I had the privilege early on in my project management career of working with an excellent Program Director whose name escapes me, let’s call him David. David’s career prior to entering the commercial world was under the sea for six months at a time as the XO of a nuclear submarine. This experience brought a certain decisiveness and disregard for space that often saw David squeeze meetings of up to 20 people in his six by ten foot office.
David was far from a sergeant major type and a number of my peers took him as being an ineffective director. His management style could easily be regarded as relaxed. We wouldn’t see David for days on end only for him to come wandering into the program office unannounced, stand in a strategic position, and deliver a quick and effective joke. He would then wander off leaving us in stitches.
It wasn’t until a few years later that I realised what David was doing when he delivered his jokes to us. He was using humour to gauge and at times boost the morale of his program office. His jokes also served another purpose: to keep the door between David’s governance function and his reports firmly open. We all knew that if a problem was big enough then we could bring it to David for a considered hearing.
The use of humour in this office created the opportunity for a productive emotional release that encouraged the building of coherent team structures in a positive way.
I have learnt a lot from David about considering and building emotional connections within my teams and with decision makers that I still use today. The result of building these connections is solid teams that are purposeful and engaged to achieve the end goal. Of course, this approach is one of a number of approaches we use as effective managers to deliver the required result although we often neglect it to our detriment.
It only takes a well-timed smile or joke to turn a person’s world around.
How do you and your teams promote emotional connections in your work environments? Feel free to post a text or photo response.