Viewing Posts by Karthik Ramamurthy
Julio and Martin were best friends in graduate school. Since then, their careers had taken them to many cities around the world. They now worked in the same city and shared the same profession, project management.
The duo would often meet for lunch every few weeks at their favorite Italian bistro. Over these lunches, they readily shared their personal and work experiences.
This week, Julio sensed that something was bothering Martin. Even over the phone in the past weeks, Martin had not been his cheerful self.
Julio asked, “What’s up buddy? You’ve seemed out of sorts for some time now.”
Martin was indeed troubled and badly wanted to talk. Julio was the one person he could really trust. He said, “You’re right. I’m having a tough time. My customer doesn’t trust me. Even worse, my team members seem to hate me. I’m under attack on several fronts!”
In an empathetic tone, Julio said: “That’s tough. Tell me more.”
“In my latest customer status report, I didn’t disclose a delay with a critical work package. A key AutoCAD expert suddenly fell sick. I didn’t want to panic my customer since I was sure we could catch up before the next report. The status column had a green icon when it should’ve been yellow. The AutoCAD guy didn’t recover in time. The work got further delayed. Someone from my team told the client that I was misrepresenting progress. My customer now questions every minor detail in my reports!”
Martin paused to sip his drink and continued: “I’m terribly understaffed and behind schedule. There’s no option but to drive my team very hard. I’m often rude, sometimes even mean. On Wednesday last week, I overheard two team members say that I was the worst boss they ever had. My woes seem endless!”
Julio realized that the situation was worse than what he had originally assumed. He reassuringly said, “I’d feel the same way if I was in your place. I’m very sure we can work this out.
“You know me. I don’t sermonize, but it’s obvious that you have a serious trust issue with your client. I too have made the same mistakes of reporting inaccurate progress. While each seemed like a small untruth, they soon cascaded and resulted in broken trust.
“I quickly realized that it's better to be completely honest with stakeholders. But don’t just go to them with issues. Explain your plan to get back on track. Believe me: They start to trust and respect you.”
Julio recalled a leadership workshop where the trainer had spoken about the importance of project managers being completely transparent and respectful to all stakeholders. He had referred to PMI’s Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct1 which stressed four important values: responsibility, respect, fairness, and honesty.
“Pushing your team members overly hard plus being rude and mean to them may fetch short-term results. In the long run, many team members may push back or quit. You will lose valuable time in finding and training new personnel.
“Take responsibility for your behavior. Don’t blame the schedule. Invest time in team building. Explain the challenges of your tight schedule and request their help. You’ll get their buy-in and better results!”
Martin thanked Julio for his practical advice.
Now that he had a way out of his troubles, his favorite lasagna seemed to taste so much better!