away. The importance of a mentor is that it gives the team or team members space to take a longer-term look at what they want to do and where their strengths lie. This can make a big difference when choosing which task strands in a project to focus on.

Ability to extend the project management program, this means assisting new people in joining or even an entire team, to ensure that everyone has a common understanding of the vision of the program and project and his or her responsibilities in terms of the program or project’s specific goals and objectives. Other objectives are to develop knowledge, skills, and core competencies; prepare people for managerial or executive roles; provide one-on-one personal attention; work to improve group effectiveness and team development; focus on career advice and development; provide advice; and support the individual and group as appropriate.

Make the time to be available

Showing that you are committed to the role of a mentor is an important sign that you are interested in seeing the team/mentee advance. Rather than leaving things to chance, set out times when you will discuss the team/mentee’s progress with their plan, such as every two weeks or once a month. It can also be good to let them know that you are available to discuss any issues they might come across related to their professional tasks.

Advance the Mentoring

Gradually advance the mentoring to the pace and needs of the company. Continue to develop the virtual project management structure, software, and capabilities to suit its needs and further advance the company so it can keep up with trends and digital demands. The team needs to be continually progressing and improving to external competitive factors and implications. It is your job to realize where the gaps lie and ensure the virtual project management system adapts and closes these gaps promptly, effectively, and efficiently promptly. You need to always be 10 steps ahead and use your role as a mentor to explore all the available possible paths that are available and possible.