Finding the humour in project management

Finding the humour in project management

What I want to talk about is the value of humour in its broadest sense, how it moulds who you are and why bringing aspects of your personality into the workplace can be a positive for everyone.

So, while “funny” works for some project managers, it isn’t necessarily the most natural approach for others. For some, this may mean being very technical about details; for others it may be about establishing order and functionality or even shouting the loudest. Ultimately, it comes down to finding your own style and using it to encourage engagement and support successful outcomes.

Humour is my weapon of choice; it helps turn the more routine parts of my job into something a little bit more enjoyable for all. And there are four main ways I’ve gone about it:

1. Themed communication

The aim here is to bring interest to a potentially dull yet important subject: creating stronger engagement and talking points to bring the team together.

For example, when working on a major rail link project, we had to undertake numerous “Safety in Design” checks. Rather than revert to the standard format, I used the safety theme to shape my communication, in this instance, the well-recognized airplane safety drill. Air New Zealand have managed to produce engaging and amusing video safety announcements over the years that inspired this approach.

Drawing on your own interests, such as sport, politics or movies, will give this authenticity – but remember to avoid anything too controversial.

2. Power of the written word

Emails are written with such frequency that we often don’t fully consider the impact the words have on the intended reader.

Stock emails and phrases are uninspiring and give a bland impression of the person behind the keypad. So, this is a golden opportunity to inject some life into what is a huge part of our daily working lives.

Wouldn’t you be more inclined to read an email written in a cleverly-crafted rhyming verse, or one that told a story whilst still delivering a coherent core message?

3. Memorable analogies

Finding a suitable, simple analogy to get across a complex idea can be highly effective and I like to use one wherever possible.

By providing an alternative way to look at a work concept, rather than rolling out the standard explanation, you are much more likely to reach more people and build a better understanding.

Think about football, dance, music or wherever your genuine interests lie to get your message across.

4. Time for face time

For me, spending time face-to-face with people is always the best way to build productive working relationships. Reliance on emails means we lose much of our ability to convey information – after all, 70% of all communication comes down to body language alone.

Dedicating time to getting to know your team – even down to the detail of which biscuits they like – will help you see each other as individuals and avoid potential misunderstandings along the way.

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