A new project has begun. The client has signed off on the project scope, and you hold a project kickoff meeting to discuss responsibilities. As you read off the task assignments, scan the faces around the conference table. Chances are, they’re none too happy about getting more work. Who would be, right?
Teams are capable of smiling when you give them more work. But like all good things, it requires a lot of effort on your part.
Choose the Right People
First thing to do is to make sure you have the right people for the job. And we’re not just talking about skill sets, either. While skills are important, attitude, dependability, and accountability are also key factors n determining task assignments. You’re not going to give critical path tasks to the team slacker, for instance. Instead, assign team members to tasks for which they are closely qualified.
Don’t play favorites. It’s counter-productive, and may cause problems with the project itself in addition to morale.
Delegate, Not Demand
Is there a difference? Absolutely. Ordering your team around is a one-way exercise where you are the only participant. It cuts off discussion and stifles the team dynamic.
Delegation, on the other hand, is a collaborative process that invites interaction from all sides. Coach the people who need it, and encourage the people who don’t. Give your team a view of the entire project and some perspective on the importance of their roles.
If your team has a better idea that will result in a faster workflow, jump on it and acknowledge their contribution. Even if their ideas don’t pan out, don’t belittle them. Recognizing efforts like these will encourage more of the same, and will tell your team that they are important enough to be listened to.
Project teams are not “fire-and-forget”. Once the work actually begins, check in with your team members on a regular basis and see how things are going. Don’t wait until the task is nearly due to follow up on them.
Scheduled status reports are good, but make sure you get some actual face time with them. Informal settings are an excellent opportunity to get honest feedback about task progress and their opinion on how the project is actually going. As an added bonus, taking the time to chat with them will improve your relationship with your team and improve morale. They’ll see you as a leader who cares about them as people, and not just as cogs in a machine.
At the same time, don’t be too persistent. Micromanaging is one of the worst things you can do to sabotage yourself. It’s annoying, it’s ineffective, and it’s a total waste of everyone’s time. Here’s a quick tip to avoid it: If you’re spending more time checking on other people than you spend doing your own stuff, then you’re micromanaging.
Okay, maybe your team won’t thank you for giving them work. But at least they’ll be a little more receptive when it comes time to assign tasks. A little goodwill goes a long way.