Paul Chapman is a Programme Manager who works in Financial Services. He is a dear friend who I know from the time when we both worked for Standard Bank.
Treat people as strong and capable
People will tend to meet your expectations, so treat everyone like the best person they can be. You will doubt in the abilities of some of your team at times, but if you show this, it will dispirit them and their performance will suffer. Instead, treat them as strong, capable people and they will be inspired to be worthy of the respect and support you are giving them. This may seem counterintuitive but it is how true leaders get the best from their people. – Paul Chapman, Programme Manager, Financial Services.
Working with remote teams
If you work with a remote team, try to visit them in person. This is not always easy but nothing beats face-to-face interaction. Also identify a local leader that you can rely on to help you with issues and build a strong relationship with them. Occasionally I like to run a meeting with a remote team that is in a significantly different time zone at a time that is convenient for them and inconvenient for me. (Note that I make sure very carefully to only inconvenience myself and not other members of my team.) For example, if working with a team in Singapore, I might occasionally hold a 6am meeting with them rather than asking them to stay back to 7pm. You don’t have to do this very often to send out a powerful message that they matter to you and you acknowledge the sacrifices they make to work in a global team. – Paul Chapman, Programme Manager, Financial Services.
Show your clients that you care
A bad client relationship usually stems from lack of trust from your client. Show your clients that you understand and care about their business by demonstrating that you are interested in it. The most straightforward way to do this is to ask them questions about their business and priorities, and don’t constrain yourself just to questions that directly relate to what you are doing for them. Once they see that you are interested in their business – and are ‘speaking their language’ – you have a solid basis for a trust relationship. – Paul Chapman, Programme Manager, Financial Services.
Be strong enough to show weakness and ask the dumb questions
It is not easy to show weakness, but if you are strong enough to admit you don’t know something you will come across as being honest, open and trustworthy. It is a good habit that pays of hugely over time. One of my standing interview questions is what I call the “Kobayashi Maru” question – I keep asking someone questions on a complex subject, until we reach a level of detail where they don’t know the answer. I don’t hire anyone that doesn’t very plainly tell me that they don’t know. Admitting that you don’t know something is also the general principle behind the ability to ask ‘dumb’ questions. Project managers have a tendency to defer to subject matter experts without voicing obvious concerns or asking enough questions – not a good thing given that its part of their role to flush out risks and issues. To beat this tendency, consider that even subject matter experts don’t always know what others are talking about. On average, the higher the total subject IQ in the room, the more likely it is that multiple people are feigning a better understanding of the subject than they actually have. Dumb questions have enormous value by forcing the jargon to be abandoned and by ensuring that there is a clear joint understanding. It’s of such high value that if I you aren’t there to ask the dumb questions, you’d have to employ someone else to do it! – Paul Chapman, Programme Manager, Financial Services.
Aim for continuous small change
We have an instinct as humans to look for big sweeping changes, but smaller improvements are more likely to stick. If you work on a Kaizen process of continuous small change, they will usually have a larger cumulative benefit than trying to make a big improvement and failing. It’s important to build a general positive momentum in everything you do rather than swinging between big wins and demoralising failures. – Paul Chapman, Programme Manager, Financial Services.