How to be helpful

  • Set your out of office email response if you’re out for a day or longer. Change your voicemail as well, especially if you’re at a crisis point in the project and you know people will be wanting to get hold of you.
  • Know where your project team are, so that when people ask you have the answers. Encourage them to set their voicemail and out of office email response as well.
  • Set up your email signature with your contact details. Use the standard corporate signature format if your company has one. If not, create something that looks professional. Include your phone number – this is a must as people will use your last email as the first place they look for your contact details. Be aware that Outlook won’t include your signature when you reply to another email, unless you specifically set it to do so. It’s really annoying to get an email reply, realise that you need to talk to that person and then have to look up their telephone number elsewhere as they haven’t got a signature set up for return emails.
  • Spell check and proof read your emails. Especially if you send them from a BlackBerry or another mobile device. It’s no help to anyone if your message can’t be understood because you have left out ‘not’ or made a typo in the name of a document, or worse, person.
  • Do your admin: project team minutes, steering group minutes, shared project diaries etc. Keep it all up to date – block out time in your calendar for ‘admin days’ if you have to.
  • Don’t promise what you personally can’t deliver. That could be coffee for your guests when the coffee machine is out of order, or project dates when you have to rely on unreliable people to deliver.
  • Do what you say. If you send out a project document for comment, be clear about when you need feedback by. Then collate the feedback after the deadline, update the document and circulate it. This will help other people plan around you.
  • And if you can’t do what you said you would, tell people as early as possible. It’s the time of year for capital reforecasting, so if your project isn’t on target to deliver what it should by December, then start adjusting your forecasts now. Better that than your project sponsor finds out in October that you won’t be meeting any of your budget or delivery targets.