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When times change, our way of working changes as well. Many of us work remotely – away from those we used to work with all week. One of the challenges of working remotely is maintaining good communication and a sense of community with our client and the team. The first weeks of working from home creates new team dynamics. We are busy setting up our workstation, learning to use new communication and collaboration tools, and figuring out how to best interact with those we used to sit in close proximity to. But once our remote teams settle into a sense of normalcy, our interactions with others may become shorter and less frequent. Our clients need to feel confident that we are still performing and collaborating well. This is an opportunity to show them how Mindtree is different from other companies. How do we do that?

Maintain trust

Hopefully, we have already established a high level of trust with our clients before we changed working venues. We need to ensure that our clients feel confident and comfortable that we are maintaining that same level of collaboration and transparency. Don't let your guard down. Go the extra mile to show that collaboration can be just as effective now as it always has been. It may take more effort to have a quick group collaboration because of distance and technology limitations, but make the effort. Show that we are professionals who do what it takes to maintain normalcy even under changing circumstances.

Embrace the new normal

Before remote work, your team operated within a set of either written or assumed guardrails. When remote work becomes the new normal, it is time to reevaluate and agree on a new ‘team working agreement.’ Remote work brings new expectations on how to communicate with each other and our clients, how we handle conflict at a distance, and how we support each other as a team. As a team, make time to discuss and decide what these new norms are and set proper expectations for adherence. Then share your new strategies with your client. Show them you are proactively tackling this challenge head-on.

Communicate like a pro

Communicating expertly demonstrates professionalism. When working from home, face-to-face communication – the best form of communication – is rarely possible, so our next best option is video. While video is better than a phone call or email or online chat, it still limits our ability to catch some non-verbal cues. It is much easier to miscommunicate and misunderstand when we don't notice body language, facial expressions, and tone of voice due to poor video quality, audio quality, or screen size. George Bernard Shaw once said, "The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place." It is crucial to make sure you are understood, and not just heard. Ask qualifying questions and validate that what you said or heard is actually what was intended. Taking deliberate steps to reduce misunderstandings will go a long way towards showing that we communicate well, even at a distance.

Be accountable

Conflicts will arise even when we are not physically together. When conflicts do arise, own up to your part of it. Instead of battling to place blame, focus on a solution. There is often a difference between why we think someone did something, and the actual reason they did it. Give them a chance to explain their side, and truly listen. Demonstrating accountability to our clients shows them that we are trustworthy and can resolve issues without the client needing to step in or escalate. Bi-weekly team retrospectives are great for getting issues out in the open where they can be resolved. However, if bi-weekly is too long a wait, start having brief micro-retrospectives at the end of your daily video or phone check-ins. Exhibit to your client how you can successfully adapt to change.

Lighten up

Whenever change occurs, there is uncertainty. We always need to perform at the highest level, but when we are at a distance, don't expect everyone on your team, and even our clients, to behave the same way they do at the office. Allow and even encourage humor. Be a little more flexible and adaptable when things don't go perfectly. Be supportive of those who may struggle with remote technology or have family distractions. You'll be surprised how your working relationships will improve by a single word of kindness.

Stephen Hawking said, "Intelligence is the ability to adapt to change." Moving to remote work is a big change. Be creative and innovative when you work remotely and demonstrate to our clients that Mindtree will not only rise to any challenge, but will surpass their expectations. The best working-from-home and distributed team ideas are yet to be discovered. Let's show our clients how Mindtree is different by exceeding their remote-work expectations.

Be happy, be Agile!

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About the Author

Dwight Kingdon
Program Director - Agile CoE

Dwight Kingdon is an Agile Coach at Mindtree. He is a thought leader in Agile methods and best practices, leveraging many years of software development, analysis, project management and leadership experience. Dwight has 25+ years of project management experience leading complex information technology projects, and over nine years of Agile/Scrum experience coaching and leading high profile, mission critical projects.

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