I simply do not get on with the project team member

That was how the conversation started! 

The project manager said he felt really uncomfortable managing James (not his real name) especially as he was not a member of his day to day management team. It was someone from another part of the business. 

He asked me what he should do. We spoke for a while about the situation and I asked him whether he wanted any feedback. He said yes. I pointed out that the relationship with James was having a negative impact on the project and I gave him two specific examples:

  1. James was not included in informal discussions. He seemed to be kept at a distance by the project manager
  2. James was not acknowledged by the project manager. They could be in the same room as each other but you would not know. The project manager did not talk directly to him. It was if he was communicating through some 3rd party 

I then asked the project manager whether this was worth while sorting. He agreed it was but asked me how this could be done. 

We talked about some approaches that were open to him. I mentioned that it is easier to change ones own behaviour rather than the behaviour of others. After some discussion we identified some behaviours he felt he could change to address the relationship issue. Nothing major, more subtle shifts. An example here was going out of his way to acknowledge James’s presence in the room and the contribution he made to the project. Things he had not done before. 

Slowly, over a period of time, the project manager felt more comfortable with working with James. There was a noticeable change in the “atmosphere” in the room when they were together. Others noticed the impact this was having and one commented that the team was now starting to gel. 

During a brief review sessions the project manager commented that he now realised the impact his behaviour was having. He had deliberately changed his behaviour; behaviour that impacted positively on the team member and the project generally. 

He learnt a valuable lesson in influencing others. 

I have seen situations where a project manager, a project team member or sponsor needs some support or help with their “people skills”. Often like James, they are unaware of the impact their behaviour has on others. 

There are many situations where we need to reflect on our own behaviour. Sometimes it takes a formal situation such as coaching or a training course (maybe influencing skills) before we know the real impact we have on others.  One thing we are often starved of is feedback and these processes will provide the structure to deliver this high impact development tool. James asked me several times for feedback which I was able to give him. 

Maybe it is time for all of us to begin to look at our own behaviour; how we impact on others; how we get people on board; how to trust others to deliver. Maybe it is time to attend that influencing skills or communications course or have some one to one coaching. 

Behaviour rules! 

This article is part of the skills series for project managers and those engaged in project working!  Click here for more information

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