How to engage your project team

Posted on October 8, 2014 in Best Practice

How to engage your project team

Having an engaged project team can make all the difference to a project. With an engaged team, you feel like you are being pushed forward at every stage of the project rather than wading through treacle and being held back with issues and obstacles, but it doesn’t always come naturally – what a project manager puts in to the team, he or she invariably gets back. Behind every successful project is an excellent, well-motivated and engaged project team!

So how do you ensure your project team gets off to a good start and maintains the motivation to achieve a project’s long term aims?

A conversational interview

Have a conversation with each project team member to find out more about their skill set, what they like doing and where they want to be in the future. This will help to establish their motivations, where best to place them in the project team and what might help them to progress to promotion if that is their aim. Use your learnings to form a basis for setting goals as part of one to one meetings.

Get the team involved in planning from the start

The team should be involved in the planning process either as a whole group or as subsets. Let individuals contribute their ideas as to how a solution will be developed. What processes should be in place, how they would like to report and what their roles and responsibilities should be. Project managers should be mindful of individual’s expertise and respect their opinion on issues and possible solutions.

Share the overall plan

Make sure that all members of the team understand the objectives of the project, are aware of key milestones, understand how their own targets contribute success and the elements of the project which depend upon others. Also communicate the systems and procedures essential to get there.

Assess character and behaviour

Some people thrive on pressure and tight deadlines, while others find them stressful. Some work well from home, while others would find it difficult to get motivated unless surrounded by others. Understand individual strengths and weaknesses and be aware of how to get the best out of team members.

Understand the role of project manager

Make sure the team understands that the project manager is not there to command and control, rather to guide and work around issues so that individuals are empowered to make decisions and know there is support when escalation is required. Be accessible, communicate regularly and be quick to praise and acknowledge good work, not only with the project team, but also with individual’s supervisors.

Make the team visible on the project

As project manager, you’re managing critical and visible projects, but make sure you share that visibility with the members of your team, take them along to meetings or involve them in conference calls and encourage them to talk around their area of the project. They will become more accountable and aware of the importance of their role. However, also be aware that you are there to handle issues, so own them, rather than blaming others or letting them take the flack.


Keep lines of communication open. Ensure regular reporting through either direct reporting or team meetings if necessary. Make sure the team gets to know each other and can talk with each other for additional information. Hold private one to one meetings with your direct report, using this time to deal with issues that may stem from the individual (or one of their reports), but never do this publicly.

Project Mantra’s

Have three or four project mantra’s to instill the common team behaviours you expect or need the team to adopt. Keep them generic enough that the team will bond discussing them whilst looking to apply them to their specific circumstances. It can have a very profound and positive effect. To address quality issues in statements, data or communication, you could use “Don’t assume it, check it.”, but similarly this could be applied if you want your teams to confirm tasks are completed rather than assume they will be completed because they were delegated. Other mantra’s you may have heard could be: “One problem at a time”; “Definition of insanity, doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different outcome”; “No surprises”; “Tough on the problem, not the people”; “Early reds is a good thing”; and “Too much haste, leads to less speed.

Information sharing

Make sure that the systems and processes involved in reporting and sharing information are developed during the planning stage, so that the team understands the importance of reporting and how the reports will be used. They are not there for checking up on individuals, but they enable the rest of the team to know the status on each element of the project and allow the project manager to spot any potential issues early. A project management system pays dividends for this, but it should be easy for all members of the team to use and accessible from a variety of locations. Sure Steer is a very easy system to use and is very affordable, making it a cost effective tool for managing a project and keeping track of budget and resources.

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