Project Management

The First Rule of Engagement? Set the Ground Rules

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Categories: Leadership


by Emily Luijbregts

One of the greatest things you can bring to a project is your ability to manage and deal with the expectations of your team and stakeholders. How many times have you struggled with people making assumptions about how something should be done or when they should receive the final deliverable? All of this can be managed with effective expectation management.

When I’m coaching junior project managers, I encourage them to look at expectation management as setting the ground rules for a successful project and engagement. Having clear expectations ensures everyone is aware of what’s going to happen, what’s expected of them in the project and, more importantly, what they can expect from you as a leader.

In the project kickoff meeting, spend time working through this topic as a team so each person can spell out preferred working styles and communication methods as well as establish the factors for achieving success as a team.

As a project manager, you need to make sure that your role as leader is clear and everyone knows what they can expect from you. This doesn’t just include how you will manage them individually, but also what you can give them within the project. For me, I state they can expect that:

  1. I will always have your back and support you.
  2. I will not forego your professional development or demand more of you than is reasonable.
  3. I will trust your expertise and skill as a subject matter expert to deliver what is needed.

I consider my role in projects as a servant leader. I’m there to support my team of experts and give them the environment they need to be able to excel—and deliver. Having clear guidance, expectations and rules helps and supports this endeavor.

I would strongly recommend you avoid forcing, accusing or belittling any of the team whilst making these rules clear—it will only lead to resentment and conflict. Bring each of these rules to the team constructively and openly and explain why it’s important for you. For example, if one of the ground rules is no trash talking, you should provide a rationale, such as: Negativity and conflict can happen so easily in projects, but speaking poorly of your colleagues won’t help. If you have an issue, bring it to your project manager or discuss with the person themselves.

By raising these issues early, you’re being proactive in identifying the issue at hand and working toward a solution. I have yet to see an organization that does not react positively when presented with these questions in an open and constructive way.

What are some of the ways you effectively manage expectations?

Posted by Emily Luijbregts on: November 17, 2020 04:39 AM | Permalink

Comments (7)

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Emily, good one. Thank you for sharing.
What I observed in my last years and I try to promote to the team is to be transparent, direct and honest...setting that as a ground rules helped me to manage expectations, not only for the team, also for other stakeholders.

Great article Emily!

I've experienced that voicing what my team can expect from me is very powerful. It builds up trust within the team. The key to this is to make sure to follow those expectations with action.

Very interesting, thanks for sharing.

very good advices. thank you

Very good. Important and easy explanation.

An advice to put into action and key to build trust with a significant ROI. Thank you for sharing and for reminding the good practices.

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