8 Expensive Lessons in Project Management, for Free!
When it comes to project management, it’s so much cheaper to learn from someone else’s mistakes. So here are a few of mine!
I’ve been running projects for my whole adult life. I started with computer games at IG. After ten years I switched to marketing and copywriting projects at Articulate Marketing, which I still run. On top of that, I’m now also CEO of Turbine, an online app for purchases, expenses, time off management and HR record-keeping.
Photo: Frits Ahlefeldt-Laurvig
Project management is the art, craft and science of getting stuff done by teams. And it’s also like walking through a minefield. These tips – based on my own experience over 20 years – will help you find your way through it.1. Hire slow, fire fast.
My first boss advised me not hire one person until I needed two of them. I ignored that advice at IG and probably hired too many people too quickly. Some were amazing but a few were amazingly awful. My experience was that the handful of underperforming staff took up more time and energy than the vast majority of good people. The big lesson is to spend more time developing the good people than correcting the bad ones. If necessary, this means firing poor performers who can’t or won’t improve.
In my case, after I sold the games company, I kept things small using contractors, freelancers, and outsourcing and only recently have I begun to hire full-time employees again. I’ve made more money, and I’ve been far happier with the new, slow-but-steady approach. My first boss was right.2. Every new relationship needs a honeymoon.
The human aspect of project management is vital, especially for long-distance relationships like the one I have with my Turbine development team. We had a bit of a rocky patch last year because I forgot that they were people and focused too hard on the product and my concerns about it. Today, things are much better because we have more regular contact and, more importantly, we try to talk more about ourselves and share a bit of water-cooler gossip.
Even for virtual teams, there are plenty of things you need to do to start the relationship in the right way: such as meeting regularly in person, setting clear expectations and using the right tools (we like Basecamp and, naturally, iDoneThis).3. Understand incentives.
Having paid hundreds of thousands of pounds in financial incentives over the years, my experience is that they are mostly worthless. Why? At best they motivate people to work more hours for a short period of time. At worst, they are taken for granted (which has no benefit at all) or unobtainable (which is actually demotivating).
Find other ways to motivate your staff: set worthwhile goals, give team members respect and autonomy, and create a feeling of belonging to a team with a mission. Maslov’s hierarchy of needs is an essential guide into human motivation. Also, give people a good, productive working environment. Read Peopleware. Don’t fall prey to productivity myths.4. See eye to eye with the client.
Most of the time, when a project goes badly wrong it’s because of a fundamental flaw in communications with the client. With projects, like software development, that are likely to have changing requirements, the key is to talk often, expect changes and plan for them. With creative projects it’s best to spend the time up front talking to and questioning the client until you arrive at a good, mutually understood brief.
My experience has also taught me two fundamental lessons about client communication: first, sometimes the best kind of conversation is a question, not a statement. Second, sometimes the best answer is no answer. When Kennedy got a belligerent message from Khrushchev during the Cuban missile crisis, followed quickly by a more conciliatory one, he ignored the first and responded to the second. Do likewise!5. Change is cheaper at the beginning.
“Wrong decisions made early can be recovered from. Right decisions made late cannot correct them,” according to NASA Project Management Guidelines. Watch out for the 12 danger signs that your (writing) project is set up for failure (for example, too many meetings and not enough action), embrace confrontation, and make tough decisions early on. Early prototypes are very valuable for flushing out problems. Remember, it’s easier to change a sketch than recode a user interface.
Photo: thornypup 6. Bugs are inevitable.
Every project has bugs. When I got married, my friend Sophie said, “Three things will go wrong. Don’t worry about them.” This is great advice: bugs don’t cause stress; your reaction to them does.
So if you can accept the inevitable hiccups, even plan for them and agree how you’ll deal with difficulties up front, you’ll have a more successful project. This means going beyond a diagnosis of the individual problem, figuring out why the problem arose and adjusting your processes and systems to avoid that type of problem occurring again.7. Know when to give up.
I have shut down three big projects in my life. At the time, the decisions were difficult and painful. Looking back, in every case, it was the right decision because it freed me to do something better. One of the arts of managing projects (as opposed to project management) is knowing when to kill them. Google is good at this. They cull stuff all the time. But W.C. Fields said it best: “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. Then quit. There’s no point in being a damn fool about it.”8. Make tea, not war
As the project’s manager you are the lynchpin, so be a friend to your emotions and stay sane. Over the past few years, I’ve realised that my time is more valuable than my money. You only have so many days in your life, spend them on projects that make you happy, better and richer. (Or reading my Devil’s Project Management Dictionary!)
