If You Had a 12 Passenger Van, Would You Go on a Trip with Your Project Team?

Posted by Brad Egeland

This idea came to mind because I have a big family.  A BIG family.  We love kids…we love our big family…and of course we sometimes get on each others’ nerves a little.  But we are able to take long trips together – though we don’t get to do it nearly as much as we would like to.

The question is…would you be able to pile your whole team in a big van and take a trip with them?  What kind of relationship do you usually have with your team?  Are they held at arms length?  Is it a friendly relationship?  I realize that best practice for performance management often isn’t part of a project manager’s job – but sometimes it is or at least sometimes input from the project manager is important for this oversight process.  Is it all work or can you – and do you – discuss other things with them…like what you did over the weekend, what their interests are, etc.?  After all, you’re often working with these people for 6, 12, 18 months at a time.  How close do you get?  Or not get?

For me, it probably varies.  I do a lot of remote project management, so much of my time spent with my project team is on the phone.  I’m not sure if it’s easier or harder to have a friendly relationship that way, but we make it work.  I will say that what I don’t miss about ‘in-the-office-project-management’ is the unproductive water cooler type discussions or individuals who come to sit in your office for an hour to just sit…and maybe say a few words.  Almost like they are hiding out…and they may actually be if their department boss is looking for them.

Does that make me sound unfriendly?  I hope not.  It’s just that over the years of remote project management efforts I’ve learned to value my time and use it wisely because I know there will be times when going to be up at 2am finishing a status report for tomorrow’s call with the latest up to the minute status information.  Or on Skype with my project client in Skopje, or Moscow, or Montreal.

My preference is to keep it professional on customer calls – unless we as a team have developed a more friendly, casual relationship (which tends to happen on especially long-term projects or recurring efforts).  However, on the weekly calls that I hold just with my team – or face to face meetings if it’s not a remote engagement – that are focused on getting the latest updates and preparing for our customer discussions…those I try to make more casual.  We get started informally, get business done, and then discuss whatever else as time permits and people have availability and feel comfortable.  Usually, I end up over the course of the engagement with new friends from the pool of project team members that I’ve been engaged with on the project.  I’d like to think I could take a trip in a 12-passenger van with my team.  Maybe not till the project is over, but we could survive.  And have fun.

What about you?  Are you ‘all business all the time’?  Or do you like to engage in more friendly and casual relationships with the project team members you’re working with on an engagement?

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