Wince if you must at the title of this section, but one of the most important facets of project management is “team building”. Rather than the fatuous team building games you often encounter at company days, I am referring to some more subtle people management skills.
Trust – Be Open and Honest
Projects, like offices, can often be secretive places with various levels of disclosure due to commercial or political pressures. However the project grapevine works just as fast as the office kind and you can be assured that if you are keeping someone in the dark or deceiving them, you will be on the short end of office gossip faster than you can say “voluntary redundancy”.
Be as open and honest with your team mates as you can. Answer their questions directly and act as a conduit of information for them, not a barrier. If you feel you cannot divulge something, say so.
Your team will appreciate your honestly and reciprocate by relaying information and producing honest and accurate estimates for you.
Equality – Be fair and even handed
One of the maxims I have lived with as a manager is “individuals can succeed but only the team can fail”. Essentially this means that in public you should dish out credit wherever it is due but never criticism. Being criticised in public, in front of your peers, is not a motivating force for anyone.
If there is a project issue that needs to be addressed you can normally broach it as a subject for the whole team to address. By sharing the burden for issues, most teams pull together to solve the problem. By landing it on the shoulders of one or more individuals you often split the team and cause conflict. Open discussion of the problem will encourage the team to take ownership for the problem and solve it themselves.
Loyalty – Protect your team
You will have a split responsibility - on the one hand you have a duty to your client to see the project succeeds - on the other you have a responsibility to represent your team and to support each other. Usually these two aims should be neatly aligned – but not always!
In a situation where you have to choose between the two you need to take the difficult moral stance. Don’t air your dirty laundry with the client. Discuss the situation with your team mates and come up with a solution, present this to the client instead.
Learn to delegate
The joke in armed forces often runs that the only order an officer ever need issue is “Carry on Sergeant Major!” Officers are expected to lead and leave the actual getting of things done to those more suited to the task, the troops. If you are dividing up work make sure you delegate properly.
Proper delegation entails laying out the task so someone understand its, so that it has reasonable and achievable goals and so that you give them all the support they require to get the job done.
It also entails giving them enough room to get the task done on their own. If you leave the execution of tasks to them they will, in return, leave you alone to get on with your job. If you spend you time looking over their shoulders it will only annoy them and waste your valuable time.
Nick Jenkins is an IT manager with 10 years experience in software development, project management and software testing. He’s worked in various fields of IT development in Australia, Britain and the USA and occasionally he learned something along the way. Now he lives on the banks of the Swan River in Perth, Western Australia, and he publishes the odd guide to help aspiring IT professionals. Nick’s website can be found at www.nickjenkins.net.
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