How important is it for a project manager to step-by-step progress? In a recent workshop, I listened to an interesting question from a white collar manager who was struggling with team dynamics. The problem was not the team (as he thought) but rather the manager. He wanted to know if he had made progress so that he could use it to create more positive team dynamics.
This manager was stepping-up his team by creating more involvement, creating more accountability and getting the team to work more productively together. It was clear to me that he needed some help. I’ve come to believe that the most important thing for any manager to do is to take the bull by the horns – to step-up his team by stepping-up his leadership. Successful team management is about vision, planning, creating a mission statement, creating goals and taking action to achieve them.
In his case, a simple step-by-step progress plan would have enabled him to see the team step-by-step. If he had implemented this plan in a single afternoon, he might have even been able to see it as a daydream, just a flash of light on the horizon. But he couldn’t bring himself to do it, for fear of creating a “bad” team, or of creating yet another task for his team to tackle.
Why? Because he was holding back. He wasn’t seeing himself as the leader of his team, he was thinking of himself only as the manager. He didn’t want to create an atmosphere of leadership, or one where the team really did feel their own importance. He wanted a team where people would “do the job” – without needing to be told to “do the job”. And in order for that to happen, he needed to do the job himself, in the proper manner, with the proper steps, and with the appropriate authority.
Most people don’t like that idea. They feel micromanaging is counterproductive. They don’t like being under the “direct control” of someone else.
Yet the truth is, most people will never be able to get rid of micromanaging completely. If you micromanage too much, then people start to think you’re not working hard. If you micromanage in the right places, then people see the impact on them in the way they perform. If you micromanage your team, you’ll find yourself in a constant state of paralysis: where you’re ineffective and the team is ineffective. Neither one knows what’s best for them.
However, if you micromanage in the right places, then you can actually be a very effective leader. You just have to know how to do it. One way is to have your team meet at the beginning of every week. You each bring something to the table that you are able to focus on. For example, if one person brings you a problem that is more challenging than another person, but you are all capable of handling the challenge, then you can take the time to work through the issue with the other team members. This will benefit all of you, because each of you will learn something from the other person.
Step by step advancements don’t happen magically. However, if you give people clear expectations about what’s expected, you’ll find that they will happily work together towards the progress. The result is a stronger team and more satisfied staff. So, if you find that your organization needs some polishing up, step by step improvements are exactly what you need. You may not always see results overnight, but with hard work, a little bit of creativity, and the right attitude, you can make a huge difference in the results of your team. Just don’t forget where your initial responsibilities lie.