Volume 5 Issue 1 - December 2009 Print

PMP Passport - Project Management Institute - Making project management indispensable for business results
Knowledge Zone
Seven Tips for Making the Most of Every Team Member

Get to know your team’s strengths and weaknesses.

Not every team member is created equal. When you as the project manager take the time to get to know the individuals that make up the group, you can leverage the strengths and mitigate the weaknesses.

Why do this?

“It increases job satisfaction since it allows people to better succeed in their work and you [typically] get a better product faster,” says Nick Warman, PMP, a software project manager at Peopleclick Inc., Raleigh, North Carolina, USA.

By learning team members’ weaknesses, you can help them improve or avoid projects in which their expertise may be lacking.

Here, a panel of project management professionals shares seven tips on how to bring out the best in your team members.

1. Get to know your team.
You can only benefit from getting to know your team. Sometimes this means making contact with them outside of project-related meetings.

Visit your team members at their work spaces and acquaint yourself with their roles, their everyday tasks and the other projects they work on. This contact gives you a first-hand account of where problems may arise (for example, if their other tasks or projects have competing deadlines).

2. Watch and learn.
If you don’t have time to meet personally with your team members, you can learn more about them through their inputs during regular project status meetings. Pay attention to the topics they seem passionate about. This will help you take advantage of their knowledge.

If their comments are particularly insightful, encourage them to develop their skills through the project. This will make your team members feel like you are in-tune with their professional needs and ambitions, and possibly make them that much more committed to you and the project.

3. Look beyond first impressions.
Sometimes your initial impressions may need reevaluating. For example, a team member who seems abrupt at first might instead have a certain talent for directness in communicating about the project. When you make an effort to understand your team members’ individual perspectives, you are better able to reframe perceived weaknesses into assets.

4. Initiate communication.
It’s easy to get caught up in the details of project tasks. Communication may not be the top priority. Team members may also feel they are bothering you if they send you too many e-mails about the project.

By initiating communication and asking questions or starting conversations, you not only increase your chance of obtaining the necessary information but also encourage the team to collaborate and to be a part of the process. Once team members feel you want to hear from them, they may feel more comfortable sharing problems. In the end, open communication will help team members excel in their roles.

5. Encourage innovation.
Project management frequently ventures into unmapped territory, forcing team members to develop new solutions and strategies under very tight deadlines. Oftentimes, under such circumstances, the team brings better, more innovative ideas to the table, which can have a genuine effect on an organization’s goals and the project’s results.

It’s important to establish an atmosphere conducive to creativity and to foster innovation. Encouraging team members to share their ideas often and without hesitation could lead to an innovative solution or to the discovery of a new revenue stream.

6. Let team members do the teaching.
Have your team members educate each other about a skill they have mastered like how to create a work breakdown structure or use of specific software. These learning sessions could happen in wikis, one-on-one conversations, or during group learning sessions.

This tactic instills confidence in the “instructors” and keeps them engaged because they feel valued for their contributions. Further, this will increase morale for the team members who are gaining a new skill that can improve their performance. You benefit by having more than one person on the team with a particular expertise.

7. Offer rewards and recognition.
Rewards and recognition can strengthen the bond between employees and the organization, and help employees feel more attached to and responsible for their work. Acknowledging a good performance with an official nod of approval can go a long way when motivating a team and ultimately, getting better results.

Panel of Experts

Michele Jones, PMP, is a senior project manager at Quality Computing Projects Inc., Mississauga, Ontario, Canada, where she also serves as a PMP exam instructor. She manages teams that range from three to 65 people and concentrates primarily on IT projects. (Contributed to tips 3, 5 and 6.)

Rogério de Mello Pires, PMP, is a program and portfolio manager at Unibanco in São Paulo, Brazil, where he manages a team of five project managers, and oversees the implementation of methodology and process standards across the organization. (Contributed to tips 4 and 6.)

Sanjay Saini, PMP, has nearly 13 years of project management experience. He started his career with Siemens and currently works with Nagarro in Gurgaon, India as a project manager. He is also a contributor to PMI’s Voices on Project Management blog. (Contributed to 1 and 7.)

Nick Warman, PMP, is a software project manager at Peopleclick Inc., Raleigh, North Carolina, USA. He has managed teams ranging from six to 60 people and projects ranging from US$10,000 to US$10 million. He is also a speaker and presenter who recently led a session at PMI® Global Congress 2009—North America. (Contributed to tips 1 and 4.)

For more on leadership, be sure to read Learn to Lead: The PMI Leadership Institute from PMI.org.

Do you have a comment about this article? Share your opinions and expertise with PMI and your fellow PMP credential holders. E-mail the PMP Passport Editor. PMI would like to hear from you and may consider your response for future publications.