Working As a Team
It’s down to the wire. It’s going to take all hands on deck to save this install. We have to get it done — too much is on the line. Twelve hours of work today? Could be more. This one is going to take as long as it takes.
Every integrator knows this story. When AV veterans get together, these are the stories we swap. It’s not ideal when an install arrives, but a good team comes together when it does.
As a project manager studying for the PMP, I’ve learned so many tricks and tools for how to handle projects. I loved seeing these abstract examples of inputs and artifacts of a perfect project. RAID logs, stakeholder directories and the classic triple constraint: Time, Cost and Scope.
Keep your eyes on the schedule, on the budget and on fulfilling the contract. Simple as that, right? Except even the Project Management Institute acknowledges many projects fail to do that. The Project Management Book of Knowledge (PMBOK) I studied with did not talk about AV at all.
Are we that special? I’d been in AV for more than a decade when I got my PMP. I knew something was missing in their project flows. There is a secret sauce. I struggled to put my finger on it. When we have work to do, I have to rely on my team. They are the ones with the experience and they know what needs to be done. It’s a glorious thing to bring in the best to get that work done. My team’s engagement and goodwill are where the magic happens.
I love working with top-shelf teams — salespeople, designers and installers who know their roles inside and out and love doing what they do. They are artists in their field. My installers will work through lunch. My designers will take calls and texts at all hours to confirm what needs to happen on the job site during install.
Recognize Individual Needs
My salespeople will call me to let me know any additional details as soon as they can: “The job is at a site that is still under construction, but the customer needs it urgently. They’ve arranged for the equipment to be stored at a nearby facility right now, and they have agreed they will deliver it themselves when the building is ready.” Even the customers get engaged in the team spirit.
When the team is willing to do the extra time, to work through lunch and answer the texts in a heartbeat — that makes the difference between getting it done today and having to delay for days or weeks. This is the engaged, responsive culture that keeps a project on time and on budget.
This collaboration, when it’s done right, feels like an all-star team. The game is the perfect pass getting to the goal. Communicating and handing off to each other is flow. Vince Lombardi once said, “Individual commitment to a group effort — that is what makes a teamwork, a company work, a society work and a civilization work.”
The AV industry at its best has a culture of partnership and teamwork. We come together to do whatever it takes, and we know it takes flexibility and long hours. We know we are the superheroes that do what needs to be done.
When teamwork happens, it feels effortless. But it does not happen automatically. It should not be taken for granted. These kinds of relationships and goodwill must be maintained and fostered. The extraordinary culture of teamwork doesn’t come from nowhere. People are not machines and they can lose their vision.
As I’m leading my teams, I pay attention to how people are speaking to one another. I keep my finger on the pulse of the team to see if they are getting stretched, and I will change things if I see it’s getting too tense. It feels counterintuitive when work is pressuring us, but I will often slow down the communications to get personal. I’ll take the time to ask what else is going on. It could be other projects my team is working on. It could be something in their home life. When I stop and let the team member know that I see him or her as a full person, I give them room to breathe and think. Let some air into the situation and things can clear up. The project needs each team member and I want each of them to have what they need. Sometimes what they need is recognition.
Recently, Forbes published an article on employee engagement. I liked these pointers:
- “Always remind people of your mission and purpose.” That is to say, we have a job to do and we are all in this together.
- “Go the extra mile to help your team, peers, customers or anybody you can support and nurture.” The customer may be the one that gets the attention, but I am going to spend a lot more time with my team. They matter, too. Relationships will last and pay dividends.
- “Appreciate, recognize and reward those who go above and beyond.” My team does go above and beyond. But they don’t have to. I make a point of expressing how much it means to us, and call it out whenever I notice it. I call it out a lot. It is part of creating the culture of appreciation and will make it painfully clear if someone on the team does not maintain our responsive culture.
- “Bring some fun into the workplace. Business is hard, and some humor helps.” Keeping it light will ease everyone’s burden. It’s not silly. It’s a strategy. Use it.
Goodwill is a factor in project success. I monitor it like my budget and my schedule. It’s one of those fantastic things that is free but priceless. The magnetic pull that keeps a team moving — we can watch out for each other to maintain it. We can also break that cohesion with a million tiny cuts. That is a business killer and a tragedy. When it comes to AV, communication is what we are, and teamwork is what we do. My business and my teams need me to keep it that way.