MY Hines

What are Fab Pams?

Posted on: December 9, 2009

This past summer I got a wake up call from my boss about how hard it has been for me to establish relationships with the ‘non-techie’ staff – which was about almost anyone outside of the tech department. My boss, being the very wise woman she is, gave me a great document with seven tips on building relationships and facilitating communications between departments. While her information was great, when I went to share it with my staff, I realized that I needed something that made it easier to remember. Thus, FAB PAMS were created.

Obviously Fab Pams stands for those tips. (I created the superhero for visual impact.) I do not think that these are necessarily tips that only related to tech staff  – anyone can benefit from these tips. However, when sometimes tech staff are considered to be “machine like”, these tips are going to be EXTREMELY helpful.

Flexibility Needed – Crap is going to happen and it is more than likely going to happen on the day that you have back-to-back meetings scheduled along with a webinar and a conference call. You better be ready to make changes to your schedule on the fly and it is best to anticipate that it is going to happen. If you can’t adjust with the flow, others are going to take note and it just can cause more tension when needed. So, go with the flow when you can.

Approachable – I was born with a natural frown – it is not in my nature to be all smiley/happy.  I’m never going to be seen as Pollyanna! However, something can be said about a smile or at least an air about yourself that doesn’t have others running in the other direction. I had perfected the un-approachable persona back in high school when even my teachers were afraid of the girl with the broomstick skirt, combat boots, tri-colored/shaved hair, and the ‘I hate the world’ frown. I abandoned that look a long time ago but I still struggle with being able to open to talk to people more often than not. I work hard at trying to say ‘hello’ or ‘good morning’ when I see people, or at least make eye contact. If they are scared of you, they are going to cross that road and avoid you. Some of us are in jobs that we can’t allow that to happen.

Body Language – What do you do when someone has their arms crossed in front of their chest, they were looking down their nose at you, hip hitched to the side, and tapping their foot impatiently up and down? That surely isn’t a look of “It’s cold in this building and I’m freezing”. That’s a look of “This is boring me” or “I’m upset”. It takes a lot of practice to identify what body language can really mean in people, but sometimes that is all that we need to see in order to know if we want to talk or not. Even more difficult is seeing what your body language is projecting.  If you even think for a moment that you struggle with this – go to Amazon and grab a book about it. Lots to learn here, and you will always be learning about it. (Yep, you are never truly done with school.)

Positive First – This was another one of those tips that just went against everything I ever did in my life. Anyone in my family, my extended family, and probably my friends, teachers, fellow students (you get the point…) would tell you that I am one of those ‘glass half empty’ kind of people. It is how my brain is wired. This one is difficult, but it has a valid point. I have to work hard at it. Sometimes I have to let myself have that negative thought first and then I can turn it around and try to figure out what the positive thought is. So instead of “This is going to be broken until next week”, the message can be “The resolution will be finalized next week, however until then it will remain in need of repair.”  That is a very simplified example, but I think you can see the difference. And wow, my boss is right, leading with the honey is a lot better than leading with the Sour Patch Kids.

Always Establish Eye Contact   I have kind of hinted to this one with the Approachable and Body Language tips, but it is so important. You can get a lot from the eyes and people can get so much from you. I think the lack of seeing someone’s face is sometimes why phone support can be so difficult. You get so much of that unconscious information from looking at someone – particularly their eyes. But it is almost more important that you make sure that you are trying to do this with people. Don’t always wait for them to look at you – start it out by you establishing eye contact. Now, there are situations that I don’t believe in this. I’ve readily admitted that one of my pet peeves has to be when I am followed into the bathroom to talk about a computer problem. There is a reason why I’m in the bathroom and that is one time, you won’t be seeing eye contact from me!

Mistakes Will Happen – It should be tattooed across my forehead, because this one is so important. You have to know that there are going to be mistakes. First, humans aren’t perfect. Second, computers are made by humans so of course they can’t be perfect either. However, trying to place blame or to hide the mistake, it only drags out the issues/problems. Most people even respect you more if you are willing to stand up and say “Yes, I made that mistake” especially if you follow that up with “and I plan on doing these steps in the future to stop from making the mistake again”. It’s hard to admit mistakes. Who wants to admit that you screwed up? But you know what, I think it makes me feel better when I admit to it rather than try to hide from it. Mistakes can’t be fixed if they aren’t identified.

Speak With People – When my boss told me that I have to talk to people more and that I have to put the Blackberry away before, during and after meetings, I thought I probably looked like some horror movie villian attacked me from behind. That Blackberry is my lifeline and I need to be that connected. But her point was valid. People don’t get to know who you are if you are coming into a meeting attached to the Blackberry and handling email until the meeting starts. It also gives an air of ‘I’m too important’ that is not what you want others to think of you. This one is difficult but I have done a bit more of it of late and it is working out. As for those situations when you do need to be attached to the Blackberry (i.e. all of the other tech staff are off for the day and you are troubleshooting problems with your support company), I try to let those that I’m with know that is what is going on so if I do get pulled into the Blackberry, they know that it is for a rare reason. Most people have understood this – but I do try to keep that Blackberry away so better relationships can be built. (I can let them see my cool new Blackberry skin in some other way.)

So, if you take all of those letters together, you have FAB PAMS. I thought it was very cute especially since I have an all-girl tech department at this time. We all have posters of Fab Pam and I think one of my staff members is still hoping to get a pink cape, but I think it has worked out. I even caught my one staff member saying “What would Fab Pam do?”.  This was so successful that I thought I just had to share it – because no matter who you are, you should strive to be like the Fab Pams!


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