Here are my five recommendations to help you build better project team engagement by focusing on growth and development.
1. Focus on building a sustainable way of working
When I was first introduced to Scrum it was through a man who worked for a project manager who was always seeking to improve performance, through longer hours. I often find myself trying to improve performance, but isn’t there a point where the improvement comes from working smarter, not working more hours?
For example, maybe you need to improve your risk management strategies. Or, maybe someone needs to develop more expertise in contracting – a skill that might benefit teams in smaller organizations. Or maybe the team needs to get better at estimating activities.
Do you have a set of project processes that ensure that work is delivered to the client (or to management) regularly? When I read about the surveillance methods that companies are starting to use to monitor employee work, I wonder why they aren’t evaluating employees on the results they deliver.
Aim to develop systems that ensure that work is regularly completed and delivered. And then, let employees go home for the night. 60-hour work weeks are simply not sustainable, and our society pays the cost in increased health care costs, and perhaps higher divorce rates.
2. Train managers to focus on how direct reports are growing and developing
Any time managers can focus on the work in the organization AND how they can help a direct report grow and develop, it’s a win for all. Ask yourself what skill sets would help your employee be more successful. Is it better writing, contract negotiations, risk assessment skills, or a new coding language? There are so many ways that people can improve. Make it easy for your team.
I once worked with a boss who was a voracious reader, and we’d have lunch every month or so at a nice restaurant. We’d discuss a business book that we had both read. Soon, others around us, who thought they didn’t enjoy reading, wanted to join the fun. And the cost of participation was to commit to reading the book. It was a great learning experience for those who participated. It made a huge difference in our project team engagement.
3. Respect and encourage individual style differences
We are all different. Some of us are extroverts who need the sports discussions in the lunchroom. Others are introverts who could care less about watching the latest NFL game. And some of us are weekend warriors who want to share our experiences, perhaps even over share. There may also be differences that relate to gender, race, or age. Why can’t we understand that we all have gifts that we bring to the table? And respect others around us for who they are, instead of trying to change them.
The simple truth is that project planning done by a team with only one perspective will never be as good as a project plan done by a diverse team.
Teams can figure out how to divide the work so that the best results are achieved. One person on your team may be a more creative writer while another is the better editor. One maybe better at drumming up support for an idea, while another will see the risks involved in this new idea. You need everyone to perform at their best. Because you may well need the great writer, the super editor, the pied piper who can lead support, and the risk manager who can keep you out of trouble.
4. Insist on high standards and achieve results that generate personal pride
You can’t build genuine excitement about what an organization is doing without setting high standards and achieving great results. It’s hard to beat a team that takes pride in its work. Face it, the people who work around you are smart. They will quickly recognize poor performance. And it won’t make them feel good or inspire them to do their best.
And focusing on the results that your team is generating instead of the amount of time that people are spending in the office or behind their laptops is just a better approach.
If you have someone doing blockbuster work and quitting after four hours, maybe there’s a different way to solve that problem. Perhaps this is a situation where the employee could use some time to learn another skill or work on a pet project that will help the organization.
5. Develop personal connections among your team by building support for doing great work
One of the more compelling arguments in favor of coming into the office is the ease of building personal connections. And I think that’s very real. It can be done virtually – but it takes time.
But as I listen to some introverts and minorities, one theme stands out. They just may not be as interested in having personal connections with the people they work with. Some people want to do great work, but they don’t necessarily view the people at work as family. Other people have these close bonds with people they have worked with for years.
This is a style and personality difference, and again – can we simply respect the differences? You can improve project team engagement by focusing on doing great work and helping your employees grow.
And as you build personal connections with some who prefer more distant work relationships, maybe you will find that they are interested in their larger community. And perhaps that presents an opportunity for the company to give back to the community.
I understand the work from home debate from both angles, but maybe if we stopped focusing on where people are working and started focusing on results, we could find a compromise that helps. And maybe you will find that your best teams want to be together more. Maybe they will decide that it helps their performance.
I write more about this subject in my new book, so check it out.