The Key to Leading a Successful Team
At the core of every great PMP is the ability to lead through relationship. Knowing how to connect with those you are leading is integral to achieving operational excellence and minimizing wasted resources.
COVID-19 has presented our social culture and modern workplace with one of the greatest obstacles in recent history. In many ways, we have been forced to reimagine and adapt how we interact, work and operate on a daily basis. Despite a world equipped with an array of communication technology, the lack of in-person interaction has produced a loneliness that many of our colleagues are struggling to cope with. Connected solely via Webex or Zoom video chat, leaders are struggling to stay in touch with their constituents the way they would when in an office setting, and sadly this disconnect of both leadership and human interaction, has contributed to burnout, emotional exhaustion and a lack of workplace synergy. So how can you utilize your influence as a PM to reverse these dangerous trends?
One of the major talking points that is consistently prevalent within project management, is an emphasis on the importance of emotional intelligence. At the core of every great PMP is the ability to lead through relationship. Knowing how to connect with those you are leading is integral to achieving operational excellence and minimizing wasted resources.
This ability to lead with EQ “in the driver’s seat” has become a major calling card for employers. It is a buzzword on resumes and a “MUST” on job descriptions. But let’s be honest…can we even define emotional intelligence? And even with a firm definition of EQ, is it possible to learn or develop these “Non-PMBOK” principles?
The first step to developing EQ is to understand the basic tenets of emotional intelligence. It begins with an understanding of who you are. It allows for a basic self-awareness that takes into account your surroundings and the feelings of those around you. By being comfortable in your own skin, and understanding the needs of those around you, your ability to foster an atmosphere of comfort skyrockets. And let’s be real, this characteristic of emotional intelligence goes far beyond vocational application, this is a full-time experience that transcends the 40-hour work week. On a personal level, emotionally intelligent individuals are often happier and see more success. The reason for this revolves largely around personal modification that include tweaking internal habits, thoughts, and outlooks. This change allows external improvements in life, specifically with relationships, both professionally and personally.
Now let’s address what you are thinking as you read this, “It sounds great, but in my industry that revolves around budgets, tight regulation and deadlines, why should I care about how we think and interact with others?” There are two trains of thought to consider when asking this question. Firstly, it is no secret that a project will progress with higher efficiency and increased productivity when a team thinks as one unit. But to work as unit, a leader must understand the ins and outs of each of their team members. You must know their strengths, weaknesses, likes, dislikes, and most importantly, the best way to utilize their expertise and know-how. In the grand scheme, the work may differ with various projects, but it is your team whom you will continuously work with to meet deadlines and accomplish goals. The second train of thought is simple. Work constitutes a large aspect of how we spend our days, so why wouldn’t we establish meaningful relationships with our workplace colleagues? Both thought patterns should be considered when thinking about the importance of EQ in the workplace.
So, let’s consider several actionable steps, that you as a PM can implement right away, in order to exercise your emotional intelligence and establish rapport with your virtual team. In our virtual world, it is so easy to click in and out of a meeting, effectively checking out when that Safari or Chrome window closes. What if you utilized the small talk that occurs before and after meetings to catch up with those working on your project? By showing this personal interest in your team, you will form strong connections and show them the importance of workplace relationship building. Also, make sure to set up one on one check-ins with each member of your team. By taking time to meet with them individually, you will understand their personal needs, opinions and even ideas for the future. Ultimately, this will help you gauge their perfect fit within the project and allow you to identify the sweet spot where your team will feel challenged (so they do not feel bored or useless) but not overwhelmed (which leads to that burnout we discussed earlier).
Here are a couple other tips that you may be able to utilize. Don’t be afraid to laugh at yourself. Be open about your own shortcomings. We are all human, but sometimes it is nice to hear a leader say it. Take time to know what each individual on your team enjoys, and then educate yourself on that topic so that you can speak with them about it. Acknowledge special days in their lives such as birthdays and anniversaries. Always be vocal about your team’s individual successes, and make sure to praise them when management is present. Look for the good in everything. Finally, and arguably the most important point, set boundaries for the team so that everyone will have control over their work-life balance, even when their office is 10 feet away from their kitchen.
This time has presented us with an unprecedented challenge, but it is during these times of uncertainty that great leaders rise above and utilize their creativity, innovation and imagination. Even in the midst of COVID-19, you as a PM have the ability to directly impact your team and their success. So, what steps will you take?