Ever watched what happens when a new team is formed? Maybe you’ve seen a new team of little league baseball players, a music group, a civic group, or a business team. The initial dynamics can be rather rocky and uncertain, even with skilled individuals.
Imagine a new project team that was formed to consolidate customer service centers from 20 locations across the United States to five regional locations. The goal for Phase 1 of the project was the consolidate four centers in the Southeast to the Atlanta Customer Service Center. Here were some of the attributes of the team:
Resources were preassigned
Eight people comprised the core team
Each team member lived in a different city
Ages ranged from 28 to 62
Four of the team members have worked on several projects together in the past
Two members have never been on a project team
If you were the project manager, how would you assess the team? What steps would you take to develop the team? How would you help the team move through the team stages of forming, storming, norming, and performing more quickly?
Are you feeling stuck? If so, let’s talk about getting unstuck and moving again.
With all that we have to do, we can’t afford to stay in one place too long. Somehow, we must keep things moving forward. Otherwise, there will be consequences—missed deadlines, unhappy stakeholders, demoralized team members, and ultimately adverse impacts to the company’s bottom line.
So, why do project managers get stuck in the first place? There are several reasons. First, it’s analysis paralysis. We get stuck in over-analyzing (or over-thinking) things such as requirements. Second, it’s fear. We are afraid that we will make a mistake. Third, it’s perfectionism—the refusal to accept any standard short of perfection. We mean well, but this mindset is a toxic trap that hinders our progress as we seek the approval of others. Fourth, it’s poor decision making. The project team has identified multiple options for solving the problem, but can’t seem to pick one.
Do you really care about your people? I mean really.
I have to admit there have been times in my project management career when I cared more about the project than the people. After all, I was under a lot of pressure to deliver the project come hell or high water. And my reputation and career were on the line.
When I think back, I’m not proud of how I handled some situations. I said and did some things that caused others harm. Nothing unethical; just ungracious, unkind, and uncaring.
Can you relate?
Care For Your People First
The Story of William Osler
In his book—The 21 Indispensable Qualities of a Leader— John Maxwell shared a story about William Osler, a doctor, university professor, and author who practiced medicine. Osler once wrote:
Discover Practical Ways to Build Trust in Your Teams
Team values drive the team’s behavior and actions. If the team values efficiency, individuals will look for ways to get greater results with less effort. Project managers who value communication seek to improve understanding between stakeholders.
Many individuals assume that all the team members have similar values. While everyone may agree on project goals, they may not agree on the same path to success.
Does everyone value respect, trust, and encouragement in their day-to-day interactions? Team members will be more productive when they encourage one another and when project managers express appreciation.
Project managers rarely discuss values. Why? Because they see values as fluff. Teams are under pressure to execute and deliver. Project managers may not feel that they have time to clarify values.
So, how can we engage our team members and have a meaningful discussion on values?
Project managers can create a team constitution when initiating projects. What is a team constitution? It is a list of shared values. As the team creates the constitution, ask team members to reflect on previous projects. Ask them to identify desired attitudes and behaviors.
Unity is strength…when there is teamwork and collaboration, wonderful things can be achieved. -American poet Mattie Stepanek
If you wish to be a great project manager, focus not only on your technical skills but seek to improve your project interpersonal skills. Extraordinary project managers know how to relate to others when things are going as planned as well as on days filled with undesirable events.
Perhaps you’ve faced situations like these:
A team member constantly treated other team members with disrespect.
Your team was in trouble, but your sponsor was unavailable to help.
Your client was troubled because their expectations were not being met.
Meetings, meeting, and more meetings but little progress.
A senior leader was undermining your efforts.
A problem team member continually failed to complete their activities causing adverse impacts to the project schedule.
Management wanted your project completed in four months, an unrealistic deadline.
Decisions were made, but few of them stuck.
You’ve been asked to take on a troubled project where team members are at odds with one another.
How we handle these events either help and advance our projects (and our career) or cause harm. Are you aware of your emotions and your relational skills? Well, let’s discuss ways to improve our project interpersonal skills.