Project Leadership and the PM - Mixed Messages are Mixed Up!
No one would argue that good project managers and construction companies value leadership. Likewise, in the business world, government and elsewhere, the value of good leadership is constantly praised. Well, if that's the case, why does just about everyone do such a lousy job at leading? Let me tell you what's bugging the "coach" today, and how you can prosper from realizing it also.
I was in a well-known home improvement store ordering materials for a remodeling project. Two clerks at the counter where I was standing were talking, and the conversation went something like this: "Those guys need some help over in plumbing. The one guy is new and the other doesn't know anything."
Here's my point: mixed messages are counterproductive. Let's look a bit deeper at this example and see how it relates to your project.
I'll bet you that the parent corporation of that home improvement store spends millions of dollars each year on training their people to portray a professional image to every potential customer entering the store. Agree? And yet, here were two clerks bad-mouthing two other employees - right in front of me - just as I am about to rely upon their expertise to place a special order for me. Heck of a mixed message: "You can trust me, but everyone else here doesn't know what they're doing!" Am I right?
So, if you had not heard the first two clerks trash the other two, would your opinion of the company be better or worse? And, does division in one area help or hurt the bigger picture?
Let's apply this to our construction projects. How often have you heard something like this said, on your own projects, and in earshot of the owner, the owner's rep or the inspector, by someone working on the job:
- "It's good enough. What do you expect? He's just an apprentice."
- "After the sun gets on it for a few months, you'll hardly notice it."
- "Geez, Charlie, who taught you to lay out a line like that?"
- "Yeah, Fred isn't much of a foreman."
- "Man, that's a raggedy-looking piece of equipment."
Better yet, insert the comments that you have heard on your own jobs! Get the bigger picture?
While we shake our heads in disbelief about the way big companies operate, we sometimes forget about issues in our own company. We also send mixed messages when we assure our customers on Monday that we are the best contractor around to handle their project, and on Tuesday we give them serious reason to doubt our credibility, not by something that a competitor has said, but by what we - someone in our own company - said.
All right, team. Remember this the next time you get put into the game: it's the little things that often matter most. Winning is about executing well. Most of your players know how, technically, to do their jobs. (If they don't, then you have bigger problems than what this column can help!)
But assuming that your people are good, that's probably only 25% of what you need, because all of your competitors also have good people. For you to set yourself above the competition, you have to teach your people about acting professionally and doing the little things.
As a Full Contact PM, it's up to you to teach this to your foremen and superintendents. This is a top-down thing, and it goes like this: Our company is a top-notch outfit. We know what we're doing, and we're good at it. We've been doing this kind of work forever. Our people are experienced and are the best in the industry. We'll work hard for you, and we've got your back.
Put yourself into the shoes of your client. Would you rather hear positive comments like these or listen to the lame remarks on the job site about incompetent workers, equipment and training?
And if we can get this right in our little contracting companies, maybe the big companies can follow our examples. It's much better than us following their's!
About the Author
Gary Micheloni is a working project manager, speaker, author, consultant and coach. He has severals years of industry experience, including a background as a licensed general engineering contractor. For further information and insight on the Full Contact Project Management approach, write Coach Gary at FullContactTeam@gmail.com.
Copyright © 2005, Gary Micheloni and Full Contact Project Management