Try the nice guy approach. It really does work in the world of consulting and project management.
I just read an interesting article about Google spending years trying to figure out the winning formula for successful teams. It ended up like this – just be nice. I've stated that “Nice Guy Project Managers Finish First” and it turns out that I was right! So let's now look at this a slightly different way...how being nice can be the key to running successful projects and having cohesive, successful teams.
I'm going to examine this from what I consider to be several project, team and customer success determiners and why the nice team approach works.
The best teams and most productive teams seem to be collaborative in nature. A well-meshed like-minded project team gets things done. They make the project manager's job easier. They make the customer more confident in their ability to deliver and help justify the spending of the customer's dollars on the project. Good collaboration = well oiled machine. And to collaborate well means you're working nicely together, not catering to the squeaky wheel.
The satisfied customer does not usually get that way by working with a project team and project manager in turmoil. The nice, cohesive project team breeds confidence and cooperation from the customer. You know how when you're at a restaurant and the staff is happy, smiling, and interactive the experience nearly always is very positive whether it's fine dining or fast food. Be that sort of team and watch the customer satisfaction rise.
Projects can be frustrating. Customers can be even more frustrating. I've worked with a couple of those already this morning and the day is not even halfway over. But the best thing we can do is maintain a positive outward persona and preferably and inward one as well. If you aren't genuine, people – including thick customers – can eventually tell. Be cooperative, try to listen to and accept customer requests and when they can't work, come back with some positive alternatives. Be nice...deliver nice...implement nice...and clients come back for more nice....and more nice work.
The customer isn't always right, but we always help the customer.
Just as I stated above...the customer may come to you with a request that you just can't make work, but try to be nice and thoughtful and thorough as you review their request and potentially dismiss it as unworkable...and offer up good alternatives. And maybe you know that what they are requesting is not in their best interest or not what they really will want or need in the end. Never be condescending. Be nice and be positive. Explain why something else may be in their best interest. You have expertise that they do not possess. Remember that and use it wisely to help them.
When we treat our project clients with respect and treat them how we want to be treated as well, we greatly increase our potential for higher client satisfaction and confidence levels as well as our chances at repeat business with this customer. They may even end up being a good reference. They say there's no such thing as bad publicity, but I don't think that applies to projects and project management.