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Are You the Problem on the Project Team? Part III

Part III: Checking In With the Team

Read Part I and Part II to catch up on our story.

When we left off, the project manager was having a team meeting with his team to specifically discuss the feedback from the two questions he posed. As you will recall, he developed a plan for how he would improve his project leadership skills and was sharing that information with his team.

In Part III, let’s look at that team meeting and then progress after one month.

The First Two Team Meetings

Two meetings were set up. One was to review how the project manager was going to address the issues and the second was just to enable to team to spend time together getting to know each other and building trust with the project manager.

During the first team meeting, the project manager thanked all team members for providing assistance and guidance to him by responding to his questions and reviewed his plan to move forward. He admitted that his biggest challenges would be focused on “letting go,” and specifically not feeling as if he needed to go involved in every aspect of the project (trusting his team to do their jobs) and also in enabling for “socializing” so that the team spends some time getting to know each other. He admitted to never being comfortable with socializing at work and had always felt that socializing was to be kept separate from work.

The project manager also shared that on the last 6 projects he led his team members had far less experience than this current team. Because he needed to provide much more guidance to those teams, he was having trouble letting go in this instance with a team with much more experience.

In reviewing the project plan to date, the team and the project manager worked collaboratively to determine those upcoming meetings where the project manager need not be involved. Certainly the project manager would be involved in all status meetings, but there were a number of small team meetings that he did not need to be involved in.

They also worked to develop processes and procedures for problem solving meetings to ensure full team participation in discussions and in decision making.

Individual meetings were set up for the project manager to meet with each team member to understand their background, expertise, skills, etc.

During the second team meeting – which was held after hours and was a social event at a local restaurant – the team spent time simply getting to know each other. They talked about families, friends and hobbies. They talked about how they got to where they are today – their challenges and successes along the way. This event was not structured with formal team building activities. The team members spent time together over dinner just having a conversation. The project was not discussed at all. It was apparent the project manager was not as comfortable during the team dinner; but he made an effort to share with the others and participate in conversations.

The team members left both meetings feeling re-charged and energized. They had a positive outlook about what lies ahead and were excited with the changes they were seeing.  They particularly enjoyed the social event as it was nice to get to know each other on a personal basis.

Some Progress After a Month

After a month, we checked in to see how it was going. This check-in involved a simple survey to the team members which asked:

  • In what areas have you seen changes in how the project manager is leading the team?
  • In what areas do you not see any significant change?
  • What other information would you like to share?

Here are the results of that survey:

Question Asked

Responses Received

In what areas have you seen changes in how the project manager is leading the team?

  • Progress made in enabling socialization prior to team meetings
  • Improved communications with team members
  • Has individually met with team members to understand backgrounds, expertise, skills
  • Encourages discussions and ideas at team meetings – asks others for input regularly
  • Beginning to call on individuals for expertise in specific areas

In what areas do you not see any significant change?

  • Project manager does not actively participate in casual conversation prior to team meeting
  • No further after-hours get-togethers scheduled as of yet
  • Even after meetings with individual team members, slow progress made in allowing individuals to “do their job”  – project manager still seems to get involved more than necessary (but improvement seen)
  • Project manager has enabled some others to lead meetings, but shows up for meeting anyway as if “checking up” on the team

What other information would you like to share?

  • Obvious building trust in the team, but it takes time – there is definitely progress though in this area
  • Overall – definitely progress being made, just slow in some areas

In meeting with the project manager, he had no arguments about any of the responses. He completely agreed. While he saw progress, he knew those areas he had to keep working on. He was still uncomfortable with sharing (on a personal level) with the group – but was working at it. He felt that while the team certainly enjoyed the after-hours event, he just struggled through it (he thought of so many others places he would rather be). He realized being comfortable in just socializing with the team was going to take time, but he was committed to working at it.

He was also still trying to “let go.” Even though he had an understanding of the capabilities of the team (and commented that he was impressed with his team members) he was having a difficult time letting go and backing off. He noted that because he was ultimately responsible for the project, he felt like he had to control the project.

He also realized he needed to schedule a few other after-hours get-togethers along with a couple more options for the full team to get together for a team building session/dinner. 
The project manager created an action plan to set goals for himself for improving how he works with his team.

How about you? What do you need to improve on how you manage your projects and work with your teams? How will you learn what you are doing well and where you need to improve? Please share with others in the Comments field below.

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