Saturday, August 17, 2019

PMP Protein: Leadership and Team Building

By Vivek Vardhan, PMP

Leadership helps project manager or leaders to influence a group toward the achievement of a vision or set of project goals. It further helps to establish direction by developing a vision of the future goals and targets, align team with project vision through communication and inspire individuals to overcome hurdles. A good leader provides vision and strategy for project and to society. 

As said by a philosopher: 
“It’s not necessary that leaders are formally made; they may arise out of the positions or by virtue of their authority and tasks.”

Further to elaborate, leadership can arise out of one’s personality and traits. Such people are born leaders and take the task of leading groups in whatever they do. Leadership comes naturally to such people. For example, India has umpteen examples of such leaders in various areas like organizational, political, social and religious aspects of life. 

Basic Traits of a Leader

The basic traits of leaders are enumerated below:
  • Ambition and Energy: These characteristics are part of extraversion. This is more indicative of leader emergence. However, people who are too assertive in nature are found to be less effective.
  • Conscientiousness and openness: Individuals who are disciplined and keep their commitments, are creative and flexible, appear to be in a better place with respect to leadership attributes.
  • Agreeableness: This characteristic represents a person who is described as good-natured, co-operative and trusting.
  • Empathy: This leadership characteristic is part of emotional intelligence (EI), makes an important component for effective leadership. Leaders who understand and listen to their followers are more followed by others.

Leadership Styles

Leaders apply various leadership style in their work. In order to describe leadership styles, different scholars have cited different leadership styles based on project’s requirements, goals and objectives. One old school of thought propagates for employee-oriented leadership where leader emphasizes on interpersonal relations with employees and production-oriented leader wherein leader emphasizes technical or task aspects of the job.

The common leadership styles are as below:
  • Visionary and Authoritative: Using this style, project managers able to divert people toward project vision. This is very effective once project scope is defined and signed off.  
  • Coaching: Coaching is used to develop people for the project deliverables. It helps to understand individual’s capabilities and divert it towards project delivery. It is a project manager’s responsibility to understand his team capabilities and utilize it for project delivery. 
  • Affiliative: Creation of emotional bonding with-in team is important for project success. It also helps to motivate team to deal with stressful work environment without impacting deliverables and their strength. 
  • Democratic: Participation from individual has importance, it is project manager responsibility to build consensus through participation and get maximum output based on individual capability, skill and strength.
  • Pacesetting: Attain appropriate and desired outcome from competent team plays a vital role in project success. To achieve this, team individual has to be self-direction, so that by monitoring and shaping their decisions, able to deliver projected results with-in set timelines.
  • Commanding/ Coercive: In times, project face crisis or even before reaching to a crisis, it is important to identify critical issues, non-performing individuals, source of negativity and take corrective measures. In this situation coercive leadership style helps to deal with the problem. This style should be applied occasionally depending on situation, otherwise it would lead to negative impact on overall team performance and affect the work environment in a reverse way. 

The Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK®) guide from Project Management Institute (PMI®) has a set of different leadership styles elaborated in its latest edition. In addition to the above styles, you can also those leadership styles such as transactional leadership, servant leadership, charismatic leadership among many others.

Qualities of a Leader
Leadership qualities required for a successful project management and its execution can be understood with the help of following cyclical diagram, which signifies that it is a continuous process and does not end with a task.

The above figure enumerates what is required of a leader on a continuous basis. A leader should be capable of guiding the team in the right direction and influence their behavior to optimally utilize skills and capabilities using relational power. Leader should be able to develop ideas and innovate on strategies to lead the team towards building focus on deliverables. An atmosphere conducive for building of trust be created where the people are inspired to perform and challenge the status quo to scale various organizational aspirations.  Ability of a leader to inspire others to act beyond their self-interest plays a crucial role in determining the success path. All this can be achieved by having a focus on long-range mission and vision by the leader. 

Communication is the crux of all success and failures, if a thought is not communicated in a proper way, it may lead to interpretations and misinterpretations widely affecting the rise and fall of leaders and their leadership skills.

Leadership is the skill which affects a project’s success if not used properly. Strong, ethical leadership is extremely critical for success of a project. Although there are several different leadership styles, only some of the most effective leaders are able to tailor their management practice to suit project requirements.  

One of the key jobs of a leader is to build a successful team. As the project manager, you are the leader of the project. In fact, Project Management Institute (PMI®) defines the project manager as:

“The project manager is the person assigned by the performing organization to lead the team that is responsible for achieving the project objectives.”

Hence, in the concluding part of this piece, let’s see how as the project manager and leader of your project, you can do team building and how in turn it helps your team. 

Team Building
Team building is an important trait of project success. Team Building plays a vital role in successful project delivery by building competent and effective team. It enables and encourages members of a team to work well together. 

However, team building represents action or process, which helps to bring group of people to work together effectivally as a team in order to achieve pre-defined goals, for example, by having them to take part in different activities or games. 

Team building at work place enables better communication; better relationships and ultimately increases team productivity. 

Successful Project managers are best leaders to influence others with their ideas. A good leader deploys their innate qualities to inspire a workforce or a team to achieve goals. 

Team building helps project managers to form efficient team by developing following qualities:
  • Responsive and meaningful Communication: Communication is two-way street, discussion based team building activities enables open communication amongst team individuals. Responsive and meaningful communication helps team individuals to understand each other and improve relationship and in turn, improves quality of work done by team. 
  • Motivate Team Individual: Motivated team is the key of success for a project. A motivated team works together effectively, problems get flattened out easily and achievements begin to flow apparently. The team who can work together are more efficient and passionate about success. Team building and team development activities helps developing motivated team at work.
  • Creativity: Taking the team outside of routine helps exposing them to new experience, which will force them to think out of the box. Working together with other team members can ignite creativity and fresh ideas, which will help them to think and generate creative ideas.      
  • Enhance Productivity: By improving existing ways of working, elimination of obstacles helps to enhance productivity of team. Productivity at work place only be guaranteed if team individuals have ability to work together. Team building activities helps to bring individuals together under one roof.  
  • Develop a Collaborative work culture: Collaborative work culture is help to lay foundation of fruitful project outcome. Team building activities helps to create collaborative work place and improve team dynamics so that decision-making process is streamlined and problem solving become simpler. 
  • Develop Problem Solving Skills: Team building activities that requires co-workers to work together and solve critical problems can improve the ability to think rationally and strategically. If team is able to determine the situation when the problem arises and provide the solution, it can then effectively take charge when a real crisis occurs. 
  • Break the barrier: Team building exercises give leadership the opportunity to meet team individuals as colleague rather than as boss, which helps to boost the employee morale and increase trust factor. 
  • Interpersonal relations: Team building exercises create strong bond between team individuals; it helps to bring them close to each other which eventually gets converted into a strong interpersonal relationship.

Human beings comprise the most important and critical resource of an organization. It is this resource around which all domains of any organization function. Hence, it is very crucial to ensure synergies and co-ordination within the teams and work force so that all other relevant factors automatically fall in place and desired results are obtained.

Written by Vivek Vardhan:
Vivek Vardhan is a Supply Chain Management Professional and has project management exposure of five years. He has overall 21 years of work experience.

[1] Book: Organizational Behavior by Stephen P. Robbins
[2] Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK) Guide, 6th Edition, by Project Management Institute (PMI)

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