Project Execution: Working With Your Team, Communications, and Meetings
Project managers should not be introverts. Be proactive as the team leader. Facilitate communications and time-efficient meetings.
Leading a team is best accomplished by treating people fairly; showing them you respect them as co-workers; providing them with the information they need to be successful; thanking them for their contributions; not micro-managing them; and shielding them as much as possible from any politics or controversy surrounding the project.
- Provide everyone with project plan and detailed assignments.
- Let everyone know you have an open door policy for questions or concerns.
If some team members begin to take too much of your time, keep the policy but set specific office hours and set time limits per discussion.
- Ensure they have the knowledge and equipment they need; provide additional training and equipment if required.
- Depending on your workload, delegate some or much of your responsibility to task managers or team members, but only if they are able to perform as expected.
- Notify administrative support staff of any action items they have related to your project.
This could range from helping with timesheets, expenses, invoices, meetings, distributing documents, etc.
- Provide pats on the back and motivation in public, but deal with those not meeting expectations in private.
- Enforcement – deal with incompetence, laziness, violators.
Many of us prefer to avoid personal conflict, or anything that could even be a precursor to personal conflict. However, as the project manager, your first commitment is to executing a successful project. In addition, if 1 or more members of the team are under performing, you have a responsibility to the rest of the team to correct the situation.
My first reaction when I am not getting results from a team member is to suspect I have not provided clear assignments, deadlines, guidance, or training. I first need to confirm the problem is not with me.
The next step is to “counsel” the team member as to the shortfall, and if possible, provide another chance for him/her to complete the assignment. Eventually, you may have to remove the person from the project team. If, in your organization, you do not have authority to remove a project team member and quickly obtain a suitable replacement, you had better be working with your boss and the human resources manager as soon as you suspect you may want to replace the employee.
Any time you are unsure how to deal with an enforcement issue, seek assistance from your supervisor, the human resources department, or another trusted advisor. Your company may require certain forms to be completed, and standard procedures to be followed.
We discussed communications planning in a previous article (Project Planning, Part 2). Review, use, most of all, enforce the details of your project communications plan.
Add upcoming communications items to your “to do” list. Be sure all stakeholders are aware of upcoming interactions and they are willing to complete their action items related to the approved communications plan.
- Be proactive: don’t be afraid to discuss bad news or unexpected conditions with any of the affected stakeholders.
Here is a basic checklist to keep you on track with meetings.
- Notify attendees well in advance and ask them to confirm their availability, or availability of a substitute if appropriate.
- Publish and use an agenda (including time allotments). Assign a timekeeper in the agenda.
- Briefly present recent accomplishments and current activities.
This should be a small percentage of the total meeting, unless the main purpose is to provide a status report to stakeholders outside of the project team.
- Discuss actual and potential problems, develop strategies to address them.
If you don’t have issues to discuss, why hold a meeting at all?
- Encourage open communications.
No one should be made to feel like he or she will be harassed or ridiculed for asking questions or providing input.
- Stay focused and on track
This is sometimes difficult to achieve, and where many meetings fail. Either the project manager or other trusted team member should be the timekeeper. When 75% of the allotted time has been used per agenda item, if resolution is not close at hand, the timekeeper announces the time.
At 90% of time, the wrap-up begins, or a subcommittee is assigned to resolve and report to the project manager with a specified deadline. In rare cases, if the item under discussion is critical and requires almost everyone in the room participate, the current meeting could be extended.
- When decisions are required, guide the process.
The project manager may not be impacted by the issue, or may not be the technical expert related to a disputed decision. In these cases, the project manager sets the rules of who in the room is allowed to have significant sway over the decision. The project manager does not have to make every decision; controlling the process is often sufficient.
- One of the key members of the team should take notes during the meeting, and distribute draft minutes (which will be revised if errors are found).
The minutes will include decisions that were reached, action items, who received the action items and their associated due dates. The project manager should follow up to ensure all of the action items are completed (by adding the follow up chores to his/her list of things to do).