And when I have a problem that’s stressing me out, which is inevitable from time to time, I find that a nice cup of tea is the universal solvent. Try it!
Matthew Stibbe is founder of Turbine, the online app for expenses, purchasing, time off management and HR record-keeping. He is also CEO of Articulate Marketing. He writes about writing, marketing and technology at Bad Language and about planes on Forbes.
The Perks of Considering Your Plan "Dead"
Sometimes the sheer clarity of hindsight is like life’s annoying way of saying, “I told you so!” Looking in the rearview mirror to see what went wrong is integral to learning from our mistakes, but we often wish for hindsight’s clear vision when we’re forging our way forward. Research psychologist Gary Klein has a startling prescription for that feeling: imagine your plan’s death.
According to Klein, one way to tap into the power of hindsight is a practice called the premortem. In the more familiar postmortem, you analyze an unsuccessful event after it has occurred to figure out what went wrong. In the premortem, the analysis faces the event head-on while presuming it has failed to generate plausible reasons for the failure. Performing premortems can help identify problems in advance and tune you into early warning signs because you know what to watch out for.
These are the basic steps for conducting a premortem:
1. Prepare: Everyone should be familiar with the plan before starting the premortem.
2. Picture: Imagine the plan has failed miserably and how that feels.
3. Generate: Each person makes a list of plausible reasons for the failure.
4. Share: Take turns sharing one reason at a time, collecting them into a master list.
5. Revamp: Revisit the plan armed with the reasons and revise.
6. Review: Return to the list every so often to check in with any relevant concerns.
Premortems employ prospective hindsight. The paradoxical term involves the mind trick of imagining that an event has already happened. Prospective hindsight “increases the ability to correctly identify reasons for future outcomes by 30%,” says Klein, citing one of the better-titled studies, “Back to the Future: Temporal Perspective in the Explanation of Events”, by Deborah J. Mitchell, J. Edward Russo, and Nancy Pennington.
The researchers found that people generate reasons more efficiently, and often in more detail, when they conceive of an outcome or event as certain. So while many techniques such as risk analysis share the desired effect of making better plans and decisions, the premortem is not about imagining what might or could go wrong, looking for potential holes. Its effectiveness relies on imagining that things did go wrong before coming up with plausible reasons. The mind works differently when we ask “what now?” instead of “what if?”
Photo: Frederic Poirot
The power of the premortem lies in its great leveling effect. Starting a conversation from a point where the project has already failed is liberating. It extracts some of the politics and politeness that can muddle the planning stages. Klein recounts how one executive at a Fortune 50-size company reasoned that a billion-dollar project had failed because of waning interest in the wake of the CEO’s retirement. Sharing that type of thought in other circumstances may be a no-no.
The failed-starting point also helps neutralize cognitive biases resulting from the overinvestment and overconfidence of people who have strong feelings of ownership and authorship of a plan. Instead of flying over objections or identification of problems as a matter of course (the drive-by “Problems? Questions?”), the exercise increases participation and buy-in from objectors who get a real opportunity to share their opinion.
Mentally traveling back to the future is a great way to open up your field of vision to new possibilities and insights and pave the way to better decision-making. Prospective hindsight isn’t 20/20, and projects are sometimes just bound to fail. But at least we can tune up our planning processes and give voice to our team members who would’ve said, “I told you so!” in their head.
Five Ways to Engage Your Team in 2011: A Guest Post
Five ways to engage your team in 2011, presented by Roland Cavanagh and Dodd Starbird, authors of Building Engaged Team Performance: Align Your Processes and People to Achieve Game-Changing Business Results
Wouldn’t it be nice if each of your team members did “the right thing” all the time? Wow, imagine… even if they just tried…
Do they really understand what “the right thing” is? Not just the individual tasks but the context for their actions, the goal?
We’ll start this brief discussion in the same way that we’d recommend that you start your journey to engage your own team – it’s the first of our five ways:
#1: Share the goals and the strategy
Here’s the analogy: The goal of this article is to describe five actions that a leader can take to help a group of individuals begin their transition to become an engaged team. In short, the way to do that is to give them context and detail about the job at hand, with appropriate goals, measures and visual data, and then step back and let them work. Starting with a goal and a strategy helps, doesn’t it?
So, step 1 is to publish and discuss with your group the company and departmental goals, and the actions and initiatives that will be executed in 2011 to achieve those goals. Now the group can see the alignment between the priorities and the goals.
