New to Project Management? How to Create a Winning Team

by Judy Camp

You've excelled at your job, and a supervisor takes notice. Now you are in charge of product management for your team. That's often when everything comes crashing down. People are resentful; they don't give you respect. And just when you want your underlings to shine, making you a bright star in your new position, your whole department becomes unproductive.

Sound familiar? It might. This happens to countless people every day. The basic problem is that often people are promoted, but have no project management skills or training. But being a manager can be as complicated as being a computer operator, and can require just as much previous knowledge. When your job title suddenly includes the word "manager," you may find yourself looking for tips on what it is that motivates people.

You may assume it's your job to watch people work and point out errors. But constant criticism doesn't allow people to bring enthusiasm and creativity to their jobs, a vital element of outstanding production.

A good manager motivates people by allowing and encouraging subordinates to become more involved in the decision-making process. This has big pay backs, improving employee performance, reducing operating costs, improving quality, providing better customer service, and increasing efficiency. Here are some other important management techniques, which will help you become a star manager.

>Have high expectations, and clearly state them. Build a good dialogue between yourself and your employees. They want to know what is expected of them. This should begin the day the employee is hired and should include not only the mechanics of the job, but also the standards. The proper way to talk to customers, for example, should be part of the training. Set high expectations of employees so they can be proud when they reach them. If possible, make the goals measurable.

According to Stephen R. Covey, author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, a win/win solution is more effective in most business situations than trying to force your will over a disagreeable opponent. "Because Win/Win is a principle people can validate in their own lives," says Covey, "you will be able to bring most people to a realization that they will win more of what they want by going for what you both want. But there will be a few who are so deeply embedded in the Win/Lose mentality that they just won’t think Win/Win. So remember that No Deal is always an option. Or you may occasionally choose to go for the low form of Win/Win — compromise."

Provide continuous feedback. Try to see the relationship as a partnership between management and worker. Encourage two-way communication. Don't wait for a typical one-year performance review period to tell an employee how he or she is doing. Provide feedback at regular intervals, focusing on the positive. "That's great that you got the new computer up and running so fast," you might say. "I can't wait to see how fast you get the new program going." Try to "catch them doing well" and point it out, being specific in your praise. Compliment employees in public, criticize in private.

Provide opportunities. Feedback can go both ways. Often the employee can come up with a great idea to increase productivity before the boss can, since he or she is dealing with the problem day after day. But unless she feels that her manager will listen to her, she may never even suggest it. By opening yourself up, you can encourage your employees to voice suggestions. Make sure you are easy to approach. Respect your employees' ideas, and resist the temptation to ignore them simply because you didn’t come up with the idea first. Don't treat the idea lightly or judge it too soon. Even if you think the idea won't work, your first reaction should be something noncommittal like, "That's an interesting idea. I'll give it some thought."

Provide rewards. Praise, in public and in private, is important to any employee's self esteem. But tangible items, used in conjunction with praise, can be even more powerful motivators. Come up with rewards for employees, to be given as soon as possible after achieving goals as set forth. The rewards should generally be something other than money. Something employees truly want. After setting sales goals for example, you might offer two tickets to an important game or concert to the employee when the goal is reached.

Sometimes the answer to motivating employees is simply to ask them what would motivate them. Stacy was very unhappy about the way her workstation was organized, which allowed people to "sneak up on her" while she worked at her computer, but when she asked if she could rearrange the furniture, her supervisor acted like it was a silly request. Stacy became grumpy over the next couple of weeks, followed by a heated argument. When the manager finally agreed to allow her to set up her workstation differently, her output increased and her attitude changed to a positive one almost overnight. Often a simple change that doesn't cost a dime can improve a situation.

Performance reviews can be a good time for an employee to provide this type of information, as well as ideas to increase productivity. It is a good idea, therefore, to give the employee ample notice when a review is coming up, and to encourage the employee's input.

Employees spend a great deal of their lives on the job, and it is important for them to feel their ideas count and to see results from their contributions. Giving them the opportunity to feel more like an integral part of the organization will actually make your department run more efficiently, and make you a shining star in your management position.


Judy Camp is the author of the book, Find Time for What You Love, which contains dozens of ways to find extra time in each day, and to find ways to spend that time that will catapult you toward your ideal life!

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