Last week it was my birthday. It was a fantastic day surrounded by family and friends (and maybe even some fools, to complete the three Fs). I received countless messages via various channels; Facebook, LinkedIn, WhatsApp, phone calls and emails. Birthday wishes that came from Facebook and LinkedIn contacts often opted for predefined messages. With this choice, the sender spends typically less than 5 seconds in expressing the good wishes. Although I did reply to all messages one by one, I used the effort principle; someone that clicked on a predefined option got a dry and short "thanks!" back. And those that spent a bit more time by customizing the message, also got a more elaborated text back. In regards to emails, they mostly came from companies that have my birth date information in their data bases and used it to send me good wishes, and – why not – take the opportunity to offer a new product at a discounted price. These emails went, unopened, straight to the trash bin.
A couple days before my birthday I received a letter in my mailbox. An actual letter. With a stamp. With a beautiful hand scripted address, with my name perfectly spelled out. I thought it was from my wife, coming up with a new and original way to give a birthday card, like we always do. So I waited until the actual birthday came around and opened the letter. It was not from my wife. It was from a recruiting agency from whom I have never worked but with whom I interviewed a while ago. The letter was signed by hand by the agency's staff. I was taken aback, did not expect this. And really liked it.
Where do I want to get with this story? What does it have to do with project management? It actually does intersect. As project managers, we must provide support, empathy and care to our teams. We are dealing with humans, not numbers. Let’s assume that you already have a log with the birth dates of your team members. When the day comes around, don't just send an email with a succinct message. Don't send a predefined LinkedIn message. Instead, write something on a card, it doesn’t need to be a novel, rather something that gives the reader an overall good feeling. Put it in an envelope, stamp it, send it, or walk to the team's office and hand it over in person, depending on the case. This small gesture will have a tremendous impact on the mood of this team member and will surely be greatly appreciated by everyone else in the team. At the end, it is about adding a human touch to all facets of life, also to project (and team) management. Bring out the best version of yourself to get the best version of the people you manage.