#2: Develop aligned team goals
An old mentor of mine frequently reminded me that “all plans must eventually deteriorate into action” – the same is true for strategies and initiatives – they must all be made specific in order to drive the right behaviors and cause the actions that will achieve success. If one of the dimensions of success is having your work group perform as a team, then they need goals that drive team behaviors. If I have an individual goal of delivering 20 quotes per day, then I’m likely to pace myself to accomplish those 20. If, on the other hand, seven of us have a team goal of 140, (or better yet, just to have none remaining to do at the end of the day), then I may press myself to deliver more than my “fair share” so that the team can win. Item 2 on our list is therefore: Develop aligned team goals – aligned with the company and departmental goals and constructed to drive collaborative behavior.
#3: Develop fair, aligned measures
If some of those quotes require extensive research and others are a slam dunk, then it is only reasonable to expect that I will have some difficult days and some easy ones depending on the mix of work that arrives. Worst case, if I’m clever, I’ll figure out how to “cherry pick” and find the easy ones to do so I don’t have to work so hard… And if I’m only measured on quantity, I may find ways to compromise the quality in order to make quota (believe me, we’ve seen it all!). These observations lead us to item #3: Establish fair, aligned measures. Fair, in that they represent and report the true effort necessary to do the work (the easy ones get 10 minutes credit while the difficult get 25 minutes, for example) and aligned through measurement of all of the key characteristics including quality and quantity.
#4: Make the data visual and timely
Aligned goals supported by fair measures are great, but if they are presented as a PFN (Page Full of Numbers) a month after the fact, they aren’t usually that impactful or useful. Typically time gets spent witch-hunting or defending something in the data that occurred a couple of weeks ago, while key trends get overlooked. Item 4 of this presentation is: Make the data visual and timely. Post and plot data every day – post the actual number, and plot it on a line or trend chart immediately as it occurs. This can be automated from a computer system, or even can be set up so that each person steps up and adds a “tick” as they finish each item. In rapidly changing environments, the numbers and charts need updating as frequently as every hour, sometimes once per day. Waiting until the end of the week or month to post data is like driving forward while looking in the rear view mirror. Real-time visual data is actionable – we, the team, can see our success and our situation, and begin to turn observations into positive actions. Agents in a recent project, when able to observe the patterns of arrival of customer demand, began negotiating among themselves a lunch schedule that provided better coverage.
#5: Get out of the way!
All this comes to naught if you can’t give over some responsibility and authority to the team – responsibility to recognize the need for action and authority to act. Not unlimited freedom to do as they please, but rather within legal and company policies and reasonable bounds associated with the work to be done. Consensus adjustment of work and lunch schedules may be acceptable, but recruiting new agents probably isn’t. Therefore the last item on our list of five is: Get out of the way! Expect them to act as a team and collaborate, decide, and act in alignment with the measures and goals. “Trust but verify,” President Reagan said near the end of the Cold War – and here you will have the data to confirm the team’s performance.
So, we’d encourage you to make a New Years’ Resolution to go out and try the five ways to help your group of individuals on their way to becoming an engaged team:
- Share the goals and the strategy
- Develop aligned team goals
- Establish fair and balanced measures
- Make the data visual and timely
- Get out of the way!
Tweetie Girl Tip #30: Helping others is a waste of time
Helping people. It sounds easy enough, humanistic enough. Helping people is something we all think we do, but the reality is, helping someone other than yourself can sometimes become time consuming, redundant and counterproductive. Finding a balance between helping people and helping yourself can actually be empowering for all parties involved.When it comes to managing a team of remote workers, providing the right resources means that your team members are better able to help themselves. Being an editor, I often get requests from new writers to critique their work. Instead of developing their own voice, they strive to “make their boss happy” by asking for input. In most cases, this is a necessary process when a new writer is acclimating to a new publication and working environment. But if no progress is made, regularly asking for help is like constantly holding a magnifying glass to your shortcomings. It’s a shift of responsibility to the helper, instead of the one being helped.
It’s an important lesson for the self-employed as well. CD Baby founder Derek Sivers learned this the hard way. As CD Baby began to grow, Sivers realized that he’d need to delegate more tasks to his team. Turning his team into a proactive powerhouse, however, meant helping his workers to help themselves. Teach them the process, show them the reasons behind your decisions, and empower them to act autonomously and on your behalf. As Sivers says,
“I had to make myself un-necessary to the running of my company.
