5 Steps to Build Confidence in Your Team Members

In a previous post, 5 Tips to Build Confidence in Yourself As a Project Manager, we looked at how to build confidence in ourselves. In this post we change the focus and look at how to build confidence in others.

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As project management professionals, one of our most important roles is to bring out the best in our team. This includes not just building a great team, but encouraging collaboration and empowering people around us. We achieve this success by helping individuals improve their confidence and make them see that their contributions and talents matter. The rewards are big—from improved employee engagement and performance to increased productivity. Here are five ways to instill confidence in your team members:

1. Help people learn and develop. Confidence and competence are closely related. If team members feel that they’re not developing professionally and that their skills are being under-utilized, they’ll quickly begin to doubt their abilities. To increase your team members’ confidence, you have to help them improve and learn new skills so they can play a stronger role in contributing to the project.

One way of doing this is to give your team access to courses, training and conferences. Another way is to give them time to study or to run a pet project they’re passionate about. You can also set up knowledge-sharing sessions to the benefit of the entire team, or even the entire department.

2. Delegate step-by-step. A great way to build up your team members’ competence—and thereby their confidence—is to delegate specific tasks that will help them grow in an area they’re interested in. Just be careful that you don’t delegate too soon or too quickly; and don’t leave people to their own devices when they’re in new territory. When someone lacks confidence and competence it’s far better to gradually give them more responsibility and to stick close by them until they no longer need you. Your job is to help you team members set reachable goals and to break difficult tasks into smaller steps. In that way people slowly but surely gain confidence as they start to master each step of the assignment.

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3. Focus on people’s strengths. As a project manager or team leader you’re likely to have a fair bit of influence over who does what. You can use that to actively build up someone’s confidence by giving them work that they’re genuinely good at and interested in. People’s confidence (and motivation) will generally grow when they’re given the chance to put their skills into practice and show mastery. The question you need to ask is: How well do you know each of your team member’s strengths. To learn more, check out Tom Rath’s best-selling book, Strengths Finder.

 

4. Be supportive. One of the most fundamental ways to boost people’s confidence is to actively support them and build them up emotionally. And one of the best ways to create a strong supportive foundation is to connect with individuals one-on-one. When you do, make space to sincerely listen to their concerns and help them realize how much they have to contribute. When you get to know the members of your team at a more personal level (e.g., what motivates them; what really matters to them) you’ll intuitively know how to best support them.

Another way to demonstrate your support is to actively praise a team member and provide positive feedback when someone does something well. We all like to feelappreciated and it takes so little to say “Thanks, that was a superb job you did.”

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5. Embrace failureAnother great way to build people up is to let them know that it’s OK to make mistakes—as long as they don’t keep making the same ones. When you remove the fear of failure you make people feel safe. As a result, team members open up and are more willing to contribute and experiment. Knowing that they have the space to learn from their mistakes rather than being penalized for them builds their confidence and takes away an enormous chunk of negative energy and worry. Essentially, you free people up to pursue that which is truly important: The successful delivery of the project.

Can you add a No. 6 tip? Drop yours into Comments, we want to hear from you!

 

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7 Steps to Improve Collaboration on Your Team

Effective collaboration achieves what no single team member can on her own. As business magnate Richard Branson said, “A business has to be involving, it has to be fun, and it has to exercise your creative instincts.”  The best collaborations do this—optimize each person’s skills by utilizing suggestions from around the table, inspiring cooperation and creative buy-in from all involved.

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Here are seven effective ways to create stronger team collaboration.

  1. Aggregate and adapt:  Any good project manager will bring ideas and plans to the table.  The most collaborative will be highly skilled at weaving in the suggestions, ideas and goals of their team for a best-of fusion. Complex, multidisciplinary projects need to employ agile methodologies, involving innovation from all stakeholders and parties to succeed. The use of real-time data to help participants understand what is and isn’t working allows adjustments to be made on the fly. Successful collaboration is an aggregate of the best ideas while remaining adaptive and flexible.
  2. Listen first:  An effective collaborator knows how to bridge differing ideas into workable solutions. Getting to the root of any new concept or suggestion involves active listening, and listening actively to everyone with a stake in the outcome before mapping a course.  Active listening includes giving feedback to confirm and clarify the information that was shared, and having a discussion in real time. A great collaborator will be able to respond most effectively once all parties have been heard. Team members want to feel valued, and being heard is where being valued begins.

