People Before Projects: A Guide to Effective Team Leadership

Filed under Becoming a PM, Leadership | Posted by MMeloni

It’s easy to get caught up in the details of managing a project. Details like when deadlines need to be met, what tasks need to be completed, and how to manage resources can become the sole focus of any project manager. But, you must remember that projects are completed by people, not just by paperwork. As a project manager make sure that you prioritize not just the project, but the relationships you have with your team members.

People are Part of Your Scope

As a project manager, you must remember that people are part of the project scope. A team needs to be managed and motivated to achieve the desired outcome.Your primary focus should be on the development of your team as individuals, as well as their collective performance as a unit. This means that you need to focus on the individual needs of your team members, such as providing guidance and feedback on their work, as well as their professional development.

Perhaps you want to show me a copy of your scope document and ask me to show you where ‘people’ are included as in-scope.  Now do not accuse me of scope creep, because this is the part where I tell you it is implied.  Implied scope? That goes against all kinds of best practices.

Now you bring me your communications plan and your human resources plan and your stakeholder management plan and you say to me, “This is where I have my people; they do not belong in the scope document”. Good, you have me on a technicality.  Of course, these are the right documents to help define your ‘people plan’.

What I am conveying to you is that for you, the project manager, the relationships, and the development of your team, that is in your scope. In every project, you manage.

It is People Who Complete the Work

Your scope document defines the work to be completed. You take that scope and perhaps you create a work breakdown structure. Tell me, who is completing the work? Ah yes, your team. People create the deliverables. You have stakeholders (more people) reviewing and accepting the deliverables.  How do you achieve your cost and scope objectives and reach your milestones?

Many project managers become focused on hitting project milestones and forget that it is the team that completes the work. You need to ensure that your team is properly equipped to do so. This means providing them with the necessary resources, such as proper training, clear instructions, and timely feedback.

You also provide your team with a clear understanding of the project goals and objectives. This means that the team members should know exactly what is expected of them, and how their work fits into the overall project. Make sure they understand any risks associated with the project, such as any potential delays or complications that may arise.

In addition, ensure that your team members have a good understanding of the organizational culture. This includes understanding the company’s core values, mission, and objectives. Understanding the company culture can help team members feel more connected to the project and can foster a sense of collaboration and trust among team members.

It is Your Job to Lead and Mentor Your Team

Your job as a project manager is not just to hit scope, schedule, and budget objectives; it is to lead and mentor and develop your team. These are your people; they are in your care; their well-being is part of your mission.

Project management is more than just ensuring that tasks are completed on time.

Leaders must lead by example and show their team members what it means to be successful. You must be transparent with your team and show that you are open to honest feedback and ideas. You must also practice what you preach and demonstrate that you believe in your team and the work that they do.

Mentorship is also an important part of effective team management. Provide your team with the necessary advice and guidance to develop their skills and help them better understand their roles. Be open to listening to their ideas and feedback, as this can help your team become more engaged and motivated to do their best work.

Do Not Be the Project Manager Who Cannot Be Bothered With People

Project management can be demanding, and it is not uncommon for project managers to become focused solely on the project and lose sight of their team. A successful project manager should remember that it is the team that brings the project to fruition.

Project managers should invest their time in developing relationships with their teams. This includes having face-to-face meetings, providing feedback and guidance, and building genuine connections. You also take the time to celebrate the successes of your team and recognize their hard work. This will help team members feel valued and appreciated, which in turn can help to increase team morale and performance.

Projects are About People

At the end of the day, it is the team members who complete the project. It is your job as the project manager to ensure that their efforts are recognized and that the project is completed on time and within budget.

Take the time to thank your team members for their hard work and dedication. Provide your team members with feedback and constructive criticism throughout the project. This can help to build trust and respect among team members and motivate them to continue to do their best work.

Projects are ultimately about people; it is the people who complete the projects, and it is the people who bring them to fruition. Remember to prioritize the relationships you have with your team members and put people before projects. It is your job to lead and mentor your team, provide them with the necessary resources, and celebrate their successes.