Project managers have a lot of power over their teams, and over the years Ive encountered many different ways of exercising it. There are those who treat teams coldly and analytically, as if they were machines. Ive seen project managers treat teams like they were expendable, using them up and discarding them once they burn out. But theres a better way, one that brings a successful project while developing your teams skills and loyalties: championing.
Championing isnt being soft-hearted or spoiling people. Its treating your team with dignity and respect they deserve. It gets results, but doesnt break anyones spirit. Instead, it lifts them up and inspires them to work harder for you and the organization.
Heres how being a champion accomplishes this:
Listen to Your Teams Ideas
Your team isnt a bunch of mindless drones. If youve hired right, theyre professionals with experience and ideas of their own, and youd do well to ask them for their input. Dont shoot down an idea just because it wasnt yours.
And dont forget to tap into the collective intelligence. If one team member is stuck on a problem, holding a brainstorming session might produce better results.
Be Confident In Their Skills
The best way for you to express confidence in your team is not to micromanage them. Tell them what needs to be done, and let them decide how to do it. If you dont feel 100% confident in them then go ahead and monitor their work, but dont step in unless something is really going wrong.
Another way of showing confidence in your team is delegating. Giving someone the authority to make decisions on your behalf is a great confidence builder. Youre not encouraging a rivalyoure encouraging a backup.
Work Through Their Mistakes
One of the hardest things to do in management is to keep things positive in the face of mistakes. Yes, people lose their temper. Yes, there are going to be repercussions. But dont focus on assigning blame. You dont have the time. Focus on correcting the mistake and getting the project out the door.
Your team is going to take a lot of crap, especially if the project is behind or buggy. As their project manager, you have to shelter them from most of it so that they can focus on getting the job done. You might have to accept a lot of punishment on their behalf, but whatever you do, dont take it out on them.
Credit Where Its Due
While you shouldnt linger on a team members mistakes, you should emphasize a team members successes. Acknowledge great deeds, whether its finding the most number of bugs or leading a team on their own for the very first time. Reward the group when they successfully implement a project, and celebrate with them.
When youre a champion, youre always thinking of your teams well-being. But youre not spoiling themabsolutely not. Youre being a supportive leader and giving them a positive environment in which they can thrive. Over time, youll be able to develop a team that can stand up to anyone elsesand maybe even lead teams of their own.
Image credit, Flickr, Margarida Sardo