You’ve likely heard a lot of team related advice like:
“There is no I in team.”
“Teamwork makes the dream work.”
“Be a team player.”
And if you played high school sports, “Don’t be a ball hog.”
There is certainly truth in all of these statements that carries over to projectland.
I think most people believe when they are “asked” or volunteer with enthusiasm to be part of a project team, that OF COURSE they know how to play nicely in the sandbox with others. Since that scenario literally did happen to many of us in kindergarten, we think we have been well prepared to be a good team player. However, if that were the case, there would be no need for this article.
As in other posts, I must point out that projects present different challenges than operational work, which can impact the way that people behave. Let's explore what good teamwork in projectland looks like...
Humor me, please, and imagine your dream car. Go ahead. Close your eyes and imagine that sweet ride you’ve always wanted.
Well, you FINALLY decided to purchase it just last week! Go you! Imagine you’re sitting behind the wheel, running a bit late, wearing your favorite holiday party outfit. Also, it’s raining, the traffic is going sloooooowly and you are on your way to a holiday meal that your overly strict family member and hostess with the mostess (just ask her) said very specifically starts at 2pm sharp and any tardiness would not be forgiven.
Are you feeling stressed at all? (I would be.)
And guess what happens next? You get a flat tire. Uh-oh. Do you:
A. Call roadside assistance because you just can’t get your favorite threads dirty and show up looking like a vagabond
B. Get out and start changing the tire, knowing that you will look drowned, but at least that might garner some sympathy
C. A or B plus decide to turn around, go home and face the wrath tomorrow
D. A or B plus call your family member and explain you had a flat tire, emphasize that you are still so excited to see everyone and apologize in advance for being late
E. Order a ride-share service, hope that you make it in time and pray that nothing bad happens to your dream car on the side of the road
Everyone thinks differently. Any one of these options could be viable depending on who you are, how you think, how much risk you are willing to take and so on.
So what does this have to do with projectland?
Well, just like families are made up of people and can tend toward the dysfunctional, project teams are made up of people and surely can too. In fact, it takes work to make sure that the project team is not dysfunctional, just like it takes work in a family. The glue that holds us together in families also helps us on teams at work, such as effective communication, understanding, patience, assuming people are doing their best, working toward the same goal, having each other’s best interests in mind and making time to have fun together.
Here are a few little teamwork tips in projectland to make the dream work, which is delivering the product, service or result on time, on budget, on scope, on quality, with a high degree of stakeholder satisfaction.
I’ve been blessed to work with many wonderful teams over the years. Here are my top 5 tips from working with some of the best and brightest engineers, quality experts, IT professionals, environmental health and safety superstars, legal eagles, business leaders and subject matter experts of all sorts.
1. Appreciate and employ one another’s strengths. Would we ask to ride a rooster down a steep hill? Would we ask a donkey to lay eggs? Would we ridicule a cat for not swimming in the bathtub willingly? Assume everyone comes with at least one superpower. Figure out what it is and give them the chance to shine. Compliment your fellow team members for their strengths and offer to help if they are struggling.
2. Do what you say you’ll do and communicate you did it. No one wants to pick up someone’s slack or be surprised. If you’re struggling with something, speak up! While everyone should be assuming everyone else is working hard, if you don’t tell us what you’re doing, we don’t know! Remember that mind reading is not in the team lead’s or project manager’s job description.
3. Stay positive, be pleasant and thoughtfully point out potential problems. Part of the reason that dogs are known as man’s best friend is because they are always happy to see you when you come home, whether you were gone for 5 minutes or 5 days. We also love it that when they hear something funky, they bark to alert us. Don’t keep any funky feelings to yourself. They could be risks that we need to know.
4. Don’t air your dirty laundry outdoors. Did you ever hear a grandma say this? Let’s keep the dirty laundry in the house where it belongs. The same goes for teams. Talk with your team, not outside of it, about your concerns. Every day on projects there are decisions to be made, problems to solve and new tasks to tackle. It’s totally normal. No situation comes to mind where it is appropriate to send up a flare for everyone on earth to see.
5. Embrace that teaming is a process. If you are having some stormy weather in projectland, perhaps it's just a phase. The first step in the teaming process is “forming” when the team is on their best behavior, like when you introduce a new love interest to your family or friends for the first time. After working together for a bit, when things are intense because we’re under pressure, stressed and annoyed, we are in “storming.” Then, after we take a deep breath, find common ground, develop trust, we smooth into “norming” mode. After a bit of that, we hit a stride and start to feel ourselves “performing” as a team. Finally the project is over and we go through an “adjourning” process of disbanding and in some cases also “mourning,” especially if the experience was a particularly good one. Every time a new team member joins the team, you all start back at the beginning again. In summary, the teaming process is:
If you and your fellow team members embrace these five tips, you will be well on your way to enjoying a great project experience no matter how rough the projectland terrain in your world may be.
Get on the Fast Track to Performing
For your next team fun, talent development event or project kickoff meeting, ask us about scheduling our popular 1.5 hour Communication Styles Workshop: Discover. Play. Adapt. From Facebook Headquarters in California to Campbell’s Headquarters in New Jersey to tech geniuses across Europe and in Israel to non-profit leaders, this action packed workshop can help your team appreciate one another’s communication styles and pave the way to achieve “performing” faster than a speeding tiger! It’s one of our favorites because it always works.
"Our staff loved PMOtraining's interactive, positive, upbeat and engaging Communication Styles Workshop!
It was just what I was looking for as it was quick and offered both talent development and team building.
Even though our staff are all professional communicators, it was an eye-opening experience for everyone.
Highly recommend for every team."
~ Caroline Hutchinson, Executive Director, American Lung Association of the Mid-Atlantic Region
Schedule a call to discuss how to get your team on the fast track to performing today!
About the Author: Dawn Mahan, PMP, is the Founder & CEO of PMOtraining, LLC., played field hockey from the 5th grade through high school, a bit of basketball and club flag football in college. She's convinced that being part of a variety of team sports helped prepare her for projectland. Now she's the author of the upcoming book, Accomplish More. Stress Less. The Practical Guide to Driving Successful Projects. Sign up for our mailing list to receive special announcements, offers and news about the book.