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The First Step to a Better Team


© jaggat - Fotolia.com

© jaggat – Fotolia.com


After reading my recent post, 9 Characteristics of High-Performing Project Teams, a few people asked about the leader’s role in this process. Some also wondered where to begin, since all nine steps are so critical.

Not to sound obtuse, but my answer is to begin where you are. Ask yourself, “Where is my team today on each of the nine characteristics?” Assess if the team is strong at some of the ideas, and if others just seem too hard right now. Go where you have energy to go. Follow your gut.

For those who prefer a more logical approach, try one or more of these ideas:

  1. Review the nine steps and determine what you have already done and what you haven’t tackled yet. Create a checklist to work from.

  2. Take a long view. Realize you cannot move everything forward at the same time. Over a period of time, you can work on each one of the nine characteristics. Ask yourself which one will have the biggest impact on your team’s overall performance this year.

  3. Ask your boss. Show him or her this list and discuss his or her opinions on which will have the biggest impact.

  4. Ask your team. This may be the best idea. Remember that the folks closest to the work product or process will know what is wrong and what is right with their team. Give them the nine characteristics as a discussion starter, and ask how they would rank themselves as a team. Then guide and support them as they work towards high performance, one step at a time.

Don’t be surprised if all these approaches lead you to the same answer. The most important thing is to keep striving for improvement and not get stuck in complacency. Just take one small step today towards leading your team to higher performance.

What is the leader’s role in moving a team forward?

In a project team, a little bit of appreciation goes a long way, and is a great habit to cultivate. A NASA client recently told me he was fortunate early in his career to work with an outstanding leader who took time to thank the team generously and authentically. At first, my client thought it was fake. He wondered, “How can this guy keep it up? Why is he praising people for doing what they are paid to do anyway?”

Then he started studying that boss and realized he was being very specific with the comments. Instead of “Good job!” and “Thank you,” the boss would say things like, “I appreciate you coming in early today to get the project moving,” or “Thanks for your team’s performance this month, it was 10% better than last month,” or “I can see you are collaborating better with our subcontractors” or “You really saved us money last month, thank you for payng attention to expenses.”

Where to start for a higher-performing project team? Start where you’re at, since your team will benefit from improving all nine of these characteristics.

The simplest change a leader can make to improve a team? Appreciate and recognize your team’s work, their efforts, their commitment and results.

How will you decide where to start improving your team? Please add your comment below, or share with me on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook or email.

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