There are multitudes of articles and books that contain advice on how to be a great leader. But what if you’re like most of us and not at the top of the food chain? In most teams, there is one leader and a team of people doing the work. While we like to place the responsibility for a project’s success or failure on the leader, every team member has ownership and influence in how a project turns out. Your contribution to the project must make a difference, otherwise you wouldn’t be there for long. The core responsibilities of being a good team member will help you stand out and succeed no matter where you fall in the chain of command.
Integrity in a team is doing what you said you would, doing what you know you should, and holding team members to account for what they said they would do. This positively influences those around you. For core principles, none are as important as integrity. If you lack integrity, the whole project is at risk no matter where you are in the chain of command because all the following core responsibilities discussed here will fail.
Without doing what you say you will, the team will not trust you. Lack of honesty creates unpredictability within the team structure. You must do what you should as well. More than merely following through with your commitments to the team and the project, doing what others will expect of you positively builds at the core competency of the team. Simple examples are to be on time, work hard, and contribute to the team.
Finally, integrity involves more than self-discipline. It also involves holding your team members accountable for what they said they would do. It may be that they need your help in getting their part of the project done, and providing the information or help they need can be critical to the overall execution of the project.
The great thing about integrity though, is that no one’s integrity is perfect, and we can all improve starting now. Haven’t been doing what you said? Create some structure such as writing down what you agree to or get a planner. Every improvement in this core principle makes a very positive improvement to a team.
Like any good team or partnership, running a project requires strong communication between team members and the project manager. Strong communication between team members with the project manager allows the project manager to do their job effectively. Strong communication between team members works to educate the whole team on the issues addressed in different parts of the project. You and your team members are smart people. Review project issues with your team members and you will find better questions and better solutions for your problems.
If we want to be able to trust that our communications will be effective, we must be honest and observant. We must understand each other’s communication style. If we are always direct, we may come across as harsh to someone who wants things presented more gently. Conversely, “gentle” may come across as “salesy” or “fake” to your team members who prefer their facts undiluted. Keeping in mind how others in your team communicate will help you be an effective team member.
Things change. We can either be adaptable to change or not, and all of us should understand that things change. Your level of adaptability to change makes you more or less valuable to your team and the project. Our adaptability gives us the potential to learn new skills and work with different people to make projects flourish.
As an effective leader, fostering an environment that allows the team to handle change, and even thrive when it arrives, will help your project excel. Adaptability means that you and your team won’t be tied to a specific solution; you are given the freedom to choose the best solution under the circumstances. One way to foster this kind of environment is by anticipating that things will change and factoring that into the roadmap for the project. Having a buffer of extra resources – time, talent, or money – will help relieve pressure to conform to the strictures of the project.
Treat others the way they want to be treated. Apply integrity to respect; this rules out disrespect and gossip. Team members who do not respect each other will kill projects.
Each of us wants our boss to know how best to motivate us; money, praise, and special favors are common ways they can do that. Similarly, when we work together on a team, we can do the same thing for each other. It is not uncommon to ask people to do something extra on a project or to call on favors for your project. Figure out how you can reward those sacrifices to show that you appreciate the team member making that sacrifice.
Perhaps you are in one of these camps: “Yes We Can!” or “Make Our Project Great Again!” Having a positive attitude has an extraordinary effect on the project outcome. This attitude can be encouraged from the top but if it really exists, it does so because of the belief of the team members. When it comes to projects, you might be in one of two camps: Team Team, or Team Project
Each team, at its core, basically states that we know we can all get the job done if we work together. The difference between the two is whether they rally around either the greatness of the team or the greatness of the project. Sometimes this might be an individual sense of contribution to be on an amazing team doing something so important.
Our education doesn’t end when we graduate from college, or when we get our various certifications. You have a great opportunity to learn with every project you work on. You get to see what does work and what doesn’t work. You’ll experience up close how “things change” can impact a project and its team members. Take this opportunity to learn.
Learn what works best. Learn how people respond to adversity. Learn about your team members, how they communicate, how they are motivated, how they deal with change, how they exemplify integrity.
Ultimately, understand what works and why it DOES work. This will prepare you for the hurdles of future projects where you can continue to be an outstanding team member.
By Tom Waddell: [email protected]
In previous blog posts we talked about how projects can go off the rails and also how to prevent them from going off the rails. But those only apply if you are actively involved in the project. If you have Project Managers who report to you, what should you be looking for to know when their / your project is having trouble.
The big “E” on any Project Management eye chart is always whether the project is on time and on budget. The other issues tend to revolve around team chemistry, managing team engagement and holding the team leader accountable. If you think that the project manager isn’t giving you the full status, ask for the next level of detail on tasks that should be completed. If you include slack in your schedule, ask for how much of the slack is used. If you can spend an hour with your manager, have them lay out the full project schedule and ask them to show you where they are.
Here are some additional items to watch for.
Is the Team Energized or Struggling?
When you meet with team members there are clear issues to look for. The best indicator is whether they are interested and excited to be working on the project. When a project is being managed well, the team should be excited to work on something this big, this important and with people so talented. This is true for any good team, whether a medical device project team, sports team or music group. They should enjoy working together and the outward messaging from the team is “enthusiasm”.
Another good barometer for this is whether they buy in to the project. Do the team members believe it will be done on time and on budget? Or do they second guess other team members or the Project Manager? The sense of team cohesion will reveal a great deal about the health of the project.
Third on the health of the team centers around communication: Do they hide issues or work through them honestly? When you have a well-run team, there should be a balance of respect for each other as team members but also a commitment to intellectual honesty to fight for positions they believe are valuable. There will be issues to deal with: working through them respectfully and honestly demonstrates team health. The opposite would be refusing to discuss issues in team meetings and instead gossiping and complaining outside of the structure.
Fourth, it is important to ask how many hours a week the team members work. If you have team members who are burning the candle at both ends on a project, working nights and weekends, the team is poorly managed and you risk burning out quality talent. Often the people who are willing to work too many hours are people most vital to the project or who have embraced a level of responsibility not healthy for the good of the project.
What does the Project Manager need to prove on a regular basis?
Your Project Manager needs to be held accountable just as much as their team members are. We start with the big E: Is the project on time and on budget? The Project Manager needs to be able to prove this on a consistent basis. This means they need to have scoped the project properly, with built in contingencies, plans and even slack. Many things can be anticipated, but there will be things that won’t be.
Your Project Manager must also be able to show that the project will continue to be on time and on budget for the next number of months. To this end, they need to not only show what resources they will need and also how they will garner those resources when they need them.
Finally, your Project Manager should be able to prove that they know what contingencies they should plan for, explain how they anticipate them. There are many tools for this, but that is for a future blog.
These are simple and effective ways for you to know if your Project Manager is doing a good job and whether your project will be completed on time and on budget.