You know the feeling. Your project is teetering on the edge of disaster. A run of setbacks has the team struggling, and you’ve just found out that the equipment you need for the next phase will be six weeks late. What happens now? All too often, the result is a mess of disillusionment, finger pointing, and delays. But some teams pull together, find creative solutions, and get back on track – and they enjoy the ride while doing so.
What makes the difference? Why do some teams fall apart under pressure, when other teams overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles and keep getting stronger? To build an exceptional project team, you need to do three things: engage them, enable them, and energize them. Here are some practical ways to get started now:
Engage your team in the work done and the people doing it. If you want your team to be committed, they need to be aligned on their values, vision, and purpose.
- Be an evangelist for your project’s vision. People want to know they’re contributing to something important. Give competent people a job to do and they’ll get it done; but give them a worthwhile goal to achieve and they’ll run through walls to get there.
- Give team members the opportunity to learn and grow in the workplace. Get them excited about what being part of this project means for their own future.
- Make sure they have peers they view as capable, like-minded, and committed. Being part of a great team elevates everyone.
Your team can’t bring their best unless they have everything they need to succeed.
- Hold yourself accountable for giving your team the tools, resources, and training to succeed. The training piece is especially important, particularly if you’re asking people to do things they haven’t done before.
- Make sure everyone understands their objectives, expectations, and priorities. Projects can be chaotic and stressful. Enable your team to navigate that chaos and stress by helping them to focus on what’s important and to put low-priority work aside.
- Give them high levels of autonomy and the opportunity to do what they do best every day. People get great fulfillment from applying their talents to achieving a goal. The combination of autonomy and mastery is a powerful motivator.
Projects are demanding. Take care of your team, and help them to keep their energy levels up for the long haul.
- Make sure people are acknowledged and appreciated for their contributions. This one is obvious, but it’s still important. Even a simple “thank you” can give people a real boost. Conversely, nothing is more deflating than working hard to do something great and not being recognized for your effort.
- Help them maintain a healthy balance between work and personal life. Project intensity often rises around major milestones and eases in between them. Understand your project’s cadence. Give people a break when the pressure is off, and they’ll be ready to commit when the heat is on.
- Do what you can to earn the team’s trust and respect. Act with integrity. Don’t be afraid to do the hard things when the need arises.
You can elevate your team’s performance, but it doesn’t happen by magic. It takes up-front effort and ongoing care and feeding. Take the time to evaluate how your team stacks up against each point above. Sit down with your key players to brainstorm how to build more of the drivers into the team’s daily working life. Then monitor your progress going forward. If something isn’t working, empower the team to adjust the approach. You’ll get better performance, and everyone will be a lot happier along the way.
Business Consulting Senior Manager | Percipio Consulting Group, Inc.