How to Understand Your Team

Andy Jordan is President of Roffensian Consulting S.A., a Roatan, Honduras-based management consulting firm with a comprehensive project management practice. Andy always appreciates feedback and discussion on the issues raised in his articles and can be reached at andy.jordan@roffensian.com. Andy's new book Risk Management for Project Driven Organizations is now available.

I think the time I was most scared as a project manager was when I was preparing to lead my first kick-off meeting. I knew all of the people on my team well enough to say “hello” to, but I had only ever worked with a couple of them before. They were all more experienced than I was, and they all knew that this was my first project.

In my head, they were getting ready to abandon me as someone who didn’t have the faintest idea what he was doing. I was convinced that they were all annoyed to have been assigned to work on my project—and I was starting to believe they were going to sabotage the work just to get out of it.

Now I know enough to realize how silly I was being, but at the time, it was a real worry for me. I also know that a lot of project managers experience similar fears and concerns early in their careers. Can you do anything to avoid it? Is there a way to gain a better understanding of the team you will be working with before the project starts, to understand what motivates them, how to get the best out of them, etc.?

Experienced PMs can rely on that experience even if they have never worked with an individual before—they’ll have worked with someone similar. But, that’s not an option for new PMs. So, what should they do?

Leverage resource owners
The first step should also be the most obvious: Ask the people who …

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