Colin D Ellis
Leadership | Culture | Success

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The best thing about project management? The team

When I got my first project management role, I was working in telesales. I wasn't particularly good at selling if I'm honest, but I loved to build relationships and bring people together. I seldom worked alone and believed in the power of 'we' over 'I'.

Knowing no better (and it being identified as a strength when I was interviewed), I maintained this approach to my new project management role in the hope that it would work. Not only did it work, it turned out that it was key to our success because the best part of project management isn't completing the project and moving on, it's in knowing that you brought a team of people together and collectively created something special.

Teamwork takes effort

Teamwork is often taken for granted in project management. Organisations believe that they can identify people to be on a project team and magic will happen. Sometimes it does, but only if the person leading the team takes the time and effort to understand each personality and uses techniques and skills to create an environment that supports different ways of working. These project managers (leaders) don't think of their needs when doing this; they think about the collective.

They understand that to succeed there needs to be a shared vision, collective ownership and responsibility for progress, and a willingness to challenge each other to be better. These teams think and talk in terms of 'We' and they're led by the project manager.

The Power of 'We' in project management

When project managers think and talk in terms of 'You', they are distancing themselves from the task in hand and passing responsibility across to the person receiving it. The person may also feel that they would be blamed should the task not go as planned.

When they think and speak in terms of 'I', they are shouldering a lot of the responsibility themselves and there's a danger that they'll focus on the detail of the project and not their job of managing it. The team may also get the impression that the project manager is claiming responsibility for the collective success of all they achieve.

When they think and talk in terms of 'They', they are distancing themselves from the team and may find themselves alienated from the very thing they need to get the job done successfully. It could create a barrier and while the team may get the work done, they'd be doing it despite the project manager. As Dwight D. Eisenhower said, 'It's better to have one person working with you, than three people working for you.'

Only when project managers think and talk in terms of 'We' do they create a team with a shared purpose, responsibility, success and failure. A team that is accepting of all personalities, skills, knowledge and circumstances. A team committed to being the difference they want to see in others and to creating an experience like no other. A team that is happier and therefore (according to the University of Warwick in the UK) up to 12% more productive.

In his book The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, Patrick Lencioni said: 'Not finance. Not strategy. Not technology. It is teamwork that remains the ultimate competitive advantage, both because it is so powerful and so rare.' Never is this more apparent than in your projects and those that have it succeed. Every time.

What are you doing differently to build a project management team focussed on collective success?

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