How To Build A Successful Project Team

Paul Naybour

There are many components that come together to ensure you are successful as a project manager, from communicating effectively, to managing a schedule, to controlling the budget and handling risks. Nevertheless, most people would agree that an important first step is putting together the best project team. If you don’t have the right people in the right positions, you are only going to have an uphill battle ahead. So here’s the advice you need when putting together a successful project team .

Steps to take when putting together a project team

If you are to ensure you have the best people working on your team, and working in the position that will see their skills put to most effective use, you need to have a proper plan in place. Follow the steps below to help you determine the best team for you:

Put together a master plan

You should not simply start selecting people for your team without any consideration. You need to have a well thought-out plan in place. What is it that you are attempting to accomplish? You need to take the time to document the main objectives this team needs to achieve, as well as the specific assignments that must be accomplished in order to reach the said goals. Also, ask yourself the following questions:
  • Is there enough staffing resource available to you in-house to create a successful project team?
  • Will activities overlap with those managed by other members of staff who are not part of the team or will the team operate independently?
  • What are the deadlines for all of the objectives?
By asking yourself these questions, you will have a clearer understanding of what is required. You can then spend some time identifying the roles that are needed on the team. Are you going to lead the project team? Or, is someone else going to do this? Remember, every team is going to require a diverse number of specialists that can handle particular duties. This could include the likes of resource co-ordinator, facilitator, tech specialist, and researcher.

Put the team together

Once you have a clear understanding of your objectives and the framework that you are going to be working in, you are now ready to start identifying key participants to fit into the roles that have been outlined. Take a look at each person’s habits, personality, skills, and training to determine who is going to be the best person for the positions in question. It is important to make sure that the skills of all members complement one another as well. Remember, it is a successful project team you are aiming for so you not only need to look at each person individually, but also as a part of that team. You also need to decipher whether some members will only be involved in the project at a specific stage, or whether the full team will take care of the project from start to finish. You may also need to look for people from outside of the company, depending on the nature and the complexity of the project. Don’t be against looking externally – after all, if you need expertise that does not exist at your company, or if you add tasks to your current team’s list and it overburdens them, it is better to look for fresh talent.
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Make sure the team is set up to be successful

You may think that once you have chosen what you hope will be your successful project team, the job has been done, but it’s only the beginning. The next step is to make sure that the team is set up for success. You should always begin by holding a meeting with everyone involved so that you can talk about the overall plan. If there is a large number of people contributing to the project, it may be advisable to ensure task completion is tracked by a senior member. They can also help with the distribution of the regular status updates too. You also need to consider logistical issues, including how problems will be managed, how regularly status reports will be delivered, and where team members are going to work. It is now your responsibility to ensure that everyone on your team knows the project scope and primary objective. Everyone needs to have satisfactory background information, and it is critical that you relay the importance of this project to every member of the team in relation to the overall goals and objectives of the business. This helps everyone to have a clear focus and can also help to improve productivity leading to a more successful project team.

Lead without micro-managing

One of the most difficult things you have to master as a team leader is knowing when it is best to stay on the sidelines and when it is time to step in. Remember, a large chunk of your role is to motivate your team, and thus while it is critical to let your team get on with their tasks; you also need to inspire them to continue to reach their objectives. You can make sure your team is working to optimal level and that they are cohesive by recognising the team’s efforts as well as individual contributions. This is particularly important during periods when activity is at intense levels.

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Monitor progress

Of course, you will hope that by having followed the steps above, you will have the most successful project team in place. However, in the real world, it is not always that simple. Someone may have had all of the right credentials on paper, but they simply aren’t delivering. It is important to monitor your team throughout. It is good to have a central forum where you and your team can share project status, successes, and concerns on a frequent basis. You may find that it becomes necessary to re-assign roles. Don’t do this at the first hurdle; all teams will face challenges. Plus, when a team works through challenges together, it brings them closer, and their accomplishment gives rise to camaraderie and confidence. Nevertheless, it is important to recognise when you simply have not made the right decision in the first place, and thus changes need to be made.  

