Rutgers Enactus President on How to Successfully Manage Online

October 6, 2020

Rutgers President Meghana Pinninti discusses how her team has adapted to running entirely online.

When Covid-19 first hit, Rutgers was one of the early schools to close down and move to an all virtual environment.

Over the summer and into the fall, Rutgers has remained fully online which has forced the team to adapt and learn how best to manage a team that is entirely remote.

This article highlights and summarizes some of the points that are included within the full interview above.

Train Members to Work Remote

Even if your members are generally tech savvy and understand tools like Zoom and Slack, they don't understand how specifically your team uses those tools and the expectations surrounding those platforms.

Rutgers is holding a "Leadership Town Hall" where the executive team and project leaders will explain what the virtual semester is going to look like. They explained how the general meetings will be structured and explained specifics about using Zoom and Slack. Their general meetings start out with updates and then they move into breakout rooms for each of the projects to mimic how they meet in person.

They are training their team on how to effectively use Zoom and expectations around online meetings. They are also sharing best practices and expectations for using Slack.

It's important you explain the expectations so people can feel more comfortable in how they use these tools.

Learning how to be an effective team member in a virtual environment, and how to hold yourself accountable, is helping members with their professional development.

Showcase and Highlight the Culture

Culture and motivation are two of the biggest things.

The team has been stressing the importance of holding bonding events.

Virtually, this is translating into movie nights and other social hangouts.

The leadership is developing a culture that lets all their members know the executive role is to support the members.

They strive to make the team a place where friendships flourish and bonds exist outside of the meetings.

Prior to Covid, the team would hold a social banquet to celebrate the team.

Communication of Expectations is Important

Especially in the midst of so much ongoing uncertainty, its important that your team is providing a greater degree of structure and predictability.

The leadership team realized they need to provide an even higher degree of instruction and clarity around what is expected of each member.

They re-instated the requirement that each member attend the weekly team meeting; they realized it was vital to staying informed and connected with the team. Prior to Covid, the team did not require attendance at general team meetings so long as you were attending all of your project meetings.

They have also provided more explicit structure about the requirements for each project: 

  • meet at least bi-weekly,
  • provide regular updates & deliverables as defined by the executive team,
  • bi-weekly meeting with executives.

Rutgers Enactus created a new Slack channel #calendar that provides everyone access to the upcoming events, and important links.

Its really important that everyone is in the loop with everything, but also that there's a set clear structure so that its simple for our members to know what to do.

When working with community partners on projects, Rutgers realized they had to be more explicit in communicating its plans and directions during this time of change.

They have updated their MOU (Memorandum of Understanding) that Enactus and the community partner signs to explain what each partner is responsible for. They have updated the MOU to take into account Covid-19 and how that has impacted the team's capabilities and timelines.

The MOU is an important process and document for defining the roles and expectations of Enactus and the community partner for managing a successful relationship.

Pivot Projects & Members Towards Research & Development

Rutgers has started implementing a "Project Process Map" to plan how the project would adapt to being in-person or fully online.

They have been pushing their project teams to invest more time into the research of their ideas since there is less opportunity to meet in person and network within the community.

Rutgers Enactus has a Director of R&D which is responsible for all members who are not assigned to a project. Members are put into R&D groups and they are responsible for coming up with their own initiatives.

The R&D Director hosts a brainstorming event at least once per semester where the team discusses issues the team would like to address and how they might develop a project around that topic.

If you can't work on specific projects this semester, you should be developing your R&D efforts to engage members in brainstorming and research.

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