“The results speak for themselves” is a common saying in many industries. With excellent ROI, happy clients, and contented stakeholders, Project Managers and businesses of all kinds are fond of this saying as proof of their success.
But what goes on behind the scenes?
As an experienced Project Manager, having seen many different styles and behaviours of management, I feel I know what gets the best from my teams. I also see that unfortunately, some Project Managers do it for themselves – with an unhappy team as a by-product of that success. Long term, this management attitude doesn’t bring about the kind of results that work well in organisations.
A ‘top down’ approach has its pitfalls
How many Project Managers have demanded outputs from their team within tight timelines, requested unrealistic delivery goals or set delivery expectations on behalf of the team without fully understanding the impact on the individual or to the team? Yes, a successful outcome can be achieved. But at what cost? Does pushing people to their limits result in a contented and productive team?
This question is further highlighted by some experiences with my seniors in the past, acting in similar ways. Being in this situation has led me to question: How does a forcible managerial style impact your team?
This could potentially lead to:
- Perception of bullying/bad behaviour
- Distrust amongst team members
- Low morale and lack of motivation
- Team resentment (Ask: Will the team want to work on the next project with you?)
- Poor quality of work
- Work-related stress and pressure on team members
With experienced and intelligent management, these scenarios can be avoided. So, what does successful project management look like to those who are already under pressure and doing their best?
Consider your project outcomes in stages
Rather than having a project management style that dictates and pushes team members to carry out assignments, managers must work with their team throughout to obtain desired outcomes. Inspire the team and make them feel like they are part of the solution, rather than just a tool in driving an outcome. A successful manager tackles their projects and their team in key stages:
- At the start
- Work with your team to understand objectives and customers’ requirements.
- Set clear expectations and goals.
- Assign responsibilities and tasks by understanding your peoples’ capabilities and limitations, not through dictatorship.
- Throughout the project
- Consideration and consensus of the team will give people a feeling of ownership of the outcomes.
- Continuous progress monitoring and communication with your team.
- Do not demand outputs from your team or set unreasonable expectations and unrealistic deliverables. Work with your team to set reasonable timelines.
- When external factors cause pressures on delivery (budget, timelines etc), let people understand the driving requirements so the team as a whole can work together to achieve the desired outcomes.
- At the end
- Celebrate wins: successful implementations and milestones!
- Provide constructive feedback to team members.
What if these actions still don’t work?
Not every managerial decision will cover these actions for a project to be successful. There will be circumstances where tough decisions and action will be required to deliver or overcome day-to-day project challenges.
Sometimes as a Project Manager, you must set strict guidance, and in some circumstances, step in to micro-manage some aspects of your team and their delivery. These are natural responsibilities to ensure success for the project. But we should avoid being confrontational or forceful. You must consider your own expectations and give considerable thought to making your team feel included within the project.
Ultimately, what do we as Project Managers want from a successful team?
This is more than ensuring good personalities or finding the brightest talent. It’s how we manage our people. Having a dictatorial team structure with aggressive management behaviour will only lead to team dysfunctionality.
By focusing on building trust and openness, we then encourage loyalty within the team and bring ‘one team’ values. When fostering team collaboration and inspiration, successful project delivery is assured. And only then can we as Project Managers deliver a positive outcome for our clients.