Project management is not only one of the fastest-growing fields in today's economy, but also one of the most professionally diverse. Viewing the discipline from this perspective lends insight to the wide range of personalities you can and probably will encounter throughout your career. Learning to lead and manage a wide array of personalities will promote some of the most essential project management skills. In fact, in a recent series of interviews, PMA's own instructors unanimously claimed that practical project management involves significantly more managerial skill than technical skill. This article seeks to foster those skills by providing tips for effective management in a diverse team environment.
Have a Plan for Incoming Team Members
Often times in project management organizations, human resources can be reallocated several times throughout a project's duration. Consequently, make the assumption that your time with vendors, coworkers, or even project assets is limited. If you've done your due diligence about an incoming personnel's technical expertise, develop an executable course of action for them before they come under your command. This ensures not only the fullest utilization of that resource, but also provides them with an immediate sense of belonging and purpose on the team.
Be Aware of Their Situation
Empathy is a project manager's best friend. That said, the more you know about your team members on a personal level (i.e. their hobbies, personal interests, home life, and career goals), the more capable you will be to effectively manage them. Certainly, you can't expect a single parent with a child in school to report to a project every day at 6 A.M. Whenever possible, try to accommodate extenuating circumstances and regular exceptions. Your team members will be much more responsive if communication is, in fact, a two-way street on your project.
Consider Ethnic, Religious, and Cultural Differences
This should go without saying, but the idea goes hand-in-hand with the previous section and relies on a thorough understanding of your team's personal background. While certain religious and cultural observances may not have a significance to you, a disregard for these practices can disrupt a coworker's productivity completely and dissuade them from cooperating with you on future endeavors. Be sensitive of these issues, and be sure to emphasize this notion in the context of a team environment. As a project manager, it is your responsibility to ensure that your team members work in the most cohesive environment possible. Consider having a "get to know each other" meeting at the beginning of each project as a means to promote this cohesiveness, and be sure to reprimand individuals inciting conflict in this regard.
Build a Relationship and Adapt
If you don't know a team member as well, or even if you do, try to interact with them on some level each day. Building a rapport with your coworkers not only moves work along by its very nature, but also may prove useful in their management. Identifying their personality type will allow you to implement a management style that is most effective for them. Keeping in contact with your team members will allow you to recognize their preferences with regards to working in groups and being managed, responsiveness to work-related change and stressors, and general sentiment about the project, your company, and their career path. Each of these facets is a tool at your disposal, so be sure to keep them in mind when interacting with an individual.
Offer New and Engaging Opportunities
If you notice that a team member is bored or burned out with a project, consider assigning them a new task. Especially in the case of repetitious tasks, boredom can cause team members to lose sight of the project's overall objectives and even provoke unintentional error through oversight. Providing a disinterested coworker with a new objective provides two distinct advantages. First, it will engage the recipient in a new way, creating a fresh perspective toward the new task and renewed vigor to the previous task. Second, expanding a team member's responsibilities can give them a greater sense of achievement. On that note, it's also important to mention that the way you present this new task is every bit as important as the task itself. Typically, it's best to pose the new engagement as an alternative to what the employee is already doing, rather than an addition to their current responsibilities. If a team member is feeling stressed or overworked, the last thing you want to do is make them feel as if more work is being piled on! While some people seek to provide a "one size fits all" solution to relational leadership, the reality is that effective personnel management is best done on a case-by-case basis. It's essential to understand what's most important to your team members and nurture those sentiments. By actively engaging with your team and assessing their personal background, response to management, and contextual situations, you can provide the most conducive work environment possible for your team.