Tuesday, August 21, 2007

On managing your team and leading them

I realized that one of the things a project manager could do to demoralize his/her team is to not recognize his/her team's enthusiasm and skill set.

If at any point in time, you have a team member who comes up to you asking about next week's plans or directions, how would you answer them?
a. Tell them the direction you will be taking.
b. Ask them what's on their mind for next week.
c. Ignore the questions.
d. Ask them, "Why are you asking that?" and just shrug them off.

The last two options could be demoralizing, especially when your team is sincerely showing their interest as to what direction to take.  For one thing, the question might have been prompted because of several things:
a. Boredom. They could probably be bored with the current week's tasks and activities.
b. They feel the need to catch up with the deadlines, especially if they still have SO MUCH left to do.
c. They are simply curious and enthusiastic about the following week.

As a leader, you have to see if your team is still inspired or enthusiastic and see how enthusiasm could spread among them.  If you answer the question and fuel their enthusiasm that would be great.  Also, for those who are getting bored with their work already, at least you could discuss things.  It could be an indirect hint at you that they've been bored.

There are also those who feel the need to catch up.  Maybe there are people in your team who are overwhelmed with the project, especially with the work they've done.  They're getting better at estimating how long particular tasks would take and they're probably wondering how they should pace themselves. 

And there are also people who are simply enthusiastic and energetic that they want to have a headstart already.  That or they're preparing themselves for next week's work.

No matter how I look at it, it's your team's way of saying that they need to prepare for the work ahead for them and they'd like to know where you're heading.  Now how are you going to manage these people knowing that?

There's probably no easy way to answer that.  I guess you could simply put it simply this way: You musn't kill their enthusiasm and if they don't have any, give them something to be enthusiastic about.  Some people manage their teams by giving them 'carrots' to motivate them.  And one way of doing that is by making sure that each week, you all have something to look forward to even if it's work, work, work.  Putting a damper on their spirits would cause productivity to go down. Really down.

I guess this is one of those times that being a project manager would really require someone to have 'soft skills' and I am afraid that it's something that I must cultivate myself.  I am not a very patient person though I might look like it. Aside from that, there are times when I find it 'tiring' to deal with people.  Especially in huge groups.  Probably because I tend to try too hard in spreading enthusiasm for work and during times that I don't have it, I can't work that well.  And somehow, I'd just have to deal with things and make sure I remember the lessons well.


ealden said...

Some thoughts from your post:

- A project manager ensures the success of a project.
- A group is different from a team. They work on something, but a team is much more bonded.
- Bonding is sometimes needed to ensure a project's success.
- Even if bonding isn't needed, it paves the way for possible future working relationships. Much more so in the IT industry.

Clair Ching said...

Yup, bonding is sometimes necessary. Throw in a bunch of people who don't know each other at all, it might be difficult for them to work together because of the difficulty of figuring out each other's strengths and weaknesses as well as quirks.

ealden said...

I suppose that's why some groups spend on team building exercises, etc. Fortunately, it seems we do this naturally at O&B :-)

Clair Ching said...

True :) I am glad for it, to be honest. It makes the work seem a bit lighter, all things considered.


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a crafty cat who loves food, linux, anime and crafting.

business analyst by day, blogger by night. also a frustrated artist.