Team Success – Insights from Conversations

I have been a close observer of team dynamics in a project environment. In last 13 years, I have seen a number of teams that were highly successful, teams that failed initially and then succeeded, teams that succeeded only when there was a fire in the project and teams where success was constant and incremental.

Here is some of what I have gathered talking to successful teams.

  • “We were successful because each one of us exactly knew what we had to do.”
  • “There was chaos, but then, we all knew how important the the job was and why.”
  • “Our project manager made it enjoyable, despite all the challenges.”
  • “As a team, since roles/responsibilities were clear, we valued each other’s contribution. We trusted each other.”
  • “There was no power game. Our leader was never bossy.”
  • “Everyone was fully involved.”
  • “Expectations and communication was clear, and it only helped us deliver what customer expected.”
  • “The team was not really a team, but a bunch of great friends. We hanged out together to ensure that we work hard and we party harder.”
  • “We were treated as ‘humans’ who were ‘engaged’, and not as ‘resources’ who were simply ‘deployed’.”
  • “Some tough calls had to be taken and were willing to take some calculated risks on our project.”
  • “We did think a lot about processes in the project initiation. We also ensured that all stakeholders understood the process.”
  • “Our leader gave us a lot of space to try new things and experiment. A few such successful experiments resulted in a lot of improvement in our performance.”
  • “The project manager exactly knew the strengths and weaknesses of our team members. People were only assigned to tasks they were good at.”
  • “The decision making process was participative.”
  • “Yes, we had conflicts and differences. But at the end of it all, I think our differences allowed us to think differently.”
  • “As a project lead, I had to ensure that team does what they are supposed to do. My role was to ensure that all peripheral issues are managed so that team remains focused.”
  • “I was held accountable for whatever I delivered and this was expected from all.”

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P.S: Did you check out my new Tumblr blog? That is where I share short bites of insights and wisdom from my friends in blogosphere. Check it out if you haven’t already.

Leading People? A Few Core Lessons

Yesterday, I met an experienced technologist who is also an aspiring project manager. He is getting an opportunity within his company to independently manage projects and teams. During our interaction over a cup of hot basil tea, he asked a simple question, “How should people be managed?”.

In my response, and our discussion further, a few core lessons came to the fore. If you are leading people and managing a team, you should remember that:

People have self-esteem: Each person carries a perception of his/her self worth. When leading them and dealing with performance/other issues, give important messages firmly without hurting their self-esteem.

People want to go somewhere: Team members are ambitious and they want reach a worthwhile destination. They want to work with a team that has a vision and has a roadmap of how to achieve that vision.

People want to grow: People work in a team for long time and don’t grow. Such situation demands a lot of introspection because inherently, each individual wants to expand. Are you creating right situation for individuals to expand?

People want independence: They are intellectual beings who seek fulfillment in their work. Fulfillment is only possible when they get their own space to perform and shared authority. Independence to execute their ideas and ask questions is very crucial for people to grow. Micro management is a thing of past.

Inspiration is their fuel: Once people buy in the vision, they need to see progress to remain inspired. They look for inspiration in how leaders operate, what actions they perform and how well they handle difficult situations.

Feedback is their compass: In their journey, they want to know how they are doing and what value they are adding. Periodic one-on-ones, interim reviews and casual communication done regularly goes a long way in building a high-performance team.

Trust is a currency: Trust fosters self-esteem. They way you manage people and communicate tells a lot about how much you trust them.

At the end of our conversation, we agreed that working with people, guiding a team and helping them in their quest for peak potential is one of the noblest things we can do as leaders. It is an opportunity and an obligation as well.

He looked very optimistic when we parted. I wished him all the best!

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Join in the conversation: What lessons would you share with this aspiring leader? What works for you when you lead your team? What doesn’t?

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Related Posts at QAspire

Managing Virtual Teams and Communication: 6 Pointers
10 Key Lessons On Leading Virtual Teams Effectively
10 Pointers to Build Comfort Within The Team
Connecting, Building Relationships and Team Success
25 Things Managers & Leaders Should Never Do

Leaders Cannot Be Blamers: 3 Things

The true test of a leader is when things don’t go as planned. Worst yet, when things fail.

In an organizational context, I have seen so many leaders who drive the project/initiative right from the beginning – yet when the project fails, they blame others. They blame senior management, the organization culture, their own team members and sometimes even the customers. It tells me something – if you decide that you want to blame “others”, you will invariably find those “others”. That is an easy choice, and the one that puts everyone down.

When leaders indulge into the blame game, they lose respect because they throw a negative vibe around. This vibe is powerful (and sometimes even viral), because it comes from someone who is supposed to be a leader. It spreads fast, harms reputation of leader and culture of the organization on a longer run.

If you are a leader at any level, here are three things worth noting:

  • Blaming is easy but taking responsibility, learning from mistakes and implementing those lessons to improve constantly is difficult. It is these difficult things that makes a real leader. Similarly, for an organization, building a culture where people are not afraid of taking responsibility is critical.
  • Leaders need to watch and choose their words. Every conversation with others is an opportunity to make a difference. When you talk negative, focus too much on problems and blame others, you are missing the opportunity.
  • Leadership is about using “we” language more than “I versus them”, and that kind of leadership owns the failures as much as they own their successes. It is about celebrating the contributions from each team member when team succeeds, and take collective ownership of failures, learn from them and improve. It is also about knowing when to step up and take the lead, versus when to step down and let people perform.

Bottom line:

Leadership is not just about enjoying the fruits of success. It comes with a fair share of failures as well. We cannot be the leaders who blame others.

Join in the conversation:

Have you seen leaders who constantly blame others? How should an organization deal with such leaders?

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Also read:

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Have a great start into the week!

Build Strong Teams by Turning Your Managers Into Trainers

Here is one idea that can dramatically strengthen your organizational fabric. Ask everyone in manager or lead positions to spend at least a couple of hours each month training others (preferably their teams). They decide the topic (mostly one that is their primary skill area, processes, methodologies, soft skills or whatever) and deliver a talk once in a while.

Few benefits:

  • Your managers/leads seek out to learn stuff they can share.
  • They will get better at thinking, presentation and public speaking.
  • They will share their wisdom and help people understand unique perspectives.
  • Teams start respecting managers for their knowledge and value they deliver.

First, do it for three months. Keep a note of attendance and measure the effort spent – the ROI of this effort should be well worth it, for it builds strong connections between people.

Trainings are most effective when they are kept light weight. What’s more – it builds a constantly learning culture.

Try it out!