How to Lead a Team Through a Challenging Project (Without Making Them Hate You)
So here you are, heading up an important technology project for your company. There’s a lot at stake for your organization, your team and you. If you don’t take steps to prepare yourself, it could be a long, difficult process. And more importantly, if you don’t lead your team effectively, you could wind up being resented for your lack of leadership and direction.
As a leader, you’re the chief facilitator and communicator. In addition to establishing a united vision, you’re also the motivator, organizer and arbitrator of your team. And then, you have to hit the right balance of getting involved in the day-to-day work while steering the ship in the right direction.
Micromanagement, disorganization and lack of communication are just a few of the missteps that can rile up a team into a quiet froth of dissent against a leader.
Here are some basic skills and practices to lead a team through a challenging project, and keeping everyone on the same side—including yours.
Challenge #1: Dissention or disagreement within the group
Solution: Organize workers around a common goal.
Effective leadership rallies a team to work toward a common goal. For your project, acknowledge up front that everyone might have different ideas or personal philosophies, but emphasize and focus on the similarities, especially how it pertains to the project at large.
One helpful tip is to list objectives, criteria and priorities in initial planning sessions so that team members can see which goals are the most important. This way everyone understands where the common goals are whenever there’s a dispute, and get back on course. Don’t forget to update priorities and goals if they change and communicate them out as soon as they occur.
Challenge #2: Unenthusiastic workers
Solution: Know what motivates your team.
Over the past several years, it has been reported that roughly 70% of Americans don’t find their work engaging, with close to one-in-five people actively spreading negativity throughout your office.
As you delegate the work for your project, don’t assume that your employees will be motivated to do excellent work just because it’s their job.
Instead, find out what motivates each person. Is it the paycheck? Positive feedback or acknowledgment? Do they enjoy being a valuable contributor? Are they incentivized by time off or rewards? If you can find out what your members want, you’ll have a much easier time encouraging good habits.
Challenge #3: Schedule changes
Solution: Keep your employees and projects organized.
Nothing slows down a project like an unexpected change in plans. While these delays—which are inherent in most projects—can cause issues, the real time killer is trying to get everyone back on the same page. If project change isn’t managed well, your team can start to blame and resent you for their difficulties.
Your best bet for managing schedule changes is to use an online project management software, (such as LiquidPlanner)—something that accounts for changes and automatically updates your plan when updates are made. You also want a planning tool that is collaborative, where everyone can connect and communicate in one place to avoid surprises. You also want tools that let you prioritize work, so everyone knows what is most critical to complete.
Challenge #4: Group members do things their own way
Solution: Recognize, utilize and respect your team’s talent.
If you’ve been selected as your team’s manager, it’s pretty much implied that you’re very good at your job. Remember to give the same respect to your team members.
When you’re someone who knows a lot about managing projects from a variety of POVs it can be easy to micromanage. After all, you’re the one driving the project’s overall success. The challenge here, is that you need to allow your teammates to do the things that they do well. Sometimes people approach a problem different than you do. Try to give teams the space to do the thing they were hired to do, in their own manner, and appreciate the differences.
Vision and project direction are very important part of leading a team, and you need to make sure that all pieces align. However, once you give your team the most important criteria and delegate the tasks, get out of the way and let them work. Get together as a group to discuss the progress towards major goals, and trust your team with the smaller details.
If being the leader were easy, everyone would do it. But it’s difficult, and there’s a reason leaders can end up being resented. Don’t be that person. Remember your true role as a communicator and organizer, and you’re team will respect you and the job you do.