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Author: Kevin Torf

Coach Them Well: What birds can teach us about leadership…

In nature, mother birds coax their chicks in learning to fly with food and other tools.

This offers a teaching opportunity to their young that the journey to get food, even after a fall or struggle, becomes easier over time. This mindset and methodology can be used by coaches and project managers to empower their teams as well.

Motivating your team to be the best they can be is one of the most difficult tasks managers are faced with. By maintaining communication with their teams and leading with purpose and understanding, coaches can inspire greatness. They know that by replacing the top-down dynamic, their team is encouraged to participate on a deeper level in communication and strategies to drive the company (and its mission) forward.

Every project presents an opportunity for growth and collaboration for team members and project managers. When project managers become coaches instead of bosses, they help their teams learn to become more self-sufficient and self-reliant in moving tasks forward.

Here are five ways you can coach your team to success:

1. Ask open-ended questions, allowing your team to innovate new solutions.

To ensure your team is engaged and provide an opportunity for them to share creative ideas, ask open-ended questions. These open inquiries will encourage your team to express their opinions and ideas more than questions that give people limited options for response. When you listen to what they have to say, showing interest and respect for their input, it shows you care and the impact can be significant. Drop the “yes” and “no” questions if you really want to get the best out of your team. Here are some examples to try:

  • How do you feel about your part of this project—are there any opportunities or gaps we haven’t addressed?
  • Tell me about a similar project you completed in the past. Is there something we haven’t considered?
  • What can I do as a leader to help you be more successful?

2. To help your team understand how their task supports the overall goal, be descriptive and clear about the project’s goals.

Engaging with your team members and connecting their efforts to the larger business goals can directly impact the bottom line. Disengaged employees can cost companies billions of dollars per year. Let’s face it, no one likes to feel like they are working in a silo. Employees have better outcomes when they feel passionate about their part in the overall mission, and when that’s made clear the end result reflects that.

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3. Make everything actionable and measurable when describing a task by choosing your words carefully.

As a leader, using certain words can alienate or create tension while others encourage. Start a project off by using action words and a collaborative “we” sentiment to keep everyone focused and motivated. Understand what type of language excites and inspires your team and use it generously. It’s also crucial to ensure each team member clearly knows their role and what success looks like for them.

4. New ideas and perspectives should be encouraged within your team.

If you really want to establish an environment where employees are encouraged to speak up, then openly declare that and make it clear that dialogue is a priority. Change can stir up emotional responses that often cause people to pull back rather than lean in. Inspiring and enabling your team to affect change requires having conversations that move people from reaction to action. By setting the tone in your culture that every voice is important, you’ll receive buy-in as well as strong engagement.

5. Empower your team to talk freely and openly to help spark new ideas.

Open communication is crucial for all parties involved. Let your team know you welcome ideas at any time, in any form: by e-mail, voicemail or text; in a suggestion box; at staff meetings or during hallway conversations. This encourages everyone to share their ideas in the first flush of enthusiasm, so that good ideas don’t end up on the back burner where they may be forgotten.

This all plays into a powerful reciprocal effect. When a team learns to become more independent, the project manager will also find more time to think strategically and better align what their team is doing with the business’ overall mission.

Whether your team is gearing up for a big project in 2021 or heading back into the office together for the first time in months, now is the perfect time to solidify great leadership and clear communication. If you want to create higher performing teams, use clear, concise communication to coach better employee productivity.

For Healthcare Providers: Staying Agile with IT in Accelerating Times

With the current COVID-19 pandemic, the practice of working remotely and implementing applications that limit in-person interaction is the new norm.

Hospitals and health systems are at the forefront of this global crisis, and many are struggling with managing the IT infrastructural challenges created by the sudden massive demand for remote technology.

Many health providers have made the decision to replace traditional office visits and other in-person services with telemedicine to limit the spread of the virus. While these shifts have created immediate solutions for business operations, are the organizations really prepared for bandwidth and other IT challenges coming in the long run? We’re all entering an “uncharted new territory” filled with uncertainties because of the pandemic, and it’s important leadership teams view this as the early stages of technologically ramping up so they don’t make the mistake of misunderstanding their IT needs and priorities.