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  1. Energize: The best collaborators assume that others are working smart and working hard. An effective and collaborative leader can bring inspiration and energy into a meeting room or conversation by helping team members feel valued. They sincerely express appreciation for a job well done.  When criticism is offered thoughtfully and in the spirit of “your work is important to this project’s success,” effective collaboration becomes second nature. Talking about issues that need to be addressed can be done in a way that gets the team motivated about what’s possible.  A motivated, energized team is a project’s strongest asset.
  2. Remain open: Great collaborators always keep an open mind and know that brilliant ideas come from the unexpected. Openness is also crucial in building an atmosphere of trust. Workplace relationships are successful when employees are comfortable enough to voice concerns and make suggestions.  Satisfied employees comfortably voice concerns and ask questions, and they know where to find the answers. Remaining open to new ideas, accomplishments and thoughtful critique empowers the entire team. The result: Faster problem-solving, healthier teamwork, greater trust and ultimately improved performance.
  3. Be transparent: The most effective collaborators are less concerned with titles and roles than they are with solutions. If a fantastic suggestion is made they give credit where credit is due, regardless of source. Furthermore, effective collaborators clearly define expectations and share information across the board. Clear and inclusive communication allows team members to know that they matter enough to be told the truth. Sharing details with the team increases a sense of workplace community, and adds to the spirit of collaboration. Teams thrive in environments that encourage trial and error and encourage participation project tracker.

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  1. Have fun! Plato is credited with saying that you can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation. An organization or project is more successful when morale, motivation and trust are high. Having fun together—from Tuesday lunches to a bowling night to meetings where humor and optimism have their place—make a positive difference in helping team members from different parts of any project feel connected. Healthy environments incorporate appropriate camaraderie-building events and attitudes, fostering a sense of connectedness and accountability that goes beyond schedules and deadlines.
  2. Transcend insularity: The most effective collaborators will know that the strongest parts make up the strongest whole. Workgroups have a tendency to silo.  But the workplace of today is best served by operating without boundaries. So instead, make collaboration the goal and hold each member of the team accountable for their participation.

Sustained dialogue, frequent opportunities to connect through technology and a mutual sense of purpose will help collaboration become second nature. Look for common ground and emerging issues of mutual interest, and encourage team members to connect and discuss.

What would be your #8 collaboration tip? Tell us in Comments.

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In the Future Everyone Will Be a Project Manager

Charles Seybold is a bit of a trend-setter in our book. When he makes statements like, “You are a project manager!” to someone who’s a marketing writer, we like to sit down and get the full story. As our Chief Product Officer, Charles co-founded and designed LiquidPlanner with a vision to transform how projects were managed among teams. We asked him about what the future of project management will look like – and how far we’ve come already.

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LiquidPlanner: What makes you think that everyone will be a project manager?

Charles: Let’s start with a definition. Techopedia.com defines “Project Manager” as “the person responsible for leading a project from its inception to execution.” My definition is: “The art and science of delivering results.” Pretty much all of us are trying to do the latter. And technology is making it possible for everyone to achieve great results without having extensive project management training.

LP: How is project management changing?

Charles: Classic project management is essentially about trained project managers gaining control. For most projects, this model is inferior to using collaboration tools that live in the cloud. Empowering people on the front lines to make decisions and to take responsibility is more efficient, more engaging and produces fewer mistakes. When you have many minds aligned and they’re using better tools, this allows management to stop worrying about controlling projects and start focusing on optimizing projects.

LP: How do these changes affect teams and organizations?

Charles: Dramatically. It’s a big change, but it takes a big change to deliver dramatically different results. We all know that laptops work better with multiple cores, specifically; there are actually multiple computers inside your laptop working together to get more stuff done. Collaborative planning software affords organizations the ability to truly process multiple projects simultaneously without crashing the organization or grinding it to a halt. That’s exciting stuff. We routinely have customers tell us that switching to LiquidPlanner felt like boosting the team’s productivity by 30%-40%.

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LP: How is the business mindset changing to accommodate this democratization of PMs?

Charles: We’ve become an input society. The old school mindset was that one’s influence was determined by the size of his or her paycheck. With the democratization of data and access to business information, that model is really being flipped on its head. Cloud-based software provides a way for organizations to communicate with each other and for natural business experts to participate equally. Social business collaboration provides a place for orders of magnitude and more ideas to live and breed.

