Project managers have the best and the worst job in the world. It is no riddle. If you are a project manager, you know what we are talking about. You are in the best place to recognize the potential of your team members. Moreover, you alone can make sure that the talent in your team is equally distributed. PMs can empower their employees to harness their strengths and facilitate teamwork too.
It is quite a hotchpotch of responsibilities we have there. Let us approach this in a streamlined manner –
- Recognize their strength –
You cannot just assume that everyone knows his or her strengths and weaknesses. Although it is a fundamental question during every interview, people rarely judge their strengths that accurately. People are likely to consider their most obvious talents. They miss out the finer details that a smart project manager has to recognize.
Your job is to make a list of your employees and jot down their unique skill set (without creeping them out!). Then sit down as a team and ask how you can use their strengths for your project.
- Set a team goal –
There is no point of forming a team and encouraging teamwork without a common goal. You need to help them understand and respect each other’s strengths. This is the only way you can harness the power of teamwork completely.
The best way is to speak to your team members in the presence of the project compatriots. Be candid about their strengths, and how your plan is to use their skill sets in the current or upcoming projects. Suggest how they can cooperate with each other to complement their strengths and shortcomings.
- Assign different responsibilities –
This may sound contrary to all we have been preaching until now. However, think of it like this – each person has a particular skill. He or she can do one or a few tasks niftily with perfection. If you assign them other duties, you are increasing the chances of failure. So assign them tasks that need coordination between different teams and different team members.
Individual responsibilities form the core of a larger project. Once the project succeeds, the entire team should share the success. You can further encourage your team to work together by giving them team performance reviews rather than individual reviews.
- Appoint “strength advocates” –
You can select young leaders within your teams. These are people who will be able to motivate other team members during the times of crises.
These “strength advocates” will also be able to promote harmony among your team members. They should know how to coordinate between different teams and use different tools. A “strength advocate” who can use an SEO management tool should also be able to use an ROI measurement tool. Their primary job will be to assess each member’s performance in their niche.
- Consider cross-training –
This is something new. Certain employees have skillsets that transcend one particular group or department. They fit in more than one team, and they can quickly switch roles. For example – your content developer may moonlight as an IT expert.
This is where cross training becomes necessary. If you provide professional training to these members with the highly specialized skillset, you will be able to create better channels of communication between all your teams.
- Engage them in activities –
Activities do not necessarily mean more projects or a game of charades in the office. Your employees need fresh air just as much as you do. Our studies show that employees respond best to team building activities held outdoors. It can be a simple barbecue or a session of bungee jumps. Your team needs to bond outside office space. Unless your staff members learn to recognize and respect each other’s talents, teamwork is impossible inside the office.
Any outdoor activity for an office team will cost you some money. Even a formal dinner will cost close to 2000USD for a team for six or seven at a standard restaurant in the city. However, studies show that the employees return to office with renewed vigor. They show marked increase in team cooperation and productivity.
How to measure productivity levels?
Even a couple of years ago people would scorn upon hearing this question from a project manager. Today, productivity is entirely tangible as a factor of ROI.
TR = tangible results
YI = yearly impact
PB = peripheral benefits
EF = event fee
This event fee refers to all your expenses concerning team-building activities including your luncheons and parties.
How to resolve conflicts between employees?
Every team comprising talented young thinkers is bound to garner conflict. Solving conflicts is an important skill every team member must learn to beat all odds. A team is not complete without this particular team-building exercise. If necessary, you can make individual sessions available to your staff for solving the conflict.
Every conflict-solving mechanism has a few necessary steps.
- Acknowledging the conflict –
You cannot solve a problem unless you recognize its existence. This may not always be pleasant, but it is necessary to move forward towards a definite solution.
- Clarify positions –
You should encourage your members to practice active listening. Each member should be able to vocalize their perspective and rationalize their stand. It should be an open forum that has no strings attached.
- Break them into smaller groups –
This is the last resort. If juggling facts and rational approach do not work, you should try to make smaller cohesive groups. This will help you break up newly forming alliances and create a more productive environment around the office.
- Rejoin the groups –
Once they can again work with each other, reconvene them. Try this for a test period. Only if the ROI keeps soaring, you should think about this as a permanent move. The teams should be able to address their old problems in a more constructive manner, identify the faults and move forward in agreement.
Teamwork is ideal for complementing your employees’ competencies. You can watch each of your team members grow. This is a two-way process. As your team grows, you get to learn new skills from them. This is one of the best experiences of any project manager.