We’ve all been in the following situation:
We’re waiting on a deliverable from a colleague and the deadline is fast approaching. We decide it’s time to check in on the status of things.
Now at first blush this seems straight forward. In an office, it’s as simple as swinging by the colleague’s desk to see what’s up.
But how about when we are working remotely? Easy. We just pick up the phone and give them a ring, right?
Well, as you’ve probably guessed, it’s not always that simple.
In this lesson we’ll discuss why that is and how we can do remote check-ins the right way.
If you are managing teams or collaborating with colleagues remotely, you’ll want to stick around for this.
Alright, let’s get back to business.
So at this point you’ve probably got this whole remote work situation under control (if that’s not the case, fear not: we have a starter lesson for you here [link video]).
But there’s an often-overlooked part of working from home that we wanted to zoom in on (no pun intended): the all-important check-in call.
When you do a check-in in person, you have a lot of extra information you can use to calibrate how you engage with the colleague. Do they look frantic? You can soften your tone. Do they look surprised or confused? It might be worth first stepping back and making sure they’re clear on what needs to be done.
Also, when checking in with someone in person, it’s not that easy for them to put you off. After all, you’re standing right there in front of them. It’s not like they can thrown on their invisible cloak. One way or another, you’ll get an answer.
But it gets more complicated when you aren’t in the same office.
Suddenly you have much less information about their current state of affairs. You can’t read their body language and facial expressions. You don’t know if they are completely swamped or twiddling their thumbs.
You are also at greater risk of being ignored. Emails and texts get lost in the shuffle. Must have been that dang spam box, eh?
And you also don’t want to pester the person. Chances are they are busy and have every intention of getting the deliverable to you by the deadline. So you might feel a bit uncomfortable about butting in. But all the same, you do need to be sure.
So the question is: how do you get your status update without being ignored or seeming pushy?
The solution comes down to striking a balance between authoritative, empathetic, and proactive.
Authoritative because you are responsible for keeping things on track. Empathetic because you recognize we’re all human and life throws us curveballs. And proactive because you are willing to step up and help if something’s gone awry.
Ready for the template?
“Hey [name]. I know you’re working on [project name]. I just wanted to see if you have any questions or anticipate any obstacles to meeting our deadline. Happy to assist however I can.”
Now the important thing is to deliver this check-in via a phone call.
Phone calls aren’t as good as in-person interaction, but at least you get to hear their tone of voice (Are they stressed? Uncertain?) and they hear yours (which should be calm and friendly). This can go a long way toward humanizing the interaction and keeping everyone on good terms. That leads to better project outcomes.
Phone calls are also harder to ignore than emails and texts. They are more immediate, so you get your information right when you need it. And if the call doesn’t connect, leave a voice mail and send them an email with the same exact template.
This wording signals that you are holding them accountable, but you understand there could be complications and are prepared to help them through any challenges if they arise. This last bit is important for ensuring that you aren’t ignored.
So there you have it: a polite, collaborative way to keep on top of deliverables from your team.
What’s nice about this template is that it also works well in person. So you should feel free to use it even when you aren’t working remotely.
The most important thing to do when using this is to be firm but friendly. When people know you mean business but that you’re also there to lend a helping hand, they tend to be much more open and solutions oriented.
So now that I've shared our thoughts, I’d love to hear your own ideas for checking in with clients, contractors, and colleagues remotely. What strategies do you have for politely reaching out to them? What other ideas do you have?
Share that with me and the Explearning community in the comments down below.
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With that, have an awesome week, Explearners.
Thank you so much for joining me and I’ll see you next time for your next Explearning lesson.
Happy Explearning ⚡