I have been doing a lot of traveling lately. I had one of those situations today where things were just not going my way. The stern looking attendant at the counter hardly paid any attention to me. I finally looked at her and said “You can at least look me in the eye when you are talking to me.” She glanced at my face for about 100 ms and immediately went back to her computer screen. For those 100 ms I felt like I was in the sights of a pterodactyl. This is not uncommon for the service we get from many service providers. I will not mention this particular airline as they have a few thousand more attorneys on staff than I have.
A few weeks ago I flew to Europe on Lufthansa airlines. I will mention their name and maybe their lawyers will call to thank me. What a stark difference. There were smiles everywhere I went. As I was boarding the lady that checked my ticket took the time to notice my name, looked up at me and smiled saying, “Have a nice flight Mr. Vaughan.” I could not help but to respond that she had a beautiful smile.
Imagine the difference in my perspective in these two situations. I took some time to think about how this related to me as a project manager. How do I connect with those I with whom I work? I wrote in an earlier blog that project management is a value added service. Therefore to be successful we must act like any other successful service organization. We must think of our team members and fellow project managers as partners. Much more than that, we must treat them as partners. We must be fair, honest and make connections with those partners.
I truly believe that the success of project management is highly dependent on interpersonal skills. One of PMIs nine knowledge areas is human resources. In that area they stress the need for team building and team development. Further they emphasize that it is the responsibility of the project manager to build teams and provide opportunities for team development.
In this area the project manager must take a leadership position. To be a leader you must act the way that you would like others to act. You must lead by example. If you are as cold as a prehistoric reptile then those around you will act the same. I have seen this syndrome in many organizations. The ethical values and modus operandi of the person at the top becomes that of the organization.
To be successful you must provide service with a smile. That does not mean that you become so soft that you lose sight of the project objectives. There still must be accountability and there will be some very tough conversations. (More on this next time.) It is important that you connect with your team. Smile with them, laugh with then and most of all MAKE EYE CONTACT! In this way your team will be more willing to work for you and deliver on their commitments.
Service with a smile. This could be your key to success.