I write a weekly series of articles entitled 52 Project Management Success Tips (http://52pmsuccesstips.com/). In Tip #15 (Teach Them When They’re Young), I describe the effect on a project when a “superstar” member of the team completes her work timely, while others on the team struggle. Good teamwork would encourage the “superstar” to assist her colleagues rather than relax her work effort while the others catch up.
Unfortunately, this has been my observation over the last several years. As college graduates join the workforce, they often bring some of their competitiveness with them. Competitiveness in the educational setting is a good thing; competitiveness on the same work team is not. So when the “superstar” takes her ease because she continues to be ahead of schedule, while knowingly watching her colleagues struggle, it is akin to being in a boat taking on water in the middle of a lake. She sits in the bow relaxing while her teammates at the back of the boat bail water furiously. Her attitude, “Don’t look at me. It’s your end of the boat that’s sinking.”
One key to teamwork on a project comes from instilling common project goals within the team. For example, an explanation of how the project was budgeted, scheduled, and resourced helps the staff understand that the entire team must succeed for the project to succeed. It does little good for the “superstar” to complete her work timely while her teammates struggle, and the deadline is missed. If they miss the deadline, she misses the deadline.
So how do we instill collaboration on the team rather than competition? Years ago I tried an experiment with younger staff, several of whom wanted to improve their presentation skills. I sought out a local Toastmasters group, and with their support put on an 8-week public speaking skills workshop in the evenings. While the Toastmasters and I offered instruction and evaluation of the students’ presentations, we also required that staff assist each other and evaluate each other’s progress. In just short eight short weeks, the staff, some of whom were from the same project teams, began to cheer on each other’s accomplishments. Teamwork among these staff wasn’t born during that eight weeks; but it certainly became part of the experience that they took back to their projects.
Two year later, many of these same individuals formed a study group to work towards their PMP (Project Management Professional) certification from the Project Management Institute. They worked all day on the project site, and gathered in the office in the evenings to study the PMBOK®. They studied together; they spurred each other on with practice quizzes; and they took the test together. They worked hard and all received PMP certification. Together.
Dampen competition among teammates. Seek maximum collaboration. And when project deadlines are met, it’s teamwork that made it happen.
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