The next day, as soon as I walked in the door, someone asked, “Derek, someone whose CDs we received yesterday has now changed his mind and wants his CDs shipped back. We’ve already done the work, but he’s asking if we can refund his set-up fee since he was never live on the site.”
This time, instead of just answering the question, I called everyone together for a minute.
I repeated the situation and the question for everyone.
I answered the question, but more importantly, I explained the thought process and philosophy behind my answer.”
Providing the right resources to others is a great place to start—they’ll be able to refer back to these resources instead of coming back to you. Here are some tools I use:
Jot notes, create documents and packets that you can give out at any time, and as often as necessary. Google Docs are also collaborative, so others can add to your growing notes and resources. And since documents created here are saved in the cloud, any updates you make are visible to those you’ve shared with. It’s a living document that grows along with your ever-changing needs.
Services like Springpad and Evernote let you build collections of resources, and this can be done passively as you come across websites and articles you find helpful. With a bookmarking site, these saved items are auto-organized, so your packet-building process is a lot easier for you, and is even searchable. Dictionary.com
This resource site packs a great deal of information for a most basic form of human communication—our language. I recommend my writers sign up for “word of the day” emails, which provides the definition of a new word daily, along with examples of how that word can be used, and its history. This example is a bit more specific to my line of work, but many resource sites offer similar newsletters or blogs that make it simple for anyone to regularly improve and continue their education on a given topic.
The Struggles of Managing the Invisible
The peculiar challenge of knowledge work is that so much of it takes place in our heads and out of sight. In contrast to the era of factory work, knowledge work is nowhere near as visible. You can’t discern the state of progress by looking at tangible output or product.
Photo: Shreyans Bhansali
This poses a particular problem for managers, whose job it is to support their employees and enable progress. You can’t properly manage what you can’t see. Otherwise the result is directives and orders that don’t make sense, veering toward irrelevance and away from the reality of the situation. Leading blindly without understanding the status of projects and the context in which people are working makes as much sense as managing a production line without seeing the state and quality of a product as it is being assembled.
The solution is to encourage and cultivate showing your work, or put another way, working out loud. Communicating what you’ve done is vital to moving things along, and it actually should be the other half of your job.
The benefits are clear. With transparency and communication of information, teams and organizations can improve productivity because they are able to manage operational efficiency. WIth the ability to see all the moving parts, you can manipulate them better. Then, the opportunity opens up for improving planning and methods, collaborating and striving for more dazzling results, and having a common basis and drawing board to truly innovate together.
The interesting thing about showing your work, though, is how resistant people — including both the managers and the managed — can be in implementing the practice. The underlying reason for this hesitation comes down to how managers hold people accountable, because it changes how people perceive the intent behind the effort to be more transparent.
Photo: Frits Ahlefeldt-Laurvig
Bad managers impede and inhibit progress in two ways. One is the traditional school of managing people that fails to deal with real progress at all. That school subscribes to the mistaken belief that management is about oversight and monitoring for the purpose of Big Brother-type control, thinking that you make things happen by paternalistic brute force.
The other approach is one of disengagement in order to keep the positive image of being liked, thinking that this lack of confrontation and involvement is what is necessary to keep the wheels greased. The crazy result is that one of out every two managers fail to keep people accountable.
Employees then feel resentful of losing autonomy and substantive feedback and become increasingly disengaged, feeling like useless cogs in the machine.
Photo: Joel Ormsby
Such managerial failures in approach to accountability is thus why employees themselves can view transparency with such suspicion. As with personal relationships, there’s a difference between transparency for the purpose of engagement and open communication as opposed to for the purpose of coercive oversight. And transparency becomes futile when information goes nowhere or falls on deaf ears.
At the end of the day, both the managed and managers don’t want to feel vulnerable. For employees, transparency can seem a risky business of putting themselves out there, with the potential to look weak or ineffective or ignored, especially in situations with bad management. For managers, transparency and accountability means having difficult conversations, truly getting involved with their teams as people and their work, and getting used to the uncomfortable notion that management isn’t so much about control but support and facilitation.
Accountability does require visibility, but we should never treat people like faceless cogs in a machine. Working out loud should not produce more constraints and traps but more autonomy. If managers are doing their job of helping people make progress, people will want to show their work and together cultivate a vibrant company culture of openness, fruitful feedback, and deep engagement.
HOLLY BROUSSEAU: Digital marketing executive experienced in mobile, social, email, online advertising & web design
I am a digital marketing executive experienced in mobile, social, email marketing, online advertising, and web design. I have extensive experience managing digital and traditional creative projects while providing strategic vision and partnership to clients, managing internal teams, and successfully managing client projects and programs.
