This blog is about being the people others want to work with - and at least a couple of aspects I think are critical. If you're a manager of projects, do people want to be on your team? Do executives want you in charge of the next critical effort? If you're a contributor, do PMs fight to get you on their projects? I'd like to be someone that people fight to work with!
I learned this from Jason, who works at the local car dealer where I get service. Jason is only the person I want to work with in this venue.
Last month I dropped my car off to get some maintenance. I had made an appointment. Now I was there, and I was on a mission. I walked into the service area with the 3 different service technicians arrayed behind the counter. Protocol is that you take whoever is free when you come to the head of the line. No way. I knew who I wanted. I had had dealings with both of the others and been let down. I wanted Jason. I didn’t make eye contact with the others, I laser beamed my eyes onto Jason. I got him, and he gave great service yet again...
Why do I now and forever more want Jason and only Jason?
Before my first encounter with Jason, I had gotten a service dude who managed to bungle the entire service operation, and I should have known it was going to happen from my first interaction with him. Going through the motions, filling out the forms, yawn..... That time, my car ended up being late getting done - which he didn't bother to tell me about until I called at 3 pm asking why I hadn't gotten a completion call on my supposed "done by noon" operation. Then it came to light that it wouldn't even be finished that day! So he promised me a rental car, but when I got there, headed to a big business dinner, he had (oops), forgotten to CALL for the promised rental car. 30 minutes later, me already late to my dinner, finally on my way in the rental car... and no apology from the rep, or even awareness that anything was off in the service I had received. It didn’t seem to register with him that all this uncertainty and inconvenience could have caused me problems.
Not a single part of that bad experience would have EVER happened with Jason. I'm sure of that, from the consistency of service I have gotten from him since I randomly and fortunately ended up with him on a later trip in for service.
The bottom line is that Jason is absolutely and positively there for ME , each time I bring a car need to the table. It is obviously his mission for me to have great service/repair results, and also the best possible experience, every time. Here is what he does that makes me say that:
- He anticipates my concerns, takes action, and proactively keeps me informed: He always calls with status about my repair. He doesn't wait for me to inquire, and absolutely lets me know ASAP if there is a risk of not getting the car back that day. (This last time he re-assured me that he would NOT let them take my car apart that day if required to fix the broken airbag light, since he had asked if I definitely needed it back that day….). He proactively questions, acts, and communicates in a way that shows he understands and is handling my needs, concerns, and fears.
- He visibly puts everything he's got into doing his job every day. He acts like a true accomplished professional at all times. He is never bored with his job, lackadaisical behind the counter, communicating through demeanor that he's doing a boring job, one eye on the clock for the next break time. Quite the opposite. He is very friendly but also business-like - and incredibly engaged and energetic and FAST. He gives it his all and you can tell he's giving it his all!
Perhaps that second item doesn't sound like that big a deal. A lot of "counter transactions" can be pretty vanilla, and so what? It's just paperwork for getting my car serviced... But given the inconvenience and cost issues we all know can happen in this sphere, I realized that Jason's attitude toward his job served as an important indicator to me of his ability and trust-worthiness. It telegraphed his commitment to excellent service and results for his customer. Therefore I am ready to put my trust in Jason each and every time. He is the one I want to work with.
And guess what - I early on found out how to send kudos to his management, and did so, and expect to do so again after future good service experiences with him. People like Jason inspire the desire to recognize and reward! (Which I can see has happened with him because he has a bunch of award plaques on his wall.)
So now I'll stop blathering on about my car and relate this to us and our projects (and, our careers!).
To me it's about what leads to us being trusted and valued like I value Jason - being the people others want to work with, and the people executives trust and promote. Here are the key points I extrapolate from the Jason experience:
- We must clearly show that we understand their needs, concerns, and fears - by what we proactively ask about, take action to take care of, and communicate to them along the way to keep them well-informed.
- We should demonstrate consistent energy and speed and attention to detail in handling what they need from us, so that they will trust that we are always giving it our all on their behalf.
By doing these two things consistently, I believe we do end up delivering what our customers experience and remember as a great service - a great job on what they need from us. We are insightful and proactive and committed. We get the job done in a way that engenders trust and positive collaboration. I believe that all leads to better working relationships now, and more opportunities going forward.
Related link, if this gets you wondering what "customers" you should be treating this way:
This Stakeholder/Influencer Assessment and Communication Plan is a simple table that helps
1) identify all the people who have a stake in your project, its outcomes, and how you manage it or have the ability to influence it positively or negatively; and 2) think through actions and communication needs to "give them great service" throughout the project.