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6 Things You Should Never Say to Your Best Project Team Members

Project managers are people managers. There′s no getting around it. You may be a great at organizing and planning, but if you can′t motivate and manage people, then you′re not going to get very far. I′ve seen and worked with quite a few project managers who are rude, abrasive, and insensitive to the point that their best people–valuable and loyal employees–have left or become demoralized.

If you want to avoid the same mistakes that these “project demoralizers” make, then remove these words from your vocabulary:

1) “You′re too valuable.”

This backhanded compliment is typically uttered after denying a promotion or a raise. The reasoning behind this is that if the employee gets promoted and leaves their role, the team′s overall performance (and therefore the manager′s rating) will suffer. It′s a selfish and short-sighted move that reflects poorly on your employee management skills. Expect your employee to resign or start slacking the moment they leave your office.

2) “What I say goes.”

You′re a leader, not a parent (and even parents should avoid this phrase). Employees–especially the good ones–are thinking professionals. If they have an objection to your plan, you should address it in an intelligent manner. If you can′t, then maybe your plan isn′t a good one.

3) “Mind your own tasks.”

Great employees work best if they can understand the context of their actions. Being aware of another′s tasks isn′t being nosy. They′re trying to grasp the overall situation. But if you put on blinders and keep them from collaborating, you might miss out on some great suggestions for improving workflow. Your employees will also feel like you don′t value their opinions–which you probably don′t.

4) “You wouldn′t understand.”

Are your team members immature children with no grasp of adult concepts like running a business? Of course not, and your star team members will take offense at your saying so. They won′t want to work for a leader who thinks so little of them.

5) “This is how you should be doing it.”

Micromanagement is poison in any situation, but more so when you′re dealing with your top team members. For all you know, you might be forcing them to do things in an inefficient way. Worse still, you show that you don′t trust them to figure it out. That burns up any leadership credibility you have. If your best team member is really that good, then you don′t need to ride him every step of the way.

6) “Good enough is fine.”

Excellent employees are attracted to excellence. So if your project standards are “okay” and “good enough,” then they′re going to feel dissatisfied and under-utilized. Either their own standards will slip, or they′re going to go find a boss with higher standards.

The core take-away of these tips is to always value your best employees (and everyone else, too) for what they can contribute, and not to be too overconfident and controlling. Leaders are only as good as the employees they develop, and this applies as much to project management as it does to everything else.

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