Cultivating a motivated, empowered and effective team should be a primary goal of all project leaders, especially as businesses grapple with the COVID-19 crisis and its implications on remote working.
However, balancing the unique skills, objectives, accountabilities and work ethics of individual team members is no easy task. A cohesive team is a complex machine built of many parts, and it’s up to project leaders to ensure each of them is running at optimal levels.
When it comes to project delivery success, people are everything. So how can managers avoid many of the ‘people pitfalls’ that plague project delivery, improve the effectiveness of remote work, and unlock the true potential of their teams?
The Anatomy of a Successful Team
To answer that question, we first must analyse what constitutes a successful group. Here are five key elements of high performing project teams.
Members of successful project teams are all rowing in the same direction. They share a vision, agree upon project timelines, understand their roles and responsibilities and communicate openly if the waters start to muddy.
Ensuring alignment across all aspects of the team is critical for project managers.
Members of high performing teams are each accountable for their role within the project. They understand, accept and embrace their own responsibilities, and also the expectations of other members within their team.
As author Bob Proctor says, “accountability is the glue that ties commitment to the result.” Whatever you may think of his philosophies, this is a helpful way to perceive the importance of accountability within teams.
Teams, by definition, are collaborative entities. Members draw from each other’s skills to enrich their own work and reach targets that would be otherwise impossible on their own.
However, as all project managers know, the barriers to collaboration can be many and varied. Technology, culture, relationships and location are just some of the considerations project leaders must consider when nurturing a truly collaborative team dynamic.
As the COVID-19 pandemic has led many businesses to accelerate their remote working capabilities, project leaders must ensure strong collaboration remains within teams whose members are working from home. Reliable video conferencing, project management and document sharing tools are essential.
Successful teams often develop a shared and unique identity, which lays the foundations of mutual trust and collaboration. In a team with an identity, members take pride in their ‘tribe’, become invested in its success and build effective relationships with their fellow members.
Nurturing this kind of collective thinking can be a profitable exercise for project leaders.
The last but perhaps most important element of a successful team, leadership is the everpresent force that makes all other ingredients come together.
Without strong leadership, teams will struggle to align on project requirements, accept accountability for their work, collaborate effectively, develop relationships and deliver project success.
Building Successful Teams: a Roadmap For Project Leaders
Now that we’ve identified what drives high performing teams, let’s outline how project leaders can cultivate the environment needed for team members to flourish, including those adjusting to remote work.
Here are five key things project leaders should consider when unlocking the true potential of their colleagues.
1. Influence, Not Authority
Prolific leadership and management author Kenneth Blanchard says that the key to successful leadership in today’s business environment is influence, not authority.
In order to develop the trust and collaboration vital to project success, leaders must embrace the same accountability as their team and inspire them to share their vision. This means owning team failures, valuing individual relationships, communicating with transparency and leading by example.
As the world adapts to the new normal in a post-pandemic world, project leaders should proceed with empathy and flexibility.
2. Assembling the Team
Working alongside business analysts, project managers should assemble their team with an accurate and holistic picture of their experience, skillset, motivations, work styles, expectations, working dynamics and workplace culture.
Project leaders should consider how each of these ingredients combines to create a cohesive team and identify possible points of friction early on.
3. Project Management 101
When it comes to starting work, don’t overlook the power of fundamental leadership tactics in creating strong foundations for team success.
Setting clear objectives, establishing timeframes, outlining action plans and providing accurate agendas for each meeting may seem simple, but they’re the building blocks of a strong project.
These fundamentals can become increasingly important when managing remote teams, with simple processes like document sharing and communication becoming more complicated.
4. Nurture Communication
Open and effective communication is the bedrock of any successful team. Ensure you remove any and all barriers to effective communication as early as possible, and encourage collaboration throughout the project.
Technology, trust and transparency must work together to make open communication possible. Using situational leadership to adapt your management style to the unique culture and capability of your team can allow you to build trust and nurture open communication.
5. Rapid Response
Project leaders must be quick to acknowledge success and quick to address concerns. Project reviews, including evaluation reviews throughout the project and gate reviews at the conclusion of project milestones, can allow managers to keep their finger on the pulse of emerging issues.
Whatever the nature of your project, much of your success hinges on one thing: people. It’s clear that project leaders who nurture trust, collaboration and motivation stand to deliver better results than those who suffer from disjointed, disengaged and dissatisfied team members.
In evolving working conditions like we’ve experienced due to COVID-19, project leaders must reassess the basic principles of team management to ensure their colleagues have the resources and support they need to succeed.
If you’d like the help of experienced consultants to unlock the true potential of your project teams, reach out to us at MetaPM.