LP: Do credentials matter in the new world?

Charles: There was a period of time where the concept of Six Sigma was all the rage and people would strive to become a Six Sigma black belt. Nowadays with highly collaborative and transparent tools for managing projects and other work, you don’t need to take courses to prove that. People just see that you know what you’re doing. There’s a clear incentive to do a good job because it’s visible to your organization. Social tools are rapidly increasing transparency and the secret society of governance is melting away in favor of the transparent community. This transparency helps align everyone’s interests around the organizations goals.

LP: How do we combine traditional PM with today’s collaborative PM style?

Charles:
 What we learn from formal project management is that you want to have a plan. It’s good to think up front; it’s good to understand the requirements and have clear objectives; it’s good to identify risks; it’s good to communicate.

The most effective managers using LiquidPlanner are the ones that took the good parts of traditional project management (communication, risk evaluation) and threw away the bad parts (single point estimates, infrequent updates, rigid control). LiquidPlanner is an environment that captures and reflects the reality of projects so they can be managed, not some idealized yardstick used to beat up team members that run into unexpected headwinds.

LP: How is technology affecting this change?

Charles: Simple answer here: Cloud-based technology means that we can create large-scale, living project environments that are continuously updated and always reflect the latest, best picture of what the team has (or hasn’t) accomplished. The real trick is that 90% of project success is about execution – not planning. LiquidPlanner is focused on helping teams master this massive 90% opportunity. This is where the real productivity game is won or lost.

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LP: How do the new project management tools affect productivity?

Charles: I can speak best to how LiquidPlanner approaches productivity. We created LiquidPlanner to tackle the longstanding problems with traditional project management tools. To do this we needed to break the old rules and make some new ones.

  • LP rule #1: Priority is the most important input to the project management process, so we built the system around that concept.
  • LP rule #2: Uncertainty cannot be ignored if you want a realistic schedule, so we built the system around ranged estimates (best/worst case scenarios) and a probability-based scheduling engine.
  • LP rule #3: Collaboration and status are inseparable from planning so we have tightly integrated the features of scheduling, tracking, collaboration, analytics and reporting into one environment that supports large portfolios of hundreds of projects and thousands of tasks.

LP: How is productivity affected when everyone is a PM of their own work?

Productivity is a hugely misunderstood concept. When it works right, the result is a productive culture across the organization. It simply becomes a habit to run projects well.

One might be surprised to learn that we have nobody with the title of “Project Manager” at LiquidPlanner, yet we’re very productive and manage dozens of major projects each year. We use LP to run most of the business and we have little rework, few false starts, and essentially no idle time. There’s no sweeping things under the carpet and we’re doing the right work efficiently. It’s just not that hard with a good system. Any team can get these results if they can adapt to the LiquidPlanner methodology.

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17 Reasons Why Time Tracking Makes You a Better Project Manager

The idea of time tracking hurts more than the reality of it. The initial resistance to tracking time is normal – you’re changing habits which takes some getting used to. But in reality, can you and your team (and organization) afford not to know where the precious resource of your time goes – and how it affects the business?

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The good news is there are a lot of great time tracking apps on the market to choose from; and for our customers, LiquidPlanner has a robust time tracking feature. To get you motivated, here are 17 reasons why tracking your time improves your project management skills.

  1. It’s the ultimate truth teller. You’ll soon learn how long that “two-minute task” really takes and plan accordingly.
  2. You’ll become a better project estimator – a key skill for project managers. A key skill for anyone who works on projects.
  3. The only way to improve a process is to measure it.
  4. Time is money. If you’ve going to be scrupulous about your budget, be scrupulous about your hours.
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  5. Time tracking sets clear objectives. If you know how you should be allocating your time, you’ll increase productivity.
  6. You can see the scope creep coming, and take appropriate action.
  7. You can anticipate project changes.
  8. You’ll never be caught complaining, “Where does the time go?”
  9. You’ll be more successful at completing one task at a time, rather than jumping all over the place. Using timers helps.
  10. You’ll always know what you’re doing and why you’re doing it, which provides a sense of purpose. Purpose increases engagement. Engagement increases performance.  
  11. Speaking of performance: If you want to ask for a raise, a promotion or you want to hire another team member, your time sheet could be your best ally.
  12. When someone makes unreasonable demands on your time, you have proof of why the project/team/organization will suffer if you take on any more work.
  13. Tracking time naturally forces you to prioritize tasks.
  14. You’ll know when it’s time to delegate.
  15. Tracking time keeps procrastination to a minimum.
  16. You can analyze results and make important decisions based on the information you’ve gathered in your time sheets.
  17. If you do monthly reviews, your time sheet can help you remember what you forgot.

