Leading a project team is with the right skills and experience is critical to project success. Newly created project teams need strong leadership and structure in order to start on the important project items. Much responsibility is placed with the project manager early in the project timeline, and if the project manager is unsuccessful, they may be removed from the project altogether.
Therefore, project managers must be direct and facilitate team building and cooperation amongst the team members, as well as aiding the team in getting to know one another and who will play what role in the project. In this early stage, the leader must help the team members to establish expectations and ensure the whole team understands the vision and details.
Leading a Project Team
A common error we see from project managers (particularly task-oriented PMs), is starting the project without ensuring all team members are prepared and ready to start. They do not value the team building and social aspect of the team, which can raise issues and delays down the road. In most cases, the most efficient environments are when team members truly feel like a team and work together from step 1.
One proven way to get the team going, is with a kickoff event of some sort, such as a small gathering for a meal, allowing the team members to become comfortable with one another without the project being the main focus. By removing any work, team members are able to relax and connect with each other. If this step is not feasible for the whole team, the project manager must be creative in finding a way to connect their team before the project tasks begin.
After the group becomes acclimated to one another, the next step in the process is the “storming” or brainstorming phase. This is the stage when the question of “is our plan going to lead us to our overall ultimate goal?”. It is the project manager’s role to reassure the team that they are on the right track and the plan is foolproof.
Another underrated role of the Project Manager in this phase, is to ensure all members that their role is valuable and their contribution to the project makes a difference. This encourages team members to stay the course and value their contributions. Keeping the team members focused and positive will ultimately lead to project efficiency and an accurate timeline.
The above step is quite often skipped by unprepared PMs, as many managers avoid dealing with conflict and tough conversations. Avoiding conflict and acting as if it does not exist is a major mistake that can cause worse issues in the future. The best approach to conflict is to be honest and deal with it head on so it does not become destructive. This will prevent roadblocks from occurring and keep the project on pace.
The next stage in the process is often called “norming”, and this is often when the team members truly start to feel like a team. Members are now taking care of project tasks and should be supporting one another and collaborating across various tasks. This is also the stage when the PM begins to share their decision-making thought process with the team as to include the team members in project choices.
By the fourth stage of the process, the team should be fully established and running. The project manager is now tasked with anticipating future obstacles and preparing a variety of solutions.
The PM is also delegating project tasks amongst the team when it comes time. By this point, the team should also start receiving results for their work and also receive feedback from all involved parties. The team should be running almost automatedly by this point in the project timeline.
Lastly, members of a team will often change, which requires the existing team members to embrace the new members and welcome them in. The team must also prepare to work backwards to the initial stages of the team formation to get acclimated with the new members.
Resetting the team opens the opportunity to re-designate tasks amongst members and get an understanding for where the new members are most effective.
Ideally, the timeline for a newly developed team should start slowly and ensure all members are comfortable and prepared for the project. While many consider the main focus of the project manager is to facilitate tasks, leading a project team also involves turning your members into a true team. Unity of the team will yield more support for one another, as well as increase productivity.