After the Implosion: Leading your team out of the ashes

As a project leader, you have, undoubtedly, run in to issues with a project that will raise eyebrows in a negative way. You might have even experienced an implosion like I mentioned a couple of posts ago. What do you do now? What do you do AFTER the implosion may just define who you are in the eyes of your team.

In my years of experience, I have seen the good, the bad, and the truly unforgettably ugly that comes with the different types of responses. Some make me clap and shout, some make me sad and shake my head. Others, however, make me angry with a “how dare you” type of reaction. Sure, there are countless styles and things to say, but here are some types of  responses that will help your team look up to you, trust you, and even follow you. If you were my leader and you said any of these to me? I would stand up and shout “WELL DONE, LET’S GO!!”

  1. “I take responsibility.” Here are three words that will immediately take the pressure off of your team and allow them to regroup. Letting them know that you aren’t going to hang the team out to dry is very settling. Even if you were not the cause of the implosion, as the project leader and “face of the project,” you are ultimately responsible so step up to the plate. Of course, if there are personnel issues that need to be addressed, take care of them quickly, but do so privately.
  2. “How can I help?” One thing I always tell my teams is that I am here to place an “umbrella of protection” over them. That means that I try to shield them from outside distractions that can derail a team. If I need to do a better job, then I want to know from the team. Of course, if the team needs anything else, I want to know that too! As a leader, I am simply here to help my team succeed; it isn’t about me. I will even bring them coffee if they need a little pick-me-up!
  3. “We can fix this.” Telling your team that we can fix it gives them the confidence to know that you feel confident in them to be able to steer the ship back into the right direction. It will empower them to dust off their pants and get going.
  4. “Let’s make this thing work, TOGETHER!” Wow, six simple words with enough impact to elicit change like you’ve never seen. I know in my past, I never experienced these words and never felt like I had management’s backing. I was always left to my own devices to figure things out. Always out on an island with nothing more than a stick to draw a plan in the sand. Don’t leave your team to fix things on their own. You have the experience to help them. They look to you to help pick them up. Remember, the project that imploded was a team failure, not THEIR failure. Roll up your sleeves and get in there. You won’t regret it, and they won’t forget it.

These may seem simple, or even common sense, but remember, common sense ain’t so common. If you do any of these, your team will follow you to the ends of the earth!

Happy leading!!

What are some ideas you have for getting your team to dust themselves off? I’d love to hear them.

What Does it Take? A Look into Project Leadership

Project leadership and project management go hand in hand, with leadership having perhaps more soft skills than a person who “simply” manages a project by following some sort of process. I have written several posts about the difference between management and leadership so I won’t get into that topic here. I use the term leader rather than manager because I believe it takes both to be truly successful. Of course, only you can define your success but what others think of your success should play into your definition at least a little, especially your boss.

Project leadership can take on many forms and definitions; there are many widely accepted principles and disciplines to keep you up-to-date on the specific ins and outs of your area of expertise. I will not get into these specifics here. Instead, I want to get into the general skills that it takes to keep you into a project leadership role. Obviously this will not be a definitive list, but rather one that is designed to get you to thinking, “Do I have what it takes to get or keep this thing going?”

  • Have integrity: This is a personal favorite of mine because so many people do not, even some so-called leaders. Without integrity, your team will not follow you because they will not trust you.
  • Trust and empower your team members: If you do this, your team will go to the ends of the earth for you and everyone will reap the rewards.
  • Communicate Honestly: Having good communication skills are essential in any leadership position. As a project leader, you must communicate honestly so there are no surprises at the end of the day when the sponsors think everything has been going smoothly, and it hasn’t.
  • Be organized: Keep project files organized on the server (not your local computer unless it is backed up daily). Make sure all stakeholders know where the documents are that affect them.
  • Know how to create and maintain a schedule: Get your team invoved early so you can estimate your man-hours. Once you have buy-in from your team, they will be more likely to work towrards the deadlines rather than resenting it, telling you it is just too aggressive.
  • Know how to create a budget: Estimating is big! At the end of the day, you will need to make every effort to stick to your budget. You got buy-in from the team on the time estimates, so use them to create your budget and include other resources, expenses, and other capital items.
  • Understand Risk Management: Failing to understand this piece will result in failure of some sort. Know what can happen and what measures you will take to avoid it altogether or how you will react if it moves from the risk column to the event column.
  • Learn and follow processes appropriate for your industry: PMI has a set of processes that are general and widely adaptable for all projects. Learning additional skills such as Six Sigma, Agile, or ITIL (among others) is also recommended if it applies.
  • Be Adaptable: One thing I like about being a project leader is the constant changing project environment. It speaks to my A.D.D. and is a constant challenge. One thing is for sure, being a projet leader is never boring! If you are inflexible, chances are you are going to be miserable trying to be a project leader. If you are flexible, not only will you like your job better, but you will have a better chance at success as well.

I saw it written once that being a project leader is “the best job – EVER!” I agree with this and would love to mentor new PMs that are ready to go. As I said before, this post is in no way intended to have a definitive list. It is simply designed to get you thinking critically.

I’d love to hear what else you’d add to it. Please comment below and give feedback.