My career of almost fifteen years has lead me to work at such agencies as Razorfish, SolutionSet, Ogilvy, Attik and EVB. I have had the opportunity to be a part of digital media as it has envolved over the years, working on a variety of projects including: mobile apps and sites, social media, SEO, online advertising, content management and e-commerce websites for various clients, such as Visa, Intel, Microsoft, Activision, Mattel, Shutterfly, Charles Schwab, Toyota and LucasArts.
I posses the ability to manage teams on-site or distributed across the globe. I have a strong business acumen which enables me to oversee departmental operations. I am skilled at leveraging full-time and freelance resource pools and excel at mentoring and leading teams.
There are 3 key factors that motivate people to do—whatever.
- Autonomy, a sense of control.
- Mastery, a sense of improvement.
- Meaning, a sense that this matters.
It’s good to let people know the answer to the question “why am I doing this?” I feel there are many places that don’t make it clear enough so that the task becomes just plain tedious.
Team Leading Lessons Learned
- Serve first, then lead by example and last is command
- Be generous with praise and stingy/specific with criticism
- I do not know everything
- Everyone has something to offer
- Communicate, communicate, communicate
- Be firm on basic principles, e.g. punctuality, team-first, being fair
- Training is an investment, not an expense :-)
Project Management - 3.3: Team Management
The best project managers are also first-class team leaders. Nowadays, project managers need to go beyond the traditional project delivery practices and master the business systems approach. They have to think of the project as a business enterprise and manage it like a business venture. This means they have to consider the success of the project outcomes as well as the success of the project itself.
Project managers need to understand how their organisation creates value for its major stakeholders and accept responsibility for delivering that value. This requires a detailed knowledge of the strategy the project is supporting, as well as knowledge of organisation, motivation, marketing, accounting, cost control, finance and quantitative decision-making from a project management perspective.
The key project leadership skills are as follows:
- Developing an overall vision of the project
- Building and developing the project management team
- Leading the team through the steps of the project management process
- Oral and written communications skills, both one-to-one and with a group
- People-management skills, including giving constructive feedback, conflict resolution and managing individual styles and personalities
- Facilitation skills, including interfacing across the organisation and removing obstacles for the team
- Ability to accept criticism, feedback and input from others
- Using team-based tools such as brainstorming, organising, decision making and project management.
- The ability to promote and sell the project, within and outside the organisation.
- Presentation skills
Problems Faced By Project Managers > Team Management > Team Dynamics
Team Dynamics are invisible forces that operate between different people or groups in a team. They can have a strong impact on how a team behaves or performs and their effects can be complex.
Consider a team consisting of six people, two of whom are already good friends. This pre-existing friendship can have a strong effect, either positive or negative, on the whole team. On one hand, the other members of the team may feel excluded from the friendship, thus dividing the team into two, possibly antagonistic, groups. But on the other hand, the whole group may be drawn into an extended friendship, causing the team to gel quickly and perform more effectively.
Physical factors can also have an effect, for example if a row of cupboards was place in the middle of the project office it could split the team into two groups. But the cupboards could easily be repositioned and the room layout designed to encourage communication.
Team dynamics can be recognised by examining the forces that influence team behaviour, eg:
- Personality styles, eg tendency to include or exclude people
- Team roles
- Office layout, eg cupboards dividing teams
- Tools and technology, eg use of email, bulletin boards etc.
- Organisational culture, eg company cars as status symbols
- Processes/methodologies/procedures, eg problem-solving methodology
Team dynamics can best be managed by examining the forces involved and intervening constructively to make the effects of those forces positive, wherever possible.
Problems Faced By Project Managers > Team Management > Establishing the Project Authority
A good Project Manager always takes steps to establish his/her authority and inspire respect. One of the first challenges is often taking over from the previous manager and winning over his or her supporters.
New managers often have a honeymoon period, when people are more interested in finding out how they work, than in criticising them or challenging them. This can be a good time to establish authority and get a good grasp of how organisational finances and control structures operate.
It is important to gain control of subordinates. In most organisations these can be divided into four groups: personal assistants, staff, subordinate managers and rank-and-file team members.
Personal assistants should always remain directly under the control of the manager and should have little or no authority.
Staff generally carry out functional roles, such as distributing information and again have little authority.
Subordinate managers should be encouraged to accept authority over their own areas of responsibility, but with a degree of caution to ensure that they do not attempt to usurp the role of the Project Manager.
