What the TEAM Engagement is? How to get on with the team on-site and remotely? How to keep people engaged and inspired? Let’s knock it down.
Hey Crizpers, our topic for today is the TEAM Engagement. Why capitalized? Because the team is the engine and the power of the project. It is a complicated human mechanism you need to carefully and confidently drive in order to deliver the desired goals timely and effectively. The team is your project family and here you need to concern, aid, take ownership and responsibility OR give it to the team mates when appropriate.
As I have mentioned in the ‘How projects are delivered‘ article, there are as many team engagement methodologies, as many leadership styles exist. However, I believe, despite you may have preferences among all of them, as a Project Manager you should be flexible and adaptive. You are the driver here and you need to define how the certain mechanism works and how to get the most positive out of it.
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A little bit of Theory
There are several stages of the team engagement. According to the Tuckman’s Theory of the team development throughout the project (as in most cases the team is being built for the certain project) we are passing through the following phases of the social adaptation.
When we are getting known each other, defining the roles and responsibilities. We are getting acquainted with our peers and finding the length of their feet.
Here is when all the fun comes. When we are more more in a contact with the team mates, we are starting to cope, match out powers and trying to position and establish ourselves. It might be a little power-fight among the colleagues when we are trying ourselves, touching the atmosphere and segmenting the responsibilities. We define what is allowed in this internal micro-society and what is not acceptable.
Finally when all the dots are placed above the i-s the team is settling down with the defined roles, adapt themselves and accept their peers.
This is the most efficient and power-driven phase of the team development process. Now when all the roles and responsibilities are acknowledged, the team starts to perform effectively on the top of its capabilities. They trust each other, they are motivated, they believe they can solve any problem and they participate in the constructive conflicts.
Not many people consider this stage, however it still exists. This is the phase when all the work is done and we are releasing the team. Usually this is the Project Closure stage.
Basically, this theory is applicable to all of the teams. Not everybody starts from the first stage, as there are many cases when people have already worked together. Also, there is a probability, the team could reverse to the previous steps of the team development flow. However, at least once in the life time we have passed all of them.
Now let’s see what could we do as project managers to facilitate and alleviate the team’s journey through this evolution ladder.
Why are we here?
All people in the team are committed to get things done. Thus first of all we need to have the common goal for all of the peers to share. We need to clearly establish what are we aiming to reach and that all the team is responsible for the goals. This means, if one fails, all the team fails. We need to contribute to the mutual support. And the team should understand and acknowledge this as a rule of thumb.
Directing the Team
When we are forming and getting the fresh meat, the team does not have an experience working together, here is the time to put the walls. The ground rules should come to the stage. We are to direct and to lead the team to acceptance of them in order to have all the peers on the same page from the very beginning.
Before the project kick-off when we are just starting to get on all together, a Project Manager could perform the best of the matchmaker’s skills to wake the spirit of the cooperation and collaboration. The team should get addicted to interact and we are to smooth all the possible sharp edges for facilitating the internal collaboration.
This is a great time in introduce the customs the team should follow during the project and to try them out for getting used to them. The list of these activities could vary from team to team and from project to project, however, you could keep the following tricks on hand.
The wide-spread Scrum practice is very effective not only in terms of the performance improvement, but in the collaboration facilitation as well. The team should accustom communicating openly and to organize themselves attending these syncs at the same time regularly. As a Project Manager do not skip yourself in this round, start from yourself. Your team should know you are part if this new-born society. However, this is a quick run, so keep tracking the time you spend on the action.
The overall conclusion of the outcome earned during the week. Here you may have more time, so allow your peers to share their ideas and suggestions. Show that their input is appreciated. If you have an opportunity, this could even be done somewhere away from the regular working room, or even out of the office. Kind of a regular team building move. You could go to a park, or to a coffee shop, take an advantage of a more relaxing atmosphere to discuss the current wins and fails and to learn from them all together. Document the lessons, right down the decisions made and the solutions proposed. Don’t forget to implement them after.
One on One is really important. There are multiple situations a person would not be able to communicate the possible problem or request during the team meeting. And, probably, your peer is too shy to even ask for a meeting with you. Take the initiative in your hands and schedule these personal syncs will all the team mates. And this should be done on regular basis, so a person will get used to that and will be able to prepare all the questions or suggestions by the meeting time.
Define the way you will communicate the information to your team. They should know exactly where to look for the updates and when they can get this information. There are multiple options you could utilize. This could be a common chat where all of the peers are included, or a dashboard with pin-points in a room they visit every day. Or, may favorite one, a team website or blog. This would allow to store, collect and sort all the updates on demand.
My advice is not to use email. First, you may miss someone in the mailing list. Next, this will be difficult to keep the track of updates. And no-one likes to read long emails.
The important action to keep the colleagues on the same page is to document all the key points and decisions made and to store them in a single accessible place. Every meeting minutes should be written down and provided for the participants for the future reference. And always request for the feedback after it was shared. This will help to avoid misunderstanding, and, if someone disagree, this issue could be instantly resolved in an open communication.
