I occasionally talk to fellow project managers. I’ve found that one of the most common things that PMs complain about is getting people on our teams to be team players. I’ll admit that it is important. I often wonder whether the project managers that I talk to are good team players themselves.
I believe that if project managers demonstrated some team player skills, it might set a good example for the team they manage.
That’s not my project
Project managers often complain about employees who are simply heads-down. They worry about their own tasks and nothing more. Certainly it’s better to have people on the team that have the backs of their fellow team mates.
Project managers, however, have the same tendency as the team members that they complain about. A PM gets focused on his or her own project and tends to ignore other projects within the organization, even if the two are interrelated.
I’ve actually heard PMs claim, “That’s not my project.” When another project’s issues come up. If the PM won’t help his own peers, it’s hard for him to expect his team members to do the same.
PMs can become task masters. They stay on top of things by being on top of their team members. “Are you done with that task?”, “When will you be done?”, and “Why are you behind?”
By nagging and micromanaging, they take away any ownership the team member may have had. The PM isn’t being a team player, and takes away any desire for the team member to be a team player.
The need to be right
Some managers don’t think they’re actually leading unless they are the ones coming up with the ideas. If someone else on the team comes up with an idea that is different from what the project manager has in mind, the PM can always find a way to shoot it down.
This approach to management takes away any form of collaborative spirit from the team members. The team members eventually give up on trying to contribute and only focus on their immediate tasks.
When a project manager discourages collaborative participation from the team, they stifle the very behavior that they want the team members to practice.
Look at it my way
I was once on a project where the PM sent out daily updates on how far developers were behind on fixing defects. He told the team that part of his evaluation criteria from his management was based on the team’s ability to resolve defects in a timely manner.
Anyone who has taken an elementary marketing class understands that you put things in terms of your customer. When you advertise a product, you don’t try to convince the consumer to buy it by telling them about your revenue targets. You provide benefits that the consumer will receive from buying your product.
As a project manager, you can try to convince team members to accomplish something based on the criteria by which management measures you. Or, you can create team incentives that will motivate them to achieve accomplishments for the benefit of the team.
For more information, check out The Importance of Leadership in Project Management
Passive aggressive behavior
Some project managers avoid confrontation. When someone does something detrimental to the project, they avoid confronting the individual. Instead of immediately sitting down and addressing the issue upfront, they let it slide for a time. Then, a half-joking sideways remark about it is made. Maybe a new policy is emailed to the team, which is intended to stop the behavior.
Some managers don’t like the confrontation of holding people accountable. But people would rather be held accountable. It is much better to have that one awkward moment of confrontation than many awkward moments through passive aggressive behavior.
Having the confrontation of holding people accountable results in team members working to please their manager with quality work. Passive aggressive behaviors cause team members to seek to avoid displeasing their managers.
Are you a good team player PM?
If you would like to learn more about a career in Project Management, get Lew’s book Project Management 101: 101 Tips for Success in Project Management on Amazon.
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