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An insanely busy executive director formed a project team to find a new assistant director for the organization. She hoped a team could do the research and interviewing, taking a load off of her plate. The project team, a strong group of highly skilled professionals, effectively represented the organization’s diversity and values. Everything was going well, until it wasn’t.

How involved should management be when project teams are doing the job? Said differently, does trusting your team mitigate the need for your leadership and involvement?

The team spent months culling through resumes, conducting phone interviews and bringing in the top candidates for face-to-face, daylong interviews. Only one candidate was unanimously supported. The team was so excited about this individual that the project head called the other candidates and told them that the team had selected another applicant and thanked them for their interest.

The director of the organization met the candidate and was unimpressed. She was looking for a slate of candidates and wanted to choose her assistant.

What’s wrong with this scenario? Three things, and they all boil down to project leadership and management involvement:

Expectations weren’t clear. 

The project head and the team didn’t understand that it was their job to provide a SLATE of candidates – not one.

The executive director wasn’t around. 

The director was apparently MIA during some critical aspects of the process. Clarifying the scope of the work early would have been helpful. Daylong interviews without the director present? What were they thinking? Leaders need to be involved.

It’s not over until the fat lady sings. 

While communications with job applicants is important, it is not necessary to slam the door on the final candidates before the top-finisher has selected the job. What happens if the top candidate is hired away by someone else?

In this true story with a few details changed to protect the innocent, the director had utmost trust that her team of professionals would do the right thing. That is quite commendable. One of the first jobs of the person who initiates a project, in this case the Executive Director, is to ensure that the team fully understands the scope; otherwise, she (or he) positions the team to fail. Trusting your team does not mitigate the need for leadership and involvement.

Trusting your team does not mitigate the need for leadership and involvement. Click To Tweet

If you’ve had this experience in your organization, I’d love to hear how your story ended. Comment below. And, check out this video blog to get some great tips on moving project teams from busy to effective.

Photo credit: One Giant Leap For Man; by Darren Cool at Snapitnow;; CC by 2.0 License