5 Ways To Make Or Break Your Team – Tips from PM Network Magazine

Soft skills and general management knowledge come very handy whether you are a marketer or product manager or some other professional. To be successful, it pays off to refresh your insights and ponder on how you can use them today in your current project. 

Thinking of this topic made me look through a current version of PM Network Magazine, I receive monthly, and surely I ran into a very concise but valuable article by Chauncey Hollingsworth on “5 Ways to Make or Break Your Team”.  I felt compelled to share the tips with you and add my experiences on top. So what are those 5 situations you can “zoom into” today and make a choice where to lead them? And the “winners” are:

Issue 1: Out-of-control meetings

How many times have you experienced days full of meetings which painfully kept all other work getting piled on, becoming a huge mountain of “to dos” that you are still responsible for? How many times have you experienced an hour meeting becoming a two-hour? If you are the one scheduling those numerous meetings or dragging them on and on (though rightfully so to clarify the issue), time to stop and think how to start controlling the meetings avalanche before it starts controlling you!

What to do?

The article suggests to  “give people what they want – nothing more, nothing less…stick to the point.” How often we forget that! My tip to remind yourself of this rule – think how much money you will earn doing something else these 30 mins times seven days a week? Now works? Adding monetary value always works for me. Another way to prevent this, that I use daily – ask yourself if the information you need from those people can be received in a more time-saving manner and preferably documented to save you even more time in the future.

Issue 2: Seemingly random changes in project direction

What a common scenario? Have you only managed to get into “production groove” with a well-earned sigh of relief from overcoming the review stage (always reminds me a musical chairs game), when the out-of-the blue change request comes in from a client?  And now your perfectly orchestrated order falls into a chaos again!

What to do?

The article encourages “keeping the lines of communication open” and providing reasons why the change is necessary to all team members to alleviate resentment and irritation. I would also add that before the change is executed, it is advisable to evaluate its effect.

Issue 3: Overly demanding stakeholders

I loved how the author brought the example to life ” The team met the deadline and feeling pretty good about their accomplishment. Then, the client comes in with a 12-point list of revisions. And they are going to need those by tomorrow – end of day is fine.”  I confess, I experienced it on both sides!

What to do?

Sitting down with a team and assessing what realistically can be done is one way as recommended. Communicating the change request effect to the client in relation to scope, time and budget and clarifying what he/she wants to accomplish as a whole is also advised.  From my view and experience, if you are the one giving a laundry list – make it easy for the vendor to implement – help them understand the changes, provide only approved changes and brief on the selected list in a separate discussion with reasons why those are critical. Imagining yourself in their shoes also helps! What would you wish to hear or to see from your client if you were in this situation?

Issue 4: Energy-zapping unexpected delays

How easy do you lose your cool when something is to happen – does not happen? I mean – the deliverable? A glitch in planning or a real problem that is being hidden for a moment? What if, you are waiting that deliverable to start on your part, because without it, it is not possible or your progress is in jeopardy? The team member that once inspired you, the same one that is to deliver, becomes an energy sapping issue? Trust and respect get broken so easily if timely communication does not happen. What if you are the one – “flanking” on the deadline?

What to do?

Communication, communication, communication! Oh how deeply I agree with that advice! Tell the truth and save the energy. Admit the mistake and rectify it right there and then and tell about it to your partner/team – he/she will surely be standing behind you 100 percent if you sync up with them. When I see a risk that is inevitable, I do my best to sit down, write it up clearly and read its description out loud and deliver it with a proposal on how to fix it. That instantly turns a problem into a potential bonding experience for your team, as they will see you in action, as opposing to in panic.

Issue 5: Team squabbles gone awry

And the finalist described becomes the favorite – “getting personal” stuff! If someone tells me that there are no conflicts in the team, chances are – they exist, they burst, but are not explicitly admitted. Every team experiences a conflict – which is a normal state of a working social group. The trick is in how they deal with the conflict that makes it or breaks it. Almost like a statement from Dr. Phil on marriages & relationships!

What to do?

Saving time is the ultimate incentive and as the article recommends, ” the project manager must be willing to get the two members together to iron the differences between each other firstly on their own, then if fails, together with an option of exit.  When things get personal, there is no other way but elimination of one to save the bunch.  How to do that? Who is the one with the most value to the project?  Who is the one most committed to its success? Answer those questions and decide, provided you have the authority to do that.

This is all you need to know today! Now go and act on the insights!