As a team leader, you know that successfully running a group project can be a delicate matter. Each member needs to feel like they have a stake in the work while also having the freedom to communicate needs and challenges. It's up to you to create a supportive atmosphere for your employees.
This is especially crucial as the need for remote access increases. You must lay the groundwork for successful group dynamics to ensure that the project progresses on time and on track. Your team becomes a cohesive unit when members feel supported as they contribute their talents and skills.
What Makes A Successful Team Project?
To achieve these goals, you need to first define what success looks like for your project. One of the ways you can ensure your success is by clearly defining your objectives ahead of time. Setting definitive goals and achievable milestones must be balanced with addressing risks, such as scope creep, missed deadlines, and unforeseen problems.
It’s wise to develop S.M.A.R.T. team goals as you plan your project timeline. These are goals that are:
- Specific: Start with a project overview and break down the tasks more finely until you can get them down to precise tasks for each team member.
- Measurable: You must be able to determine if each goal has been accomplished.
- Achievable: Ensure that each team member has the means, budget, tools, and anything else necessary to achieve his or her assignment.
- Realistic: Performing risk assessment analysis will help you determine and address any issues or unforeseen challenges that can impede your goals.
- Timed: Create milestones for each goal along with back-up dates to address unavoidable delays that crop up.
It’s important to be flexible when presenting these goals to your team. They may have perspectives or information that can change milestones or timelines. A great manager will listen to team members and determine where appropriate changes can be made.
Leadership 101: The Top Skills To Support Your Team
Effective team leaders have several key skills that best support productive teams:
- The ability to honestly and decisively communicate with your employees.
- Ensuring that they understand your responsibilities as the team leader.
- Encouraging them to engage, participate, and perform well.
- Engaging in unique ways to solve any challenges that arise.
Supporting your team through a complex or lengthy project requires a healthy mix of both relationship- and task-focused leadership. You need to build trust with your team members by getting to know them as both workers and people to better utilize their strengths. This will motivate each of them to contribute and communicate to the best of their abilities. Praise, reward, and recognition can help establish that trust.
However, as a manager, you are responsible for moving the project forward, so you must be able to track progress towards each milestone and final project goals. Clearly communicate any non-negotiable issues, such as a hard deadline or a tight budget. Be sure to ask your team if there is anything you can do to facilitate better communication and clarity.
The bottom line is that while tasks and goals are important, you will not achieve your objectives without building positive relationships with your employees. Being able to motivate your team is important but if you are too friendly, you run the risk of being an ineffectual leader. Create relationships that allow you to keep your authority while still fostering goodwill among your group.
A good way to build rapport with your team is to engage in employee development while completing the project. Helping employees to create a career builds loyalty and improves engagement as team members feel like they have an active stake in the company. An employee development plan has four important elements:
- S.M.A.R.T. goals as discussed earlier, lead to professional growth.
- Income incentives as employees proceed in their careers.
- A clear path – provided by you – that guides the employee, along with regular progress review.
- Appropriate training, including seminars or webinars, mentorship programs, or even education reimbursement if applicable.
Managers who help employees develop their skills and work towards a career goal create quality relationships that benefit both the team and the company.
The Challenges of Remote Work
With advances in communication technologies and the increased flexibility of the workforce, more employees are getting connected through remote access rather than being on-site. As a team leader, this can present you with some very unique problems. While you need to respect the privacy of individuals, you also need to ensure that they are fulfilling their work commitments when they are outside the office.
Regular check-ins with staff are critical not just for project timelines but also to ensure that your employees are feeling connected. Go beyond the periodic “status meeting” and personally connect with team members who are telecommuting to help them achieve their full potential as well. A good manager will keep staff members plugged in to help teams develop rapport.
Help remote employees balance work and life. For example, those who work from home may have interference from family or pets. The occasional distraction may be unavoidable so be understanding when this happens.
You should also schedule meetings efficiently, ensuring that they do not run too long or are repetitious. By tracking measurable goals with regular and brief check-ins, your employees will earn your trust as you let them manage their own tasks.
Being a digital leader means that you need to think outside the box to lead a productive and connected remote team. This includes using multiple ways to communicate, such as video conferencing and instant messenger services. Selecting the right technology to support remote access is also critical.
Tools and Technology That Can Help Your Team Thrive
What kind of tools can you use to help maximize team communication and support? Technology can help you delegate tasks more effectively. Communication and collaboration apps and software are the foundation of a solid team project. Tools such as Zoom for multi-person video meetings and Asana, an online project management app, help keep teams running smoothly whether or not members are remote.
Basic Applications Every Team Needs
Use a single email and calendar application throughout your department to keep teams on the same page. Review and select the most reliable cloud services that fit your budget and requirements. The IT department can guide you in choosing which systems are most effective to ensure that the most secure system is in place.
To become a better focused digital leader, tap into data analytics services to improve project outcomes. These services will help you examine critical information and are especially helpful for risk assessment and management. Some examples of how data analytics can improve your project include:
- Researching past project deficits to address problems before they arise.
- Analyzing successful customer engagement to re-implement.
- Reviewing how past project difficulties were overcome and integrating these solutions into future projects.
Time Tracking Applications
Time tracking software suites are another helpful way to manage your team, especially if they are remote. Managing payroll is just one way to use these tools. Some systems also integrate with project management applications, allowing you to keep track of budget as well as milestones. Depending on the software, you can create teams, assign tasks, and review critical data points such as time spent on a task.
For remote teams, check-ins can be set up on some of these systems. They can be programmed to send reminders or notifications so that an employee does not miss a critical meeting. Use a system that works with your preferred calendar or communication system, such as SMS.
Mind Mapping For Project Management
Technology can also go a long way towards transforming your leadership strategies and improve your skill as a digital leader. Before choosing which technology options best suit your team, it’s important to have a clear grasp of your objectives and goals. Mind mapping is a powerful tool that can help you to accomplish this.
Mind maps easily allow your team to visualize the scope of a project beforehand. Begin by writing your objectives in the center of a piece of a whiteboard and then brainstorm different themes, ideas, issues, challenges, and other concepts that radiate out from that.
Mind mapping benefits project management by helping your team come up with ideas. By organizing goals and risks at the beginning of the project, a mind map helps the team create effective action plans and milestone points.
Improving Your Leadership Skills
If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the challenge of team leadership, you might need to do a little employee development for yourself. Not to worry — advancing your own skill set can be done gradually. There are many ways to enhance your leadership talents at work even if you have a busy schedule, such as:
- Playing audiobooks by industry leaders.
- Following CEOs and top business owners on social media.
- Listening to relevant podcasts in your field from business leaders.
If you have more time on your hands for personal development, you can also join a local professional group that helps you build your skill sets, such as Toastmasters or Business Professionals of America.
Becoming an effective leadership improves your team's group dynamics and leads to better outcomes overall. By sharpening your skills in goal setting, communication, and team building, and using the best tools and technology, you can deliver successful results every time.