As Project Managers we are responsible for the team we have been assigned. Often we have no input into the selection or replacement of the team. In these situations we need to make sure that we are able to maintain the best people, while improving the effectiveness of the others on the team.
I recently read a new book entitled No Nonsense Retention – Painless Strategies To Retain Your Best People by Jeff Kortes. Even though the book addresses management issues that may lead to people leaving an organization, there were many good points that would apply to Project Managers as they manage a project team.
Some of the must-do actions include:
1. Supervisory Training – Even if the project manager does not hold the title of supervisor or manager, supervisory training can improve their ability to manage others. Uniform, basic and consistent – without training “like sending warriors out to fight a war with outdated weapons”. If the company is unable to provide this, take the initiative to continue your personal growth through training or reading books and/or articles on management topics.
2. Manage by walking around – With today’s communication technology we are often more apt to sit at a computer (or smartphone) rather than speaking directly with our team members. Because the majority of messages are conveyed through body language, tone of your voice, and other non-verbal cues, this lack of personal contact can lead to miscommunication, confusion and a host of other problems. Obviously this is easier to accomplish when the team is co-located rather than a virtual team, but this one-on-one communication becomes even more critical in the virtual team environment. Not only does the Project Manager have a better understanding of what is happening by watching and communicating with team members as they perform their tasks, but the team members have a chance to get to know the project manager through these interactions.
3. Know and understand each team member – It is important to understand each team member, not in a prying manner, but rather to understand what is important to each individual. If you know about a person’s life, you will understand what motivates them. Just as it is important to listen to our children, we must take the time to listen to our team members. Make sure that you are available and accessible to your team members.
4. Treat everyone with respect – Respect is about how you treat a person. How you demonstrate how you value that person is appreciation. These two actions can set the tone of the team. One of the first actions is to remember the importance of saying “please” and “thank you”. It only takes a few extra keystrokes or seconds to include these in every request.
Another important demonstration of respect is to avoid jumping to conclusions. It is critical that when situations arise that you investigate the situation by asking questions and listening to all sides of the story.
Make sure you not only tell your team members that you appreciate them – but also it is important to show them appreciation. I personally always have some little candy bars or other “kudos” to recognize small achievements and recognition.
5. Convey expectations – It is important to make sure and convey what is expected of each team member, and then hold them accountable when they don’t meet the expectation. Without both parts of this action, the project manager often sends a mixed message. In order to make sure that the expectations are met, the team members must have the tools and supports that is needed to succeed. This includes examining any barriers that need to be removed to help them get back on track.
6. Remove underachievers – When the expectations are continually not met it is critical that the individual be removed from the project. This is one of the hardest tasks that a project manager must perform. If substandard performance continues, it affects the entire project team. At first the rest of the team often takes up the slack “for the good of the team”, but after a while the bar is lowered and the overall quality of the project suffers. When a piece of fruit in a bowl starts to decay, it doesn’t take long for the rest of the fruit to become affected. The same is true of project teams.
Even though the book was geared to retaining good employees from an HR standpoint, many of the points are very apropos to the over team environment on projects. Since most of these points were directed at the supervisor or manager, every project manager should take the time to evaluate their “team management” sphere of influence, and see if some adjustments are necessary.
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Greta Blash, PMP has a broad-based information technology background in all facets of project management, training, systems integration and software product management. She has provided coaching and delivered training seminars for various companies in the areas of Project Management, Facilitation, Strategic Planning, Information and Data Modeling, as well as the Integration of Data and Process Modeling Techniques. She has written numerous articles and frequently speaks on the topics of Project Management, Business and Data Analysis, and Business Intelligence at conferences worldwide. She holds a Master degree in Information Management and a Bachelor degree in Math. She is the current VP of Education for the PMI chapter in Las Vegas.