As a project manager, you have to command the respect of your team; if they don’t have faith in your abilities to lead a project successfully then it will be very difficult to do so. One of the many challenges a project manager faces is being both a leader and a manager – these are not the same thing so let’s look at some different ways to make your project team believe in you.
No matter how good you are at understanding project management methods and processes and at carrying them out, if you do not have the full support of your team then neither you nor your project will ever achieve its full potential. It can take a range of attributes to achieve a situation where a highly skilled, experience PM is also an inspiring, motivational leader; but if you can combine these attributes then your really are on the road to success.
Sometimes project managers learn how to also be leaders from their real-life experience over many years; the tests and challenges they face in each successive project creates a learning experience. But what if you are new to project management are have been one of the fortunate few to have sailed through easy projects so far – what steps can you take to cultivate team belief in the early stages of the project?
Get to Know Your Team
Teams comprise real people not just resources in your project plan so get to know the team as individuals. Find out about their personal likes and dislikes, their strengths and weaknesses in the workplace perhaps by taking them for an informal coffee break. If team members are already working together observe how they do so – what interactions take place, are there any underlying tensions? Explain why you are doing this (they are sure to notice) and explain why you would like them to be honest about team dynamics because it is the interests of everyone that everyone can work well together and, if necessary, put personal gripes aside for the duration of the project.
One of the essential factors in successful projects is a motivated team. There are many ways you can do this. It might seem very predictable but people generally respond well to praise and encouragement. By getting to know individual team members first you will also start to get a sense of what motivates each of them – don’t expect it to be the same thing.
It is essential to communicate clearly and regularly with your team – this might be easy when you are all based in the same location but, increasingly, teams are in disparate locations and even in different countries. There may also be language and cultural barriers to overcome so effective communication is far more than a weekly report or weekly meeting.
Avoid resentment building within the team by telling them what you know about the project – if there is bad news, such as reduced funding, then tell the team. Similarly let them know any good news or positive feedback from clients or stakeholders.
Of course, communication is also about making sure everyone understands what they have to do, how they can achieve it and also what the project’s overall aims and objectives are.
As changes happen throughout the project (and they will) remember to keep everyone informed.
Recognise Individual Achievements
Don’t take the credit for yourself when things are going well. If an individual team member has achieved something particularly noteworthy then recognise that fact: tell them, tell the rest of the team and tell the stakeholders. Acknowledging contributions that go beyond what was expected is a great motivator for everyone.