Give us #18 in Comments!

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Source: Project Management Articles

11 Ways to Raise Your Team’s Morale

At some point in your career as a project manager, you’ll find yourself leading a troubled team. There could be a number of reasons for this: burn out; a past history of poorly managed projects; office politics or business changes, a fear-based culture. The list goes on – and many of us have been there.

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According to the Gallup organization, disengaged employees make up 30% of the U.S. workforce which costs the U.S. from $450 billion to $550 billion per year.

It’s not a fun to find yourself steering a troubled team – but you don’t have to resign yourself to managing upstream. The trick is to make employees feel like their work is more than just a job. So where do you start? Here are 11 tips to help you cultivate a happier team.

  1. Figure out if you’re the problem. If you’re the project manager, you “own” the team’s morale, good or bad. Granted, you might be required by higher-ups to make decisions that don’t make your team jump for joy, but you’re in control of how you handle these situations (e.g., being compassionate and open instead of dictatorial and secretive).
  2. Learn why morale is low. Plenty of things can hurt morale:  Lack of upward opportunity, poor communications, chaotic (or changing) work conditions, negative corporate culture, failing business and more. If you can’t figure out from team members what’s creating poor morale, consult your company’s Human Resources group because this is something they do—address employee problems. Think of HR as a resource you can draw from, but don’t ask them to take over the problem. You still own it.
  3. Win trust. If managers are seen as distant or untrustworthy, morale suffers. Make yourself accessible to your team. Spend a few extra minutes in your lunch or coffee room; keep an open-door policy (literally and figuratively); ask people how they’re doing and if they need anything from you, go out to lunch – be there for and with your team.
  4. Give people control as much as possible, because when employees are empowered to make decisions and influence a project and their jobs, their engagement and motivation rises. Make it safe for team members to express frustration or constructive criticism. Give employees opportunities to solve problems and take action – both strong antidotes to fear and feeling helpless. Also, involving your team members in decision-making can produce better results.
  5. Listen. It’s not only a tactic but a strategy.  When team members get a chance to air their issues individually it makes them feel better, builds trust, and enlightens you to any deeper problems you aren’t aware of. Telling employees to “move on” or “just deal with it” fosters anger and resentment, or pushes them to disengage.
  6. Communicate well. Do more than share decisions with your team. Explain whydecisions are made. David Lee, consultant and the founder of HumanNature@Worksays, “When people understand ‘Why,’ they can deal with almost any ‘What.’”
  7. Celebrate achievements: Thank-you’s and acts of recognition highlight your team’s progress. To break the pattern of low morale, set achievable short-term goals that can be celebrated. Applaud examples of excellence in difficult times; it’s important for employees to feel like winners, especially when times are tough.

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  1. Let your team do things in new ways. But make your new approach concrete. Preferably, the new idea – a process revamp, a new way to approach a project, a feature improvement – will come from team members, empowering them. And as their PM, you still have a role—support them in trying initiatives that have a high chance of succeeding.
  2. Advocate for your staff. When a team member is mistreated by a client or staff member, take a stand for your employee. You don’t need to administer a public admonishment, but drop by the person’s office and give them your support. Your team members will be worth more to you and your company than the occasional cranky customer.
  3. Tell stories. When talking about your vision and challenges, use stories and analogies, rather than PowerPoint slides filled with statistics and facts. Great leaders are masters at inspiring people through compelling stories. If the idea of this intimidates you, start practicing your story-telling skills with a small meeting and build up.
  4. Listen to your team’s internal customers through employee advisory groups, management meetings, team meetings and focus groups. You’ll get valuable feedback to form effective strategies for executing and communicating changes – which bring a deeper sense of purpose to work. And isn’t that what we all want?

 

What other approaches do you use to boost poor morale on your team? Add your wisdom in comments below.

 

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Source: Project Management Articles