Attitude, Presence and Setting the Tone

During the recent BP oil spill there was a lot of analysis into the reaction, tone, stance of President Obama.  Many believe that his response was slow, emotionless, and in turn lacking leadership.   Others feel his passionless, almost cerebral (as one paper put it) tone was that of a man confident in his plans/team.  As one of the most powerful men in the world, his every action and reaction is analyzed in order to add commentary to the speech he delivers.   In the same manner, CEOs and other positions of authority are analyzed by their stockholders and employees, so they to must carry themselves in a manner exuding confidence and leadership.  Grant it project managers are not leading a nation or a global enterprise, they are however leading a project team and the organization through new endeavors.   In turn, PMs must recognize the power/effect their words & demeanor have within their sphere of influence (project team).

Before we get into the post, check out the video of the week here.  Not related to the subject, but only 30 seconds and pretty funny!

In recent weeks, I participated in an annual conference that brings great excitement & tremendous speakers together for a few days of wonderful messages/lectures.  This particular organization hosts these sessions every week but usually only one day and with in-house speakers.  As the excitement built for visiting speakers and additional guests, I sat back and watched this great event unfold.  It was amazing to see a weekly occurrence turn into a frenzy!  In the days leading up to the event, I could hear the tone of usually fun-loving characters turn to that of stress and shortened responses.  Throughout the days of the event, I saw people scurrying around the facility and even running at times!  Then I thought to myself…what is really different? 1 day is now 4, but the core activity is the same. There is some opening entertainment, some video, a message/lecture, then close out.

Then it came to me…nothing was really different.  This organization does opening entertainment all the time…the videos are always different, but they are there every week…there is always a speaker, so did it matter who’s collar the microphone was attached to?  They even have guest speakers from time to time.  The major difference as I could see it…the anticipation, the excitement, and the tone set by the organization.  In all fairness, I do not know of additional work that may have been going on behind the scenes.

This happens with project teams all the time.  I have worked on basic geographical expansions of current capability and the teams are relatively laid back and even bored.  I have worked on brand new business offerings in which the company really didn’t know much, so there was more of a ‘fear’ among the team.  Then there have been projects in which you have to meet government regulations or there has been a public announce and the team is amped to hit the deadline!  In all the scenarios, it is the project manager/leader that must set the tone.  Here are some basics to keep it together and set the tone…

  1. Be organized, you’re a PM! You should not be late to meetings, miss meetings, sending documents after a meeting because you ‘got pulled into something’, etc
  2. Consistent Communication – Send the agenda ahead of time, meeting minutes should be sent soon after the meeting (same business day), don’t send a dozen emails…think about what you are asking and send 1 consolidated/though out email, etc
  3. Be prepared & know your project schedule (at least major milestones), know where plans/documents are located, understand current state of risks, etc
  4. Act like you been there before! When issues pop up, don’t throw your hands up…don’t lean over on the table with your head in your hands…don’t yell and get agitated. Find a mentor and do that with them.   It is okay to show emotion, but it must be controlled. Excitement and emotion are great tools and should not to be wasted. If leveraged correctly, you can use it to ‘encourage’ the team, gain executive support, or build trust.  You can’t do that if you are flying off the handle at every change or miss in the project.

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