Stepping into a new work environment and trying to find your team collaboration groove can be intimidating. Leading a new work group full of talented people with varying personalities and work styles does indeed take time and a certain amount of managerial prowess.
Being an effective project leader does not mean being the person with all of the answers, the dutiful delegator, or the iron hand of final project judgment. In this day and age, adaptability and open-mindedness are key skills for an effective project leader. Long gone are the days of the project overlord commanding orders to his minions.
So how can you boost your leadership skills so that you can effectively deliver a successful project and earn the respect of your team? I’ve got five answers for you.
1. Practice what you preach
It is one thing to tell your team that flexibility and diligence will keep a project timeline and product happy and functioning; it’s another thing altogether to actually practice those key work skills as a project leader. If you wish for your team to share in these sentiments, then it is important to lead by example. Insincerity is virtually tangible within a workplace that practices transparency, and your team can smell it a mile away. How can you expect your team to follow your project philosophies if you don’t live by the direction you impart?
2. Say less, do more
We’ve all had that one project leader: the one who would rather delegate all of the work rather than roll up the metaphorical sleeves and work alongside the team. Being an effective project leader means knowing when to be the project manager and when to work effectively with your team to ensure that the project is on schedule and running smoothly. Earning the respect of your team by demonstrating a desire to contribute and not just direct is imperative to a successful project manager.
3. Adapt your communication style
Keep in mind that what works for you does not always work for the rest of the team. Project updates sent to the team at 5 am so it’s fresh in their minds that day may be your preferred method of daily communication, but it may not be the most effective form of communication to the majority of the team. There are great communication tools that exist so that your team can stay on the same page. Slack (instant messaging and file sharing), Zoom (video conferences), and Asana (project management and collaborative workspace) are all great examples of tried-and-true team communication tools.
4. Make yourself available
If you are not readily available and willing to be there for your team members when questions and problems arise, then it will be nearly impossible for the project to progress successfully.
Open lines of communication will ensure that you are on top of the project and the team will alert you to things that need to be changed or improved upon. If your team cannot reach you or if they do not feel that you are hearing their concerns or potential improvements, you are potentially putting the project at risk.
Most importantly, it is your job as the project leader to motivate your team and boost morale. Even if an aspect of the project has derailed, it is more beneficial to be constructive and productive rather than critical and demoralizing. A simple weekly motivational speech, a recognition of a team member’s hard work, or a team-bonding retreat outside of work will go a long way in ensuring the emotional well-being of the team. A happy team is a productive team, and a productive team means a successful project.
Becoming a project leader superhero does not happen overnight, but with respect for your team and an adaptive leadership style, it is entirely within reach.