October 18, 2011

How to Build A Solid Project Team

Project teamDepartmental and project managers make a variety of tough decisions – even before the start of their project. Much of their success rides on their ability to construct a quality team of individuals that will stick together for the duration of the project and pull their own weight through the process.

Without a solid team to fall back on, the manager of the project must face errors and setbacks all on their own. Worse yet, they run the risk of disappointing their customer or failing to complete the project if cooperation breaks down.

Such nightmares can be avoided with the careful selection and management of key players on your project team. When putting together your all-star lineup, look for these traits to maximize your odds of project success. People on your project team should be:

  • Trustworthy: Strong personal integrity is essential for every individual. You must be able to know that your prospective team member won’t skip town halfway through the project and leave you stranded. In addition, trusted team members are typically more responsible and better problem solvers because they don’t want to let you down. Trust leads to comfort, and better personal interactions. A team that gets along and can work cohesively is a productive team (and a successful team).
  • Skilled/Knowledgeable: One of the most important attributes to look for in choosing team members – make sure individuals have the underlying skills that are necessary to perform. While degrees and certifications often point to an individual’s adeptness, these credentials don’t make up the whole picture. There’s no substitute for hard earned experience and on-the-job insights. Look for team members with a proven track record.
  • Interested: It’s not enough that a team member has the know-how to complete their end of the assignment; they have to want to achieve success. If they’re not interested or showing enthusiasm for the project, then they’re not going to be thoroughly engaged and the team will suffer. Look for team members that will go the distance because they have something to add, not because they plan on “going through the motions.”
  • Diverse: When building a team for a project, you need a diverse set of skills and attitudes. There is a human tendency to hire “in our own image,” which can lead to project teams that look like a group of lemmings. Not only must we not only hire in our own image, but we should be wary of adopting a narrowly construed skill set. When hiring technical developers, for example, it is easy to engage people for one critical competency. However, be sure to take a holistic view of the individual. How do they fit into the team? How does their knowledge base crossover with the other team members? The larger and more complex the project, the more important team diversity is to project success.
  • Strong Communicator: Communication with other team members becomes a vital factor in project success. When designing your team, be sure to judge each individuals’ communication skills in relation to each other. Being a “strong communicator” doesn’t matter by itself. Instead, try to gauge the quality of communication specifically with other people on your team. During interviews or initial project assessments, design what-if scenarios and role-play to determine how each team member relates with each other individual. Try to make sure that each member’s communication skills transcend individual relationships and that they can work well with a diverse group of people.
  • Mentoring Attitude: On a healthy project team, each member will have the chance to act as a mentor. Mentoring is so important because it signifies the accretive strength of the team – meaning that not only can a team work together, but that it can make itself better. Be sure to look for friendly people that enjoy contributing their expertise and teaching others. A project team comprised of people that want to help each other as individuals is a very powerful tool for completing successful projects.

Choosing a great team is only half the battle. It’s up to the project manager to keep the team engaged and on track in the project. A strong group of individuals will make your role as a leader easier, but of course it does not negate the need for constant management and guidance. A strong project team certainly doesn’t guarantee success, but getting the right talent and team together is a critical step that is often unplanned and undisciplined.

Read more in Personnel Management

David Clough is a writer living in New York City. He is passionate about marketing, human resource thought leadership, and classic American literature. David has a Bachelor of Business Administration degree with a concentration in Human Resource Management.