What does it take to maximise the project team performance? In the short term there are a number of factors that can come in to play with varying degrees of success depending on how often they are used and how important or valuable the factors are to individual project team members.
Short term factors
Money – some form of financial incentive can induce a team to increase performance for a period of time. But it needs to be significant enough to induce the change in behaviour and after a while, it becomes the new norm. The inducement wears off.
Non-financial incentives – such as parties, team outings, the promise of a better rating on your review. For these types of inducement the perceived value will vary from team member to team member so it is more difficult to achieve a consistent level of performance across the team.
Bullying – often seen in the past though thankfully less prevalent these days. However, there is often a less overt form of pressure to achieve the boss’ expectations. Upcoming reviews can get mentioned in the mix as a way of adding pressure. This is not an approach I could ever recommend or endorse and not just because the effects are often short lived and lead to longer term dissatisfaction and resentment.
Deadlines and crises – teams naturally respond to deadlines and to crises, at least when they are not artificially manufactured to pressure the team. I have seen teams go to extraordinary lengths to get projects across the line in difficult circumstances – often purely out of professional pride. And even greater efforts have been seen in times of adversity. I witnessed project teams go to extraordinary lengths to get systems and even whole businesses back up after IRA bombings and the 9-11 terrorist attacks.
But all of the above are short term things. How do you create an environment where a project team consistently maximises performance? I believe this is achieved through good leadership with a focus on three core factors.
3 core factors
Clear objectives – every good leader ensures everyone in the team has a clear and shared understanding of the goals of the team. Everyone knows what is expected of the team and of their part in achieving the goals. The vision is shared and bought in to by the entire team. People that don’t buy in should be moved on. I have refused to take on roles where I can’t buy in to the vision. I knew that I would be a hindrance to the team and would reduce its effectiveness.
Capability – good leaders assemble a team with the talent, skills, attitude and abilities to deliver the goals. They recognise that some of the team may have to grow and develop new skills for the team to succeed, but that extra challenge and opportunity is part of the incentive to belong. They also recognise that there may be gaps and compromises may be needed, but part of their leadership skill is to recognise and anticipate that and develop a strategy to mitigate the shortfalls. Good leaders also ensure their teams have all the tools necessary to perform their roles to the best of their abilities. They get the environment, the equipment and software to allow the team to excel.
Motivation – good leaders motivate their teams. They understand that each team member is an individual and employ both team and individual motivational techniques. They provide opportunities to grow and develop for those that this is important to. They provide the sanctuary of a known quantity, playing to people’s strengths for those that value that. They ensure there is openness and honesty so that expectations are met rather than disappointment being felt. Most of all, by getting the first two factors right they provide the greatest motivator of all – opportunity. The opportunity to deliver clear goals with the best talent and tools available.
It’s a bit like training a concert pianist. They are set clear goals along the way to the ultimate prize of the big public performance. They are provided with the capability through teaching, good quality instruments and the support of the rest of the orchestra. But most of all they are motivated through the opportunity to work with the best tools, teachers and musical talents to achieve their objective. They are inspired to perform.
How is your project team inspired to perform?