Do your project kickoffs build teams or just projects?
The sports metaphors prevail throughout project management. We call our project staff “teams” and we “coach” employees rather than managing them, but are these names appropriate to the way we actually work? As a project manager, have you truly fostered the TEAM environment? There are a few simple clues that can help you to recognize how your “team” feels about this question:
- Do they speak about project decisions in the first person?
Engaged team members talk about project activities in terms of “We”. If they say “They made a decision,” then your team members likely are not feeling empowered. If they use the second-person “you”, it is somewhat accusatory, and you have some relationship-building to do.
- Do they have fun together?
Teams come together when the members see each other as people, not just cogs in the same wheel. When we look at each other as people, we collaborate to develop better solutions. If we can have fun together and laugh together, then we are connecting on a deeper level, and that reminds us of each person’s humanity.
- Do they ask (or answer) questions in meetings?
A silent room is a project manager’s greatest fears. Engaged team members seek deeper understanding, so they ask lots of questions. Team members who feel valued are more likely to help each other out by answering questions.
- Do they challenge opinions constructively?
The team members who do not feel valued are more likely to just blindly accept what you tell them. Team members who are disillusioned will challenge each other in destructive ways. Team members who respect one another and feel valued will challenge each other to develop better solutions.
Once you recognize the need for some team-building, how do you work that into your project plan?
Every project plan involving more than one person needs to include team-building. I cannot stress this enough: every. single. one. This should be the focus of our project kickoff meetings, updated at each milestone, and celebrated at the end of each project. Give your team an opportunity to know each as people before asking them to work together.
So how can you, as the project manager, get your team working together more effectively? I have seen the tear everything down and build it back up approach, but most adults don’t appreciate this type of manipulation. There is nothing more likely to blow a team apart for good than to tell them how badly they are working together. Instead, be honest about what you are trying to accomplish as you:
- Preface project kickoff meetings with a social activity.
- Recognize new (and departing) team members with a group lunch.
- Show by your example the way that you want people to treat each other and find non-confrontational ways to resolve conflicts.
How do you keep your project staff working together as a team? Share your suggestions in the comments below!