In reflecting on the failures of projects gone by it is tempting to single out issues or events that led to great conflict or divides with a team. Less easy to pinpoint is the origin of the atmosphere of partnership or cooperation that lead to great success or allowed the team to persevere through adversity. Did this tremendous collaboration come from the color of the meeting room walls? Some external incentive? Or the culmination of personalities within the team? Perhaps all.
In review of a recently successful project I have been involved in; my attention is drawn to the Project Manager for W.W. Clyde & Co., Alan Preston. At the onset of this project, during one of our initial meetings, Alan purported an open policy of fairness and communication exchange as his approach to doing business and asked that I consider doing the same. As a relatively young PM for the Owner in this case, I was anxious for what was to come for the project and was eager to accept his offer of honest partnership. Naïve, yes. Lucky, yes. Honeymoon stage promises, not this time.
How many partnerships or projects have you been involved in which started off with such promises for cooperation only to devolve when the ‘going got tough’? From day 1 to day 365 Alan has lead this team with the same fundamental approach that he committed to from the start. I can only imagine how difficult this must have been as his back was against the wall a number of times during this project. A lesser man would have reneged on this position of integrity, but he did not. As we worked through the dozens of inevitable project issues during construction, I approached numerous meetings with a mild dose of skepticism, wondering when the tide would finally turn and he would be forced to compromise due to the unbearable strain of the company and project budget versus what he felt was right for the project and the contract and the owner. Never once did his approach or values waiver.
This has been a tremendous experience for myself as a young PM for several reasons:
– Integrity is worth more than Success and they are rarely mutually exclusive: Know your values and be prepared to stand behind them. Regardless of the immediate success or lack thereof that your decisions will lead you toward, if you are guided by your core values, long term success will be achieved. The weak PM will be tempted to compromise in their decisions for perceived immediate success but the wise PM will stand their ground battle to battle win or lose in anticipation of the greater goals.
– Inspire the innate desire of your Team to do right: While we may have had a perfect storm of exceptional personnel on this team which ultimately led to a tremendous amount of success, I believe strongly that a PM who may have compromised their approach and taken a different attitude along the way would have inspired a negative atmosphere through the team in response. By contrast, the consistently honest and fair management style lead to an infectious spirit of cooperation during even the most difficult issue resolutions.
I am proud to have been a part of such a successful project. In hindsight, it was not a simple or easy project without flaws. It was a principled leader taking an honest and fair approach which inspired a talented group of professionals to greatness. Every project will have issues. Every team has the capacity for greatness. As a Project Manager your consistency and honesty may very well influence your results more than any single issue or factor.