Creating the Right Atmosphere for Teams to Succeed

From the Voices on Project Management Blog
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Voices on Project Management offers insights, tips, advice and personal stories from project managers in different regions and industries. The goal is to get you thinking, and spark a discussion. So, if you read something that you agree with - or even disagree with - leave a comment.

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Categories: Leadership, Teams


Whether I'm the project manager or a team member, I am completely in control of the way in which I interact with people on my team.

I regard my team members as powerful individuals, regardless of their knowledge, experience or personality. With this as the context for my interactions, they can achieve results, complete work on time, support their teammates and share their knowledge.

To foster this kind of environment, I ground myself in the project goal. I determine what's required to achieve results efficiently and with great collaborative effort. Then I translate that to find a way I can help the team by being supportive, open, connected, appreciative, or being someone who consistently celebrates the success of others.

Have you worked with someone closely and over time, and found you could support each other and contribute to each other's work, without doubts, worries or concerns? That's what happens when I create an environment that allows me to be with people that way right from the start.  

How do you elevate your team to the next level of performance?
Posted by Dmitri Ivanenko PMP ITIL on: April 01, 2011 12:29 PM | Permalink

Comments

Thomas Juli, Author of "Leadership Principles for Project Success"
Dmitri,

I agree with you that one of the project manager's responsibilities is to create the right atmosphere for teams to succeed. But there is much more to it than you are writing.

You are writing "I ground myself in the project goal. I determine what's required to achieve results efficiently and with great collaborative effort." As good as this sounds, there is a flaw in this approach. If the project manager is the only one who grounds him/herself in the project goal, this is definitely not sufficient.

What is necessary is that the team shares the same understanding of the project vision, i.e., the overall picture of the project. The team understands why the project was started in the first case. Your responsibility as a project manager is to ensure that your team is on the same page.

Building a common project vision includes knowing your "playing field." In other words, what are the rules of the game and who is playing? Who are the stakeholders and motivates them? Where does your team fit into this environment? What leverage does it have?

Next come the project objectives. It is important that those are SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-boxed). Make sure that all people actively involved in the project understand and buy into those project objectives. If this is not the case, you may expect distractions along the way and forearm yourself.

The second principle after building a common project vision is to nurture collaboration. An experienced project manager knows that it is first and foremost a member of the team and that the team is the heart and soul of the project manager. It is not about an individual "leading" a team. As a matter of fact, if you pretend to "lead" a team and act as if you were the boss of this team, are someone special, you are not leading the team.

In order to lead a team, exercise true leadership, you are a member of this team and help build this team. This cannot be achieved by yourself. A project manager may facilitate this process. But it cannot be achieved alone. It takes a whole team to do so.

Nurturing collaboration starts with defining and agreeing on the various roles and responsibilities. Plus you want to discuss and seek to understand the expectations of the team in a certain role and vice versa. What skills does this role have to have? What level of authority is this role accrued with?

Once you have assigned individuals to the various roles and have secured the individual as well as group commitment, don't stop there. Find out what motivates your team members to fill their roles. Why do they want to be on the team? You want to understand the expectations of your team members on the visible level and you want to appreciate what motivates them to be there. Take their expectations and motivations seriously. Listen to them.

Following the alignment of the various roles and responsibilities define the rules of engagement within your team and how you plan to interact with the "outside" world. Again, this is done by the team as a whole if at all possible. The level of flexibility and authority you and your team have may differ. However, if you are serious and honest about creating the right atmosphere for your team to succeed, you don't just swallow pre-defined rules which have not been bought into by you and your team. As a leader you contribute to shaping these rules.

To learn more what it takes to build a successful team and thus pave the road to project success, read my book "Leadership Principles for Project Success.".

-- Thomas Juli

Dmitri Ivanenko
Thomas, all the points are valid in your reply. And that's why I state "whether I am a project manager or a team member." Regardless of the role I play in projects, as this was from my point of view, I am regarding the entire team as a team of powerful individuals.

This post was more to focus on how I am being with the team. It is really remarkable though that when someone says "my team," there's quite often an assumption that I'm the boss or manager of the team.

As far as I'm concerned, everyone that is posting on PMI Voices, the editors and everyone who replies to the post is my team as it relates to sharing our experience in project management. I also focus a lot on the practical side of it.

I haven't read your book, but thx for sharing that, I'll check it out.

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