Whether you’re a seasoned pro or brand new at taking the helm, we all could benefit from some reminders of how to get the most out of our teams. For peak performance, focus on three important areas – managing time, managing strengths and managing conflict.
This one isn’t that easy. In fact, once you’ve pulled a team of people together to work on a project with you, it’s one of the first things to go off the rails. After that happens, costs go up. So how do you deal with it?
If you’ve ever been in a strategy session where you’re estimating a work plan along with the number of people you need to get a project done and how much time you estimate each person will spend, then you know that no matter how much you try to anticipate time spent on a project, you will get it wrong. Most of the time, it’s because we are focused on how long it will take to get a task completed, rather than how many hours we have invested in the project.
By changing the perspective from length of time to investment of time we find it easier to see quality of time vs. quantity of time. From there, you can look at the team you’ve assembled, assess where each team member is going to work best, and then estimate how well they will do their job, and not necessarily how long it will take. In essence, time management is about time invested, not time spent. Once you start working with experienced people who can give you a detailed account of the time needed to complete a task, you will find your project estimates to be much more accurate.
I come back to this topic often and that’s because the more time you spend working with people on their strengths and moving them into areas where they excel, the sooner you’ll see improvement in performance, attitude and cooperation. In simplistic terms, forcing a chatty person into working on spreadsheets all day every day is a recipe for disaster. That person’s drive for connection is going to surface. When it does, it’s up to you to make sure that you’re using it productively. Wouldn’t you rather this person be involved in sales, communications or outreach, rather than gossip or in fighting from frustration and boredom?
In addition, working on strengths goes together with time investment. A person who loves to work on spreadsheets and data entry is going to get the task done much sooner (and more accurately) than someone just going through the motions. Unfortunately, we cannot always get the perfect candidate to fill every role on a team project. When this happens, letting them know your expectations and how that will be rewarded after the project – give them the next plum assignment, perhaps – goes a long way in setting expectations and getting the team member to use secondary strengths to pull their weight.
Stress and conflict go hand in hand. The higher the level of stress, the more likely you are to have a team that starts to bicker and fight. Regular weekly status updates on important project deliverables, a clear work plan with deadlines and responsibilities mapped out, and milestones that are celebrated throughout the project go a long way in keeping projects on track, reducing stress and frustration, and creating positive experiences throughout the process.
At the end of the day, no one really wants to be part of a failing team. People really love to work hard, have a purpose and see their contributions in a positive light. Try to put yourself in their shoes. Remember how proud you were to finish one of your first projects and receive praise for a job well done. It’s no different where you’re at the helm. Your goal is to create a system that provides a positive experience for your team to the point that their contributions begin to accumulate into a successful project, one that all of you can celebrate together.
Remember, a successful project depends on three things – meeting the goal, doing it on time, and completing it within budget. Successful project management, on the other hand, depends on effectively steering the team to that end.