Keys to Managing a Successful, Productive Project Team

As an account lead at a consulting firm, I manage a team of direct reports. I have several goals as a team lead that I juggle:
1) Grow our business (sales)
2) Foster strong relationships with our existing clients
3) Ensure the success of our projects 
4) Train and cultivate the success of my team members 

All responsibilities of leading a team are related. For example, I train my team members (#4) to improve their job skills, ensuring the success of our projects (#3) and therefore fostering stronger client relationships (#2), and ultimately, with referrals, growing our business (#1). I always seek to improve as a manager -- to make our team more productive, efficient, successful, and happy.

As I've developed my skills as a manger, I've learned a lot about what does and doesn't work for me and my team. Below I've outlined some of the steps I follow to ensure my team's success:

1) Clarity in communication: Don't be too proud. Mistakes happen when managers are not clear. If I re-read an email or slack I wrote to one of my team members and realize the message could be misinterpreted, I reword it and try again. If my team member doesn't understand what I'm saying, I don't blame them -- I try to figure out another way to say it. I encourage my team members to ask me if they don't understand something I've said. Clarity creates efficiency for managers because we have to do less rework if the task is carried out correctly the first time.

2) Not everyone needs to know everything: Put each team member in charge of specific projects and tasks. When I first became a manager, I tried to do everything, and also wanted my team members to keep track of everything. I figured if we all knew everything that was going on, nothing would get skipped, no mistakes would happen. But we were spreading ourselves too thin and duplicating work. Giving team members a specific subset of work to excel at (rather than all the work to drown under) saved us time, improved our product, and made us happier and less stressed.

3) Filtering communication: This is similar to #2, but goes a bit deeper. Anticipate who on your team needs to know specific information. For example, if one team member focuses on Task A, ensure he/she is cc'd on all communication for Task A. Your other team members do not need to be involved or cc'd on Task A communication if it does not pertain to what they are working on. Filtering communication ensures that team members know their focus, have ownership over the tasks they are carrying out, and do not feel overwhelmed with trying to understand emails on tasks they will never touch.

4) Use a project management tool: I personally like trello, a project management tool where you can create collaborative to-do lists with your team. Having shared to-do lists promotes:
a) Accuracy -- project steps do not get skipped, since all team members are following and adding to the same collaborative list. Everyone knows what they need to do and when.
b) Efficiencies -- I don't have to call each team member in the morning to get updates on the status of their projects. I can follow along what they've done on the collaborative to-do list. Saves time for all of us.

5) Give your team members feedback: After a team member has finished something, don't just review, update and send it off to the client yourself. Doing that will not benefit anyone -- your team member won't learn how to improve, and you will have to redo their work again the next go around. Instead, have a call with your him or her to go over reasons why you updated what you did. If you're tight on time yourself, simply ask him or her to compare the old version (their work) to your new version themselves to see the changes you made. Ensure they are comfortable reaching out if they have questions on why you made specific changes.

6) Self-care: A tense, all-consuming work environment does not breed good work. It breeds high turnover rates and sadness. Allow your team members to have time for themselves. Do not work them into the ground so that they have no life outside of work. If your team does not have a life outside of work they will eventually resent you and the work they're doing, leading them to quit or simply give up trying. Make sure your team knows you are on their side, that you care about their well-being. If you have a heavy workload, brainstorm ways you can become more efficient as a team -- split up tasks and help each other out to end work on time.

7) Organize team building activities: Have lunches and happy hours to celebrate successful projects; even play in a kickball league if you would like. Bonding with your team is fun! If you're a successful, high producing team, you'll want to celebrate the achievements you've had together.

Managing a successful project team is a great feeling -- complicated projects feel much simpler when everyone knowing what has to be done, when, and executes seamlessly


So what do you think? Do you have techniques like the above in place to manage your team or even your own individual work? I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

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