Kind? Nice? Aren’t these terms wich better describe tea-room conversations and cocktail parties? But we are talking business here, are we not?
Yes, we are, and business can be tough. Still, you better keep in mind that without your team you are nothing.
So in brief: Be nice! Yes, you may be tough and an alpha wolf. It is you, who should be in charge. But do not use that as an excuse to be rude, overly blunt or even worse, unfair with your team – this would only reflect weak leadership. As a project manager you are in a key position. It is your duty, to get the best out of your team.
Of course I know not all teams are equally competent or efficient. But even if you are riding a weak horse, it is of no use whatsoever to beat it to death. Because then you would have to walk all the way on your own.
Be aware of their strengths
What are the strengths of your team? What are they really good at? Just starting to think about this will help yourself to create a positive attitude towards your team. Yes, they all have their weak points as well, but you will be aware of those anyway. I am sure. Once you start listing each member’s particular strengths, you might also realise not all tasks are distributed to the best of people’s ability among the members of your team.
Keep your team informed
I suppose there are regular update meetings, where every team member gets informed and updated. Be it once a week or once a month. Be it in a meeting room or be it online.
If you dont do that, it is about time to start! There is nothing worse than uninformed team members. Well, there is one thing actually worse: Ill-informed team members and rumours spreading mouth-to-mouth. A lack of information might lead to people filling the gaps with anything but reality. They might start running off-track or re-inventing the wheel. In any case, this will create unhappy team members.
But at the same time you must also be careful. Do not make your team feel as if you steal their time. Too many meetings can kill productivity. Maybe just hand out an information bulletin or short agenda in advance. Then the meeting itself can be rather quick, just picking up the major points.
Your team donates their time and productivity to your project. Yes, this is their damn job. But nevertheless the amount of effort can vary. Someone can do their job and nothing but their job. Others will naturally show more enthusiasm. Reward the latter. Say a genuine ‘Thank You’! We can easily say these words without meaning them – make sure you specify what you are grateful for. That makes you aware of your team’s achievements and it shows you team members that you genuinely recognise their input.
And … it works. Teams thrive on togetherness! It is sometimes the small gestures which make a difference and will be remembered fondly.
It does not need to be the huge final party at the end of the project or when you celebrate an important milestone. But demonstrate each and everyone who participated in your project your awareness. Find a way to reward them for their success. This can be simple praise, get them mentioned in the company newsletter, or go for a nice meal – whatever fits your organisation and your position.
Maybe your project was stopped mid-term and scrapped by upper management? Maybe for reasons beyond your reach? Certainly not the right time for celebrations. But still you can and should acknowledge and pay respect to your team’s efforts. Actually, in situations like these it is even more important to do so. When your project was a big success your team will be happy anyway, but it is now during the dark times when they are in dire need of your support.
Now take a few minutes to find out why you should be happy about your team’s support. Maybe you know it anyway, but write it down now to make yourself really aware of it. Of course there might be some negative thoughts entering your brain as well. Do not worry, there is no risk in putting them aside for now. They will come back, and later there will be plenty of time for your self-sorrow and anger. But right now please simply ignore them.
Hopefully, by now you have a list of the positive sides of your team. No matter how short that list is, think about a way to reward them for it, about a way to say thank you.
Give them reasons to be happy to work for you. This will make your life easier. Only a motivated team is a good team.
Alexander Blumenau (*1972) is a portfolio and project manager. With over a decade of international project experience he has been in charge as head of R&D in high-tech industries.
Originally Alexander started his career as a scientist and holds a doctoral degree in Physics. Besides his interests in project management, company processes and structures, he works as a free author and arts photographer.