Coach your Peers
Now when the team mates are on a close term with each other, we are starting to storm. Frankly speaking, this is a common situation in all the interpersonal relationships. After we have got acquainted, we are trying to position ourselves and to assert out rights and boundaries. Here the Project Management function is to settle the possible misunderstanding and disorders. Coach the team on how to get on better, be a mediator, convert all possible conflicts into the constructive discussions and perform the emotional intelligence. Help your peers grow into a team.
We are to keep going with the initially stated communication channels and promote their usage actively.
Work closely with the team mates, allow them to experiment, learn how to fail fast and how to recover fast. Making mistakes is OK, this is natural. The team needs to know this is a safe environment. However, we need to learn from that and not to get down after a mistake is made.
At this team building milestone we could define the natural leaders in the group.
Support your Team
Now once we have passed through the storming stage and when the communication and relationships in the team are settled, we may weaken out the capture and take more of the monitoring and controlling position. Now we are in a norming phase. We have a couple of the group leaders and know their strengths. Allow them to take the emergent leadership and to shift from the leader to follower among each other. Support them and participate actively. Reward the initiatives and encourage your peers. However, stay away from the zero-sum rewards. I am talking about the cases when rewards are given only to someone from the group. This will not work well in the long run. Remember, the team is responsible for the failure all together. Thus, the success is the TEAM achievement too.
And of course, we are keeping the track of our collaborations activities. As always, communication is paramount.
We got to the most productive stage of the team development process. Now your team is performing. At this point the team is starting to perform on the top of their efficiency. Now they know each other, they get on well with each other and play all together as a single organism. It is a good time to delegate the decision-making to the team. More monitoring, less controlling. Support when needed. Keep the track of the common communication channels. Announce the team wins, discuss fails all together, make the success public, let them celebrate the achievements. Keep the peers excited and inspired.
2 Cents about the Motivation
There are many talks about the motivating tools and thousands of opinions on how is it better to motivate the team. Some people believe that all the motivation should be non-material and only the team spirit and the management engaging should inspire the colleagues to perform on the top of their efficiency. Others think that only the material influence could be an essential motivation.
I would say that both of the approaches are the two peers in a pod. The instant motivation is the material. This is the employer-employee relationships and this is first what comes in the game. This should satisfy the primary needs of a person. This are the essential aspects such as security, payroll, work conditions and environment, and the relationships with the employer. I hope you would agree with the fact that all people work to get paid, as no-one is feeding himself with the sun and smiles.
Then we could enter the non-material motions to the game and here a Project Manager could make an impact. This aspects play a huge role too. I am talking about the appreciation, as everybody wants his/her work to be recognized. This is opportunity, when we provide a possibility to study and to grow both personally and professionally. And the responsibility, when we allow a person to perform and to be accountable for his/her work. Otherwise, if you are bored at your workplace, or your achievements and input are not recognized, I assume this job will not make you inspired.
To sum up, all above should exist together as all these supplement each other and provide and robust basis for an employee to perform on the top of the capabilities.
Thank You and a Soup
Another input on the motivation. Just wanted to share one of the stories I have bumped in a while ago. This was a post from an Engineer, but I could not find the initial source of this information. If the author will read this article, I would appreciate he will let me know. His topic inspired me a lot!
So, in a couple of words, he was describing a day when there was a dead line on a project, he was sick but had to come to the office to complete the task. He didn’t feel well that day. In a while a Project Manager came to him with a bowl of a hot soup. And that was exactly what he needed at that moment to feel better. He has asked how did the manager know he needs this, and the response was: ‘This is my job’.
What I am about to say. Keep your humanity. The project TEAM is your project family and you should act as a single organism to perform well. Human support and understanding is valuable.
And one more thing. Do not forget to say ‘Thank You’. Show that you personally recognize the team’s or individual’s work. Just a simple appreciation phrase can support someone’s inspiration and motivation.
Remote and On-Site Teams Engagement
In its general, as I have worked with both on-site and distributed teams, I would say that approach is more or less the same. The big difference with the virtual team is that you are a bit limited with the kit of the features you could apply in the office. Therefore you need to have some tricks under your belt.
Basically, with remote teams you would need to emulate the missing features and to fulfill this absence with the enhanced communication. What is missing the most, is a face-to-face. When you are co-located with your team, sometimes you could just come and pat on the colleagues’ shoulder, simply give a smile to support. Or, in the office you could notice that someone disagrees or nervous from a glance at your peer. And, of course, working remotely you would face limitations in the possibility of going out altogether.
Luckily, now-a-days the technology allows to mimic the real-life collaboration and to adjust your virtual communication to the necessary level of engagement.
Use the most of the available features. Here we are able to utilize multiple technological solutions, like notice-board emulation, various video and chat tools for communication. Sometime it even could be more efficient, as the delivery is done instantly, and the board could visualize all the necessary metrics to be captured at a glance.
What you need to do as a PM is to promote the communication, initiate and support it. And to eliminate the feeling of absence or isolation. Your team needs to feel your presence and presence of other peers. So be the driver and initiator of the connects and conversations. Use all available tools for that and try to get on a close terms with your squad.
Let me know if this article was helpful and what features and tricks you have in your pocket?