When a project is defined, the work of forming the right team begins and it’s important to know how to enhance relationships from the start, to achieve a successful project. Project teams are usually created to deliver a unique benefit to an organisation. Often the project is for something different from the day-to-day activities undertaken and can consist of a generally diverse group of people tasked with achieving the desired result.
Project leadership calls for clear communication about goals, responsibility, performance, expectations and feedback. Yet it has been found that one in five projects is unsuccessful – purely because of ineffective communications.
Commonly, the project manager will hear – “Just tell me what to do.” “What is the task list?” “Can you give me a checklist?”
Sound familiar? All are important questions, and yet they require a clear context and a cohesive team relationship structure to be answered effectively.
Share the Big Picture
To begin with, share the big picture and make it a consistent part of your message. Involve the team for feedback on what they see is needed. Asking the right questions can be powerful here.
- How does this task fit into the overall goals for the team?
- What are the most important components of doing this work successfully?
Questions like these will help you create deeper awareness and understanding.
We hear this often, and that’s because active listening is the biggest factor in effective communication. Our body language, eye contact, and asking relevant questions will demonstrate to someone whether we are actively listening. These key signals show that you are genuinely interested and engaged when a team member is talking to you. Model active listening to your team, and watch as they start to use the skills with each other.
The most cohesive teams meet often, both digitally and face-to-face. This can appear like a distraction from the ‘real’ work of the project, especially when a project by its very nature will have a tight schedule. However, the research on teams who get the job done quickly and successfully has shown that the tighter the schedule, the more often they should meet. Keep the check-in meetings short and daily if necessary. They give team members opportunities to report problems and ask questions quickly so that corrections are implemented immediately. Frequent communication creates flow and momentum as changes can be made faster.
Give Frequent Feedback
Everyone needs feedback on their progress, and it is in the interest of the project that you are aware of each team member’s performance. The most effective way to monitor performance is through individual coaching sessions.
Your time spent coaching will be most effective if you use questioning to identify problems with performance, issues with staying on time and within your budget, relationship/conflict issues, as well as agreeing on corrections with clear outcomes. Questions are an effective and democratic form of management. Coaching provides a powerful opportunity to acknowledge what is working and where improvements are needed. Keep questions specific to the individual and task or situation.
Identify Stress Factors
Another benefit of the coaching process is judging whether or not you are applying the right amount of pressure. John Kotter describes this as the “Productive Range of Distress”. Enough stress will get team members motivated into action.
The bigger challenge is to identify the people who are burdened by too much stress. It’s difficult to assess this because some people will have an obvious or panicked stress response. Others may withdraw and direct their stress inward. As there is no single pattern, you should look for deviations from an employee’s normal behaviour.
You’ll be able to judge stress response by monitoring behaviour in regular coaching sessions. By monitoring behaviour regularly, the signs of distress can be quickly corrected.
Bring the Fun
Adding an element of fun is found to increase productivity. In the words of Fish! Philosophy, “we take our work seriously without taking ourselves seriously”. Add fun by finding creative ways to celebrate reaching each milestone. Praising progress is always more effective than waiting to praise the final result. A positive atmosphere results in everyone involved in the project feeling inspired about the work that has to be done.
Overall, project managers must spend time with the project team, be fully engaged and prepared to listen, and understand their feelings. Having an effective strategy to enhance relationships within the project team will aid with driving a successful project.