Every January I take time to re-read the Christmas cards I received from friends and family. It’s so busy in December that it can feel like opening cards is just another to-do on my already long list. But once the holidays are over and winter settles in, I make a cup of tea, curl up on my sofa, and go through the cards at a more leisurely pace.
What I love most about my January tradition is noticing the little details in each card; more than how old the kids are or if someone changed addresses, but “I wonder what they loved most about their time in San Diego?” and “wow, he looks more and more like his dad every year!”
Some of my favorite cards are the ones with personal notes and family letters. We have one friend who sends a picture of himself and his wife…and their latest bunny. I always look forward to seeing that one!
Each card is special because it shows the sender’s unique personality and how they approach the holidays.
Have you noticed how wide the variety is in the cards? Sparkles, stickers, photos, drawings, and cartoons. Card stock, photo paper, flat, folded…it’s incredible. I always wonder: why did they select this particular card? What did they like so much about it? “Because they were on sale” doesn’t tell the whole story – there was more than one design in the sale rack. They chose that card.
Even doing the same task, individuality comes through. Each person approaches buying, preparing, and sending holiday cards from a completely different angle.
So—how about your team, your executives, and your end users?
You’ve heard that when you gather ten people in a room they come out with eleven different opinions. This shouldn’t be a surprise. But have you ever thought about why?
Everyone at work is influenced by their position and department, the corporate culture, how their week is going, and their enjoyment of the task at hand. They’re also impacted daily by how they slept the night before, the weather, the traffic, the day of the week, their personal relationships, and past experience.
I could go on, but the point is this: it’s nearly impossible for two people on the same team to have identical views on anything.
How do you get anything done without resorting to draconian tactics?
Project management fundamentals will bring you a long way: a clear goal, scope, timeline, RACI, etc. Your colleagues will follow clear guidance because they want to succeed at this project!
No PM loves running a project where their people follow orders with no enthusiasm. It doesn’t just feel flat but in fact limits your project’s ability to succeed. Why is this? Because enthusiasm means there is hope and confidence. These, in turn, mean your team will bring their best game to the project, including out-of-the-box problem solving.
As the Project Manager, you can foster enthusiasm by paying attention to the people on your team (core, executive, extended) by meeting them where they actually are, not where you’d like them to be.
You’re probably not be able to curl up on the couch and spend an afternoon think about each person’s motivation. But you can pay attention to how they talk about a task in your next meeting and their approach to a particular issue. You can notice their relationships with other team members and whether they’re perpetually late (or early).
Even if you’re not in the same room, how does your team member (let’s call him John) seem today on Zoom? Is John quieter than usual or is his camera off? Does he seem particularly frustrated with a topic or does his comments have more of a bite to them this week?
Consider what might be going on in John’s head. He may have pressure from other projects (or perhaps it’s year-end close…or annual budget time and he’s under the gun). Maybe he has an issue that he hasn’t figured out how to handle yet and it’s putting him off his game. Take a closer look at John’s calendar the next time you schedule a meeting. Is his calendar a sea of blue?
Knowledge is power. If we understand, we can help.
One final thought. No matter what we’ve learned about John’s unique attitude and motivation, we have to remember that every person’s opinion and approach is valid. Our role is to pay attention and remove barriers so the whole team can move forward, not just John.
It’s not always easy to keep a group of people moving forward in synch, but a little extra effort to understand each team member will give you the insight you need to keep your team members motivated, and that makes success a whole lot easier to achieve.