5 tips for a more productive project team
Wednesday, August 29, 2018
It’s one thing to be able to create an extensive project plan, charter, budget, and dashboard. The skill set required to lead a project team that’s cohesive and productive is quite different.
Project management involves a mix of hard and soft skills, and you’ll need to know when to use each tool in your project manager toolbox at a given time.
Here are five tips based on my experience. Unfortunately, some of these I learned from doing wrong at first.
Tip No. 1: Provide clear expectations
Your team members can’t read your mind (nor should you expect them to). When asking how long it will take to complete a task, make sure you mention "given the other responsibilities on your plate, how long will it take…?"
When you relay expectations from the project sponsor to the team, provide the context behind the decision and why the project is headed in that new direction.
Tip No. 2: Give feedback early and often
While you probably aren’t the direct supervisor of anyone on the project team, you’re still in a role where you can give feedback. Catch team members doing something above and beyond their job description, then mention it.
Praise publicly and offer correction privately. Many projects take months or even years to complete.
With longer projects, it’s easy for a team to become discouraged or exhausted when progress isn’t noticeable. Encourage and inspire your team often.
Tip No. 3: Listen and solicit input
The old saying that we have "two ears and one mouth for a reason" makes a lot of sense as you lead a project team.
Listen carefully to your team. Ask if they’re clear on the priorities for the upcoming week. Find out if they have the information and resources needed to complete their tasks on time.
If you sense they’re frustrated by the number of meetings or any project issues, take a moment to ask what’s bothering them.
Once you hear their concerns, discuss options for fixing the issue. Take action as soon as possible to make any needed changes or explain why the situation is the way it is at this time.
Don’t let frustrations or issues fester — ask questions, listen carefully, and seek to resolve problems quickly.
Tip No. 4: Share information
Trust your team and keep them informed about the scope, budget, deadlines, and decisions related to the project. There might be elements that must remain confidential but share as much information as possible.
People get suspicious when they think leaders are withholding information. Help your team trust you by being as transparent as possible.
Tip No. 5: Provide training
Don’t expect team members to immediately understand how to update their task status in Microsoft Project (or another project management tool you use). Provide training and offer quick refreshers during team meetings if needed.
Also, consider offering tips on how to manage their time more effectively. Examples include checking email at specific intervals, planning the upcoming week the week before and adjust as needed each day, and leaving the last 15 minutes of each day open for prioritizing tomorrow’s tasks.
Don’t assume that they know these things (or that they remember to do them). Also, ask if there’s any area of their role on the project that’s unclear or where they know there’s got to be an easier way to do things but don’t know exactly how.
Maybe they need advanced training in Excel or testing software. There are a multitude of options for online or in-person training (most of which are relatively cost-effective). Put money in the budget for training the team.
The role of a project manager extends far beyond simply tracking tasks and deadlines. You need talented, passionate people on your team to make a huge impact.
By taking the time to invest in your team, you’ll reap the rewards as their performance and effectiveness increases.
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