I have written the below DOs and DON´Ts many years ago as a set of standards which I will apply, to the best of my abilities, to the projects I lead and which I expect project members to apply to their work. Upon inspection today, I find that most of them still hold true, possibly with one exception. But let´s have a look at the original version first:
Dos and Don´ts of working together in projects
• DO write subject lines to your e-mails and make them distinguishable. It´s going to be awfully difficult to find one specific e-mail four weeks down the road from now among 1272 e-mails which all have the subject line “Project Whatever”.
• DO show up in time for meetings, even the internal ones. Respect your own time and others´.
• DO use the possibilities of our telephone system (e.g. voicemail) when you are not in your room or cannot take calls because you have to work concentratedly or when you are talking to someone in your office.
• DO give people you are working with clear instructions and as much background as they need to know to fulfill their tasks. Tell them what it is all about, what you want them to do and in what form and when you would like their reply. Make up your mind about this before you instruct people.
• DO keep an eye on your current workload and let others know when you cannot take on any more. It´s okay to say no.
• DO let your colleagues and clients know when you can´t keep a deadline. Do so as soon as possible and before the deadline runs out.
• DO speak to the project manager before you draw in other colleagues into a project because of your workload. If you get the OK, it is your responsibility to give them all the instructions they need.
• DO make significant descriptions of your work when registering your time. Use the language that is used for communication with the client also for your time entries.
• DO use your common sense in whatever you do.
• DON`T answer your mobile phone during meetings, both internal and external. Let your voicemail take the call. If you absolutely have to take a call during a meeting: put your mobile phone in silent mode, leave the room quietly and talk outside.
• DON`T expect others to take your calls whenever, wherever. This applies even if you are a partner.
• DON`T read e-mails on your smartphone during meetings, both internal and external. Focus on the meeting now and on your e-mails afterwards.
• DON`T expect people to check their e-mails whenever, wherever. If you need their input urgently, give them a call first.
• DON`T do to others what you don´t want them do to you.
DON`T expect anybody – including yourself – to follow the above all the time. But DO your best to do so.
The exception I am wondering about today is, of course, my point of not taking calls or reading e-mails during meetings. I still think that is a good general rule to go by and I find a lot of support in neuroscience and workplace research which tells us we are not really so good at doing two things at the same time. However, I also realize that different generations handle this issue completely differently (I´m from the seventies…). Also, there are different cultural norms: In Sweden, where I live, it seems very much accepted to take calls and read and write messages wherever, whenever.
So, how about a compromise? I would like to draw some inspiration from my yoga teacher who tells us “If you need to leave a position early, e.g. because of pain, by all means do so. But ask yourself first: do I really need to do that or am I just bored or frustrated?” I find that a very sensible question which would apply well also to talking on the phone, or e-mailing or twittering or whatever else these smart little machines allow us to do: “Do I really need to or want to do that? Or am I just bored?”
What do you think?