As we’re seeing first-hand, conditions in a market or sector can turn on a dime, and your decision-making must be able to do the same thing. Management teams should use an agile methodology when entering an IT situation that is rapidly changing, like the current landscape, as this approach is sensitive and highly adaptive at every step of the project process, producing effective solutions that evolve as the situation does. The agile approach includes continuous iterations, reflections and multiple deliveries, allowing companies to quickly adapt to ever-changing business needs while providing an innovative framework.

As health organizations continue to be challenged to provide continuity of care and the same high quality of service while keeping clinicians safe and healthy, we anticipate IT issues arising in numerous areas, including:

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  • Bandwidth: As more employees try to log on to the office network from the outside, and as more patients turn to remote options to screen for the virus, will you be ready to handle this surge in users?
  • Security: Do you have FMA or other security measures in place? Having your employees work remotely without a secure infrastructure or the necessary governance can increase your risk of cyber attacks.
  • Cybersecurity: With a surge in the number of external users, the risk of phishing emails and other issues related to privacy and security surges, too. What measures have you taken to ensure that your employees and your patients are both protected?
  • Infrastructure Capacity: Do you have enough licenses to support your remote workers? Can your hardware support the additional load? Do you have a robust virtual desktop environment?
  • Support: Do you have the governance and capabilities to support all your remote workers, helping them diagnose problems, test their network, and remotely manage their devices?
  • Projects: Are all projects on hold as your staff deals with supporting your remote employees? Are you now rushing to purchase laptops and upgrade hardware? Don’t let these tasks get you off track of your long-term goals and projects.

The agile mindset can help and empower healthcare providers to succeed not only during today’s uncertain times, but also as needs continue to evolve post-pandemic. Though everything is in flux, the effort to still be proactive in response to IT should always remain a top consideration.

Project Manager Insight – Implementing an NBA Coach Model

There are many commonalities between project management and sports, and some lessons learned about project management can be derived from how sports teams are built, coached and managed.

Specifically, in the NBA, you see coaches giving their team guidance and strategy leading up to each game and making adjustments during timeouts. Then, the team members deliver their autonomous and specialized expertise, as they work together to ensure the win – all against a ticking clock.

NBA teams demand teamwork from a group of people, there are clear leaders on and off the court, the games require strategies and tactics, and there are clear obstacles to overcome. More to the point, the NBA requires attention to what you are doing, what your opponents are doing and sometimes help from specialists.

Whether you’re prepping your team for a game or prepping your team for a project, as a leader you are responsible for instilling empowerment within your team. Although each individual may have focused tasks, as a team you are working towards a specific goal. And as a team, you’re helping each other accomplish that goal.

As a project manager, what can you do to make sure your team is preparing sufficiently to attack each challenge to ensure success? While this isn’t an all-inclusive list of tips for team project success, here are three things you can do to emulate the role of an NBA coach.

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Shared Tools and Trackers

This takes some preparation on your end as the project manager, but the time spent is well worth the effort. Use tools to track all future milestones so everyone knows what the team’s goals are and deadlines to reach them. Make these tracking tools available to everyone so they can feel empowered to update their own information. Send reminders about the team’s goals and to update completed milestones prior to the next key meeting. In status meetings, focus on those areas where the tracker has not been updated or where your team members may need additional help.

Reward the Good

Give credit where credit is due. Ask for feedback and input. Encourage communication. Create trust. Include team members in important discussions. Hold each other accountable. Be transparent. These are all actions to take in order to create empowerment within your team. The goal is to guide your team to be self-sufficient, successful and manage expectations.

Change Up the Routine

A prepared team can handle impromptu product demos, surprise client visits and unplanned requests for information from leadership. You should set the expectation that things can change at any moment and team members should be ready to effectively handle various situations. For instance, surprise your team by running the meeting a different way; try giving everyone the opportunity to deliver status reports. You get the idea – agility. Changing the routine will encourage and challenge your team to be ready for any situation.

As a project manager, emulate the NBA coach model methodology and tap into the knowledge-rich resource of your team: a team of equals. Seek input from your team members when planning. Before executing, allow team members to articulate and define what needs to be done, and how long they think task components will take to complete. Lastly, empower them to take accountability; they will be more vested in project success. By valuing their input, team members feel more involved and respected, which invests them in winning the game or successfully delivering a project on time.

Remember, as a project manager, you are a guide or coach, not a dictator. Have fun and leverage the knowledge and skills your team brings to the table, and you’ll be set up for success in whatever project you take on together.