Rank and file team members will normally report to a subordinate manager, but should have direct access to the Project Manager should any need to resolve conflicts arise.
Problems Faced By Project Managers > Team Management > Mechanics of Leading a Team
There are a number of fundamental skills involved in building and leading a team:
- Vision means being able to excite the team with large and desirable outcomes. This means devising goals that contain challenge, appeal to personal pride, and provide an opportunity to make a difference. Skilful team leaders communicate the goal by picturing success, eg by asking questions like: ‘What will it look like when we get there?’ or ‘How will others know?’
- Commitment can be a dangerous concept because of its attendant assumptions. For some people it may mean long hours, while to others it may mean productivity. Some team members may have difficulty in achieving commitment. This doesn’t automatically mean that they don’t care - they may already have too many other commitments both in and out of work. Leaders must avoid seeking accountability without providing support. The optimum approach is to establish an atmosphere of trust, and within that atmosphere encourage inclusion.
- Trust is the antidote to the fears and risks involved in commitment. When trust is established, team members are more willing to go through a difficult process, supported through good times and bad times, risk and potential loss. This happens when leadership commits to vision first, and everyone knows this commitment is genuine.
- Inclusion means getting others to commit to the team effort, helping others through their initial to genuine commitment. The basic tasks are to communicate the vision, ensure that it is understood, communicate commitment (including sharing risk and reward) and elicit and address peoples’ doubts. Leaders need good communication skills to achieve inclusion, eg non-assumptive questioning and good listening.
Non-assumptive questions like ‘Can you tell me what is happening with this report?’ are likely to receive real answers because they are inclusive, not intrusive. Questions containing assumptions like ‘Why is this report not complete?’ invite defensiveness.
Good listening means separating the process of taking in information from the process of judging it.
Problems Faced By Project Managers > Team Management > Team Meetings
Team meetings are critical to the effective functioning of a team. Team dynamics only come into play when the team is together, so meetings have a crucial role to play. It is at meetings that members develop their relationship as a group, so if the meetings do not work well, the team is unlikely to do so.
The members of a team generally have their own separate jobs, and meet together to get direction, share information, make decisions about issues that affect them all and coordinate activities that overlap roles. Members must get to know each other, learn to be a team, formulate a common goal, identify targets, plan work and coordinate how they will achieve that work. Teams also have a role in identifying problems and working together to find solutions and better ways of doing things. Meetings are their forum for making decisions and expanding their own empowerment levels.
Meetings are also a forum for feedback and evaluation. Team members are jointly responsible for reviewing their progress on achieving results, each other’s performance and the performance of the team as a whole. This should happen at the team’s regular meetings. Successful teams normally use meetings for some or all of the following purposes:
- Building relationships
- Learning team skills
- Setting goals and objectives
- Planning and coordinating work
- Discussing ways to expand empowerment
- Finding and solve problems
- Working on innovations
- Giving each other feedback
- Evaluate the team and the meetings
- Evaluate results achieved
Team meetings have to be carefully structured and skillfully facilitated in order to accomplish all the things an active team needs. Ensuring that meetings are well-managed is one of the critical functions of a team leader.
Meetings need to be regular and members must attend them consistently. The team leader should establish a regular time for meetings and keep to that schedule even if some members are occasionally absent.
Problems Faced By Project Managers > Team Management > Maintaining Team Leadership
Each team needs to shape its own common purpose, goals and approach. A team leader must contribute effectively to the work of the team, but the leader also stands apart from the team due to his or her position. A team expects their leader to help them clarify and commit to their mission, goals, and approach. Leaders should not be afraid to get their hands dirty, but they should also be prepared to let team members get on with their jobs.
An effective leader will work to build the commitment and confidence level of each member and the team as a whole. The leader’s goal should be to have members with technical, functional, problem solving, decision making, interpersonal and teamwork skills. He/she should encourage them to take the risks needed for growth and development and challenge them by shifting their assignments and role patterns.
Team leaders are expected to manage the team’s contacts and relationships with the rest of the organisation. They must communicate the team’s purpose, goals, and approach to anyone who might help or hinder it. They must also be able to intervene on the team’s behalf when obstacles that could cripple or demoralise the team are placed in their way.
A shared vision is a critical aspect of building a successful team. Teams are likely to fail if they don’t see clearly why they are doing what they are trying to do and why they are doing it. The leader must motivate the team toward the fulfillment of their goals. Team members want to be successful and they know the only way to do that is by following and achieving goals.