It’s never nice to see someone struggle. But as we know, people who are struggling tend not to stay as quiet as they should. Not being able to contribute is one thing, but using up air-time for the sake of an apparent contribution is frankly a pain.
Another facet of the Competency Mask is the Echo. Someone explains something and then the arse in question says pretty much the same thing again with perhaps only a slight change in wording or emphass. In the worst cases, the repitition is near to verbatim.
This obviously wastes time, but what is more galling is that the repitition is done with no shame, with aplomb perhaps “look at me, don’t I sound clever“.
No, you don’t, you’re an arse. You gave it away with that echo. If you get a chance say “is there an echo in here” immediately after. They won’t know what you mean but it will make you feel better. Others may snigger.
You’ll hear these echo people all the time. Take note of them, it’s as good a giveaway as a big badge with ‘useless’ on it.
Typically, if you’re working in IT as a Project Manager, you will have a group of individuals working for you. More likely you will have responsibility for a team of technical people working for you. Some of the clever ones will maybe even be a little challenging to manage and maybe even to look at. That’s where the ego comes in.
The techie ego is a very precious thing. It’s like a little new born kitten (or puppy if you’re not a cat person). It is looking to you to nurture it and protect it, like a parent. Remember, you are effectively their surrogate parent for a large proportion of their day.
Techies like to think they are the best at their ‘thing’. If you have more than one techie with the same area of expertise, then you’d better hope they get on, and they can work together – you will likely get more than double the productivity – congratulations, you won the lottery!
If they don’t get on, it will go one of two ways: they will be in competition with each other, which will be fine till one ‘wins’ or they will critique everything the other does and nothing will get done. Either way, you’re dead in the water, you wil either lose one of them or spend all your time settling petty squabbles.
So, it pays to be vigilant and massage some ego when required. The best method for this is ‘divide and conquer’, take them aside individually and have a chat about how important they are to the success of the team. If you have competition, split it up quickly, and get them working on different areas, encourage friendly competition by all means, but avoid head-to-head ego battles.
When it is your job to deliver something, it pays to make sure the expectations are set correctly. Whether it is the time it will take, or the functionality that will be delivered, or the money it will cost, always make sure the expectations are set in your favour.
Let’s consider expectation setting for your customer. Firstly, start the process early in your project. When you are planning your project, assembling your resources, doing your fairy story (see ‘Quantification’) consider yourself in the role of a tradesman, for example Plumber or Garage Mechanic.
When asked how long something will take, or how much it will cost, by management or a customer, perform the following mime:
- Look them in the eye with a furrowed brow and slightly puzzled expression.
- After a few seconds, purse your lips and, placing your right hand on the top of your head, slide it backwards towards your neck, massaging the back of your neck briefly. (you may place your other hand on your hip for effect, but this dual function manoeuvre is not for beginners)
- Now carefully breathe in through your teeth and pursed lips, a slight whistle at this point is good.
- Now tell them the bad news.
Practice this in front of a mirror until you perfect it.
The bad news will depend on how much time you’ve had to prepare. If you are being put on the spot, think of a number and double it at least, as a starting point. However, if you’ve had time to work out the details, double it and have it on a bit of paper, it will always have more credibility.
On the other hand, when you are passing on your expectations to your team, for example, always go the other way. Set their expectation to ensure the team deliver more functionality, earlier or using less resources. This way, you will have some contingency; either time or Slush Fund to play with.
It’s such a useful thing that sometimes you can forget the inherent danger of Excel. Lets get one thing perfectly straight, putting a big pile of numbers into Excel and making them all add up doesn’t make it reality. It’s a real shame really because it can all look so nice, especially if you put boxes round the numbers and have some colours, maybe even a funky font.
Of course, the mastery of the spreadsheet is an essential skill and is often the best way to make everyone assume that you are an extremely capable manager. Just don’t start to believe the hype. That’s when it can go wrong. So, assuming we know we are simply dressing to impress and fundamentally lack substance, here’s a few things to make them all ooh and aah at the project review.
- Conditional formatting – make things change colour automatically, usually green for good red for bad. Demonstrate this to people who walk past your desk – they will be impressed.
- Charts, if it’s a report or a comparison, always include a Chart – it takes up space, provides some nice colours, and because it’s pictures, Senior Management, and even Salespeople will think it’s great.
- Use Standard Deviation in a formula somewhere, randomly if necessary. When discussing it refer to it as ‘science’.