As a leader of your organization, you likely know how much work it takes to build strong employees and project teams. You also know how important this is for your organization’s success.
So, how can you save yourself time, money and energy in the long run—and produce winning outcomes–by effectively building and supporting strong project teams now?
Over the years, I’ve had the pleasure of assembling and overseeing teams that were focused on a number of goals and assignments. Here are a few:
- Lead a building design and construction project
- Develop a new organizational process
- Collectively work to pass a piece of legislation
- Plan an office move
Regardless of the team’s assignment, I believe there are six essential elements in building and supporting a strong project team. As you read these, I recommend considering how your organization’s processes support these elements, as well as where you could use improvement.
(1) Assemble a Diverse Team of Players
If you want to produce a well-thought through plan that has a greater chance of success, assemble a diverse group of employees. A diverse group will often bring different ideas, perspectives and working styles to a project team. This sets the stage for rich dialogue. Yes, it can be more challenging for a highly diverse group to reach consensus, but the benefits of having diverse team members is very often worth any initial extra effort.
Pro Tip: Make sure each member of the group feels comfortable and is skilled in offering their opinion and voicing their reasons for that opinion.
(2) Assign Clear and Meaningful Project Roles
Every leader wants motivated and engaged employees and team members—and the way to encourage this is to assign clear and meaningful project roles to every member of the project team. While sometimes the role a team member plays is more obvious, like the HR Manager in a project team to identify your firm’s on-boarding process, or a Project Designer developing the sketches for a new building project–there are likely team assignments where you have more options regarding which team member could assume various team roles.
Ask yourself, is there a way to develop a junior member for a future job position by offering them an atypical project team role, or one that might be a stretch for them? This can often make the role more meaningful to them if they know you see their potential for new tasks.
Additionally, the team needs a great leader to keep the team on pace, check in with members, and make sure the project goals are being fulfilled. Who on your team has well-developed leadership, communication, negotiation, and troubleshooting skills? These are very helpful qualities to have to keep the project team high performing.
(3) Encourage Candid Discourse
A common need for team members is to be heard and offer meaningful input to discussions—despite whether their input is implemented. Ask yourself, how is the team leader assisting in making sure everyone has a chance to be heard and offer their thoughts? You likely know that being able to present your opinion in a professional and convincing manner without being overbearing is quite a valuable skill—and your employees should have the opportunity to practice it. One of my favorite communication books, Crucial Conversations by Kerry Patterson, Joseph Greeny, etc. encourages us to “state our thoughts firmly, but hold our opinions loosely”.
Pro Tip: If you see a project team member who has been quiet during the entire team meeting, consider kindly asking them to share their thoughts on the conversation. If you disagree with an opinion outlined by another team member, try asking a probing question about why they reached that conclusion. This will often make them feel more heard and appreciated, despite conflicting opinions.
(4) Clearly Outline the Project’s Goals and then FULLY Delegate
While clearly outlining the project’s goals sounds obvious, it’s often an overlooked step in a project’s kickoff. Important elements that each team member needs to know include: specifically what is being asked of them, the desired end result, the deliverables, the time frame, and the budget (if applicable). Clear expectations also include how often the team or team leader needs to check in with the supervisor during the project.
Pro Tip: Once the supervisor has delegated the project to the team, he/she needs to step away, let the team perform, and make sure the team has access to the resources they need. Otherwise the team will likely feel micromanaged—he/she needs to FULLY delegate.
(5) Use the Team Assignment as a Mentoring Opportunity
Whenever you’re building a project team, there’s an opportunity for employees to grow and further their skills. Both the supervisor and the project team leader can effectively engage in a mentoring role with each team member. And all team members can utilize self-leadership, peer to peer leadership, and leading up so that everyone is getting productive feedback and growing from the team experience. Here’s where you can be strategic—consider the specific skills you’d like each employee to develop and create team assignments that offer those opportunities for growth.
(6) Conduct a Post-Assignment Debrief
Most of the types of assignments executed via a project team are repeated over and over again, strengthening the benefit of holding a post-assignment team debrief. During the course of the project, hopefully everyone is giving (and receiving) timely, on-the-spot feedback–which is beneficial to make timely course corrections, but a debrief at the end of the project allows for so much more. Post-Assignment debriefs are meant to celebrate the project’s success, each person’s contributions to the effort, discuss strengths in process and deliverables, as well as identify areas the team would change next time.
Pro-Tip: Want to make sure post-assignment debrief pearls of wisdom are remembered and implemented in the next project? Create a project debriefing form, share the insights with the entire organization, and catalog the debriefing document in your server.
Project Teams During COVID-19
As we participate in projects executed via a project team while COVID-19 continues to loom in the background, realize that we have additional obstacles to building a strong team like:
- Having to communicate while wearing a mask.
- Meeting via a virtual platform.
- Experiencing general pandemic fatigue and potential disengagement due to worry or depression.
Be kind to one another. If a certain meeting does not go as planned, perhaps change the setting, hold a meeting with pizza and adult beverages–or simply acknowledge that this is a hard time we are all going through and be the first to share how you are feeling that day. We can more quickly get the project team on back on track when caring for one another’s human needs.
Never miss an installment of Carol’s Insights Blog! Have it delivered to your inbox monthly by signing up here.
Next month’s topic is Stop Being Treated Like a Commodity by Re-evaluating Your Pricing Strategy.