Showing thank you instead of saying thank you

It’s been a long and challenging project. It had some ups and downs like projects usually have. The team has done a great job, and it’s time to celebrate. Makes sense, right?
But how about the teams that don’t have projects to end, but continuous work to deal with. When is the time for them to celebrate?
I realized that it’s easy to forget to celebrate those routine tasks or tasks where you don’t have a specific deadline or a more significant scope. Somehow we’ve started to think that only big things are worth celebrating.
I was planning a project closing event for my project team, but since I had been working closely with another team lead, we thought we’d plan the event together. The project team got a lot of support from the maintenance team, which already had years of knowledge working with the customer. We would save some time and effort to combine the two team events. And I have to say it was such a right call to make.
I have had my share of great project closings and extraordinary events, and have realized how important these were to the team members. Not the event but to be there together as a team was the biggest “thank you” I could get from organizing the event.
What did I learn? Saying thank you is ok, but showing how thankful you are is even better. With a relatively small effort, we managed to build a team full of energy and trust. And that will take us over whatever hurdles we need to cross on the next project.

Taking it a bit further: Dare to be personal

I have learned that an instant message system is not necessarily the best way to reach your colleagues. I do my best to meet all project team members that I work with at least once a week. Instead of sending an instant message, I walk next to their desk and chat with them for a while. It also gives me the possibility to ask and observe how they are doing.
At times walking next to someone is not possible due to distance, but then I make an effort to visit those remote locations at least once every three months. I know it doesn’t sound like much, and I think if I should do the visits more often.
When I visit other locations, I have concentrated on filling my days with face to face meetings with people that I want to meet. It can be a customer meeting, even with Lync or Skype, but instead me being in one office and the team in another, we sit in the same meeting room together and have a chance to discuss more freely. Additionally, I’m trying to leave time to have lunch with them and have time to have a coffee table conversation.
At times I feel overwhelmed by the information I receive, and it makes painfully aware of the unspoken or location-specific information that doesn’t reach me. Whether it’s about the organizational change or change of working methods, informal communication can align interpretations of what change is about and how people see it. It is easy to ask opinions and create discussion on those informal situations where talking is, perhaps, easier. Those are also the right places to evaluate and listen to understand where we are and how people see the case.

Do what you say and say what you do

I’m bringing this up because I believe not only that a specific change but also good communication and good leadership requires more active involvement. More managing by walking around. It also means you have to believe what you are doing and saying. It means you need to be consistent with your actions, words, and deeds since you’ll be visible to more people. Doesn’t sound so hard, right? Well, it’s not always easy.
If you learn to know your team and manage to create an open and honest, trustworthy relationship with them, it will be easier to lead the change within your team. You also get ideas about the issues that should be changed from them.

Trust is a powerful tool. When you have it, the sky is the limit. And when you don’t have it, it feels like the smallest thing imagined is too hard to accomplish.

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