This article was written for The Know How Network by Brad Egeland —
Customer happiness is Job 1.1 for the project manager. I would say it’s Job 1.0, but I’ve always said that Job One is effective and efficient communication and I don’t feel it’s a good idea for me to flip flop. I am not a politician. So, if customer happiness is Job 1.1, then CEO happiness has to be right up there — like Job 1.2 or Job 1.3. What I’m trying to say is Happy Wife, Happy Life — and Happy CEO, Happy Career / Salary / Corporate Ladder / Corner Office.
So, if you want your CEO to be happy, there are 4r ways, according to me, to get there that we, as project leaders, can make that happen. No guarantees, of course, but these 4 tips should help your cause.
TIP #1. Never cause project clients to call their CEOs.
And I mean never. I once let a project get to the point of having the customer call the CEO. Guess what happened. I spent a week of meetings in his office on the phone with that client and then 2 weeks over Christmas onsite with the client (and my loving and grateful and equally guilty project team) trying to make them happy again — and the CEO happy again. All that did happen; and we got paid, closed up shop, and went home. But ouch.
So, stay connected to the project client, keep communication high and look for trouble signs. Go to the client and discuss concerns and issues, and schedule one-on-ones monthly or weekly with the project sponsor to make sure you and your team are hitting on all cylinders with them. By doing that, you’ll make sure they don’t pick up the Batphone and call your CEO. I do this now and mine haven’t had a call since.
TIP #2. Put together a great dashboard status report.
C-levels love dashboards. And you want those C-levels to know about your project and love your status reports because they are the ones who can make things happen fast for your project if you need something. They can quickly knock down project barriers, add funds if the project truly needs it, and get you that critical resource for 2 weeks from another project when everyone else tells you no.
Possibly use a red-yellow-green stoplight approach to report resource status, financial status, change order status, issues status, etc. Include the detail for these, but know that these individuals will likely access only the details if there are problems or if yours is a very visible project and they need to present information about it. Dashboards are quick reference — and that makes them happy.
TIP #3. Invite them to a status meeting.
You may think that they will think this is a waste of their time or something they are too good for. No, think of it as the pretty girl who doesn’t get asked to the dance because no one thinks they have a chance with her.
The CEO can’t go to every project meeting, but have them attend one key upcoming project status meeting. It will make your customer happy because they will feel important, and it will make your CEO happy because they got to meet a customer up close and personal without having to fly anywhere or escort anyone around the premises. All done in a neatly packaged 60-minute meeting — and everyone leaves satisfied. Win-win-win.
TIP #4. Do a one-on-one briefing on your biggest project.
Make an appointment and do a sit-down on your biggest project with the CEO. He may question your sanity, but he will be informed of a high-level project for one of his concerns — a high dollar customer — and it didn’t take a call from the project client to make it happen. It will be a nice feather in your cap, too, if you have the guts to make this happen. Do it — you will not be sorry.
I’ve always been more focused on the satisfaction of my project customers than whoever the CEO is or key contact in the organization I’m running projects for. I figure if I make the project customer happy, it all plays out in the end. But it never hurts to put a smile on the CEO’s face — a lot of good can and does come from that.