Provide guidance throughout the entire project

No project runs smoothly. There are going to be problems and hurdles that happen throughout, no matter how effectively you have put together what you hope will be your successful project team. You are the person that needs to nip these issues in the bud so that they never reach breaking point. Make sure the team develops effective processes for resolving issues and sharing information, as opposed to simply waiting for a setback to happen. One of the best ways to accomplish this is by scheduling regular status meetings and conference calls. This makes sure that everyone has all of the resources they need for their tasks ahead, and that all team members are aware of the current objectives. Not only does this help to keep the team on the right track, but also it puts you in a position where you can deal with changes quickly and make certain that all deadlines are met.  

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Tips for putting together your team

  Now you know the steps to follow when putting together a successful project team but we also have a few other tips to help before you go ahead and start the process.  

Make sure you manage the team mix

It is very, very tough to know whether you have the mix of the team correct when you create it. This is why it needs to be monitored. If someone does not fit in the team, you may have to take action otherwise you risk de-motivating the whole team.  

Allow people to grow

You need to give people the platform to grow once you have put together your team. At this point, it is good to offer rewards to those who deserve it. This could include opportunities to develop new capabilities and skills, as well as paying for managerial or technical studies and continuing professional development. If you do not give these growth opportunities, the key talent on your team could look to find it elsewhere instead.  


The next point to consider is mentoring. When it comes to a healthy and successful project team, every member will have the opportunity to be a mentor. Mentoring can make the team better by helping each team member work together more effectively, as it symbolises the cumulative strength of the team. You need to search for friendly people who enjoy teaching others while also contributing their expertise. You have a very powerful tool on your hands when you have a project team in place that is comprised of individuals that want to help one and other to succeed on a personal level and, of course, want the project to succeed.

Avoid hiring in your own image

This is something a lot of people tend to do. However, when building a team, it is important to have a diverse collection of attitudes and skills. Do not adopt a narrowly constructed skill set, or hire in your own image. For example, if you were to hire a number of technical developers, you may fall into the trap of engaging individuals for one vital competency. This is not the right approach to take. Instead, you need to consider how their knowledge base is going to cross over with other members of the team. It becomes more and more important to diversify your project, the bigger and more complicated the project becomes.  

Who is showing enthusiasm?

Having the necessary skills is only one part of the puzzle when looking for the best members of your team. You need people who are interested in the project and have the desire to achieve success. If there is someone who has all of the necessary skills, but they have no enthusiasm or interest in the project, the team will suffer because they are not going to be completely engaged. Look for people who will not just go through the motions but will go the extra mile.  

Consider trustworthiness

Not only do you need to look at the enthusiasm of each team member you are considering, but trustworthiness is of paramount importance too. For each member of your successful project team, strong personal integrity is essential. You need to know that the people you choose are going to be dedicated to the project right until the very end and they will not let you down. Imagine how disastrous it could be if a key member left half way through after all the effort you had made to build an effective team. Trust also creates a more comfortable environment, which fosters improved personal interactions. Your team will be productive if they have trust in one and other and, therefore, can work cohesively together.  

Make sure there are no public fights or finger pointing

Last but not least, fights and finger pointing can easily occur when discussions get out of control. These discussions need to take place, but you need to make sure that there is a degree of civility in place. There are numerous ways you can do this. Firstly, do not focus on people, focus on problems. If issues become personal, it can put massive cracks in the team. Also, ensure incorrect decisions are accepted as a team, enforce a policy of what happens in the room remains in the room, and, once a decision has been made, everyone has to stand behind it as a team. By implementing these ground rules, you can keep on top of any lively discussions and ensure that the morale and overall team feeling is a positive one. All in all, it is quite clear to see that choosing the right project team is of paramount importance for a project to be successful. Nevertheless, this is only half of the battle. You also need to lead in the right manner and provide guidance throughout the whole of the project. A successful project team does not guarantee success, but, without it, you have no chance. Plus, if you have the right talent in the right positions, you are definitely going to be on the right path to success.

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