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Empower Project Team Members

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Project teams are built of people with multiple layers of skills and competencies. A few will be selected as project leads to have less responsibility than a project manager, but more than a team member. Project leads ensure smooth task management and reporting flow, but how many of them are allowed or trusted to make decisions? What level of decisions can they make?

The key to empowering a team member lies in the project manager's ability to get to know the person's strengths and weaknesses. Some people, although highly skilled, are weak at managing customers. Some have the ability to influence but aren't necessarily good at managing time.

In one of my earlier posts, I talked about delegating work to team members as a way to help them succeed. To be able to delegate effectively, project managers simply cannot pick one person and assign him or her a task without carefully considering that person's skills.

When empowering team members, the same rules apply. In some cases, you can only see the true colors of a person through action.

First, select someone with a suitable background and competencies. Then test the person with small decisions or tasks. Check if he or she can communicate effectively by having conversations to gauge his or her ability to think and act proactively.

When you empower team members by giving them greater responsibility, you can significantly improve the way a project is managed. Deadlines that require input or quick decisions can be met promptly, for example. Customer satisfaction can be improved because a team member doesn't have to go through layers of approval. And, those empowered team members may get a confidence boost.

What decisions do you trust your team members to make? Have you experienced any negative impacts by empowering team members? Do you think empowering team members improves project delivery?

 

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5 Comments

In a team there are people with different talents. Therefore the team manager or the team leader is responsible for allocating resource based on their expertise.

For example, in IT services business, in a team there are people good at technical skills overall. But among them some are very good and their communication skills when negotiating things with their customer, especially when it comes to certain level of customer support. Therefore it will be a very good practice to assign tasks based on the skills.

Because then team members know that they got a proper responsibility and they will work with extra energy as well as with extra responsibility. Also it is good to provide kind of an appreciation based on their work with the assigned responsibility.

Therefore I think this is a very good way of getting full use of team members we have.

Note: Especially I have personal experience with my previous job very similar to the above scenario and with a great success.


A great leader surrounds him/herself with great people. But this would get you nowhere if you don't empower these people.

A leader recognizes others' strengths and capitalizes on them to build a team that will outperform any one individual.

I like the analogy that Jim Collins uses in Good to Great; get the right people on the bus and then get them sitting in the right seat. If you do that effectively, the bus will nearly drive itself.

Empowering team members is letting them do what they can do. If done that way, empowering is a great motivator and therefore contributes to the success of the project.

Empowering is not asking team members to do what they cannot do. If done this way, "empowering" leads to burn out of your team members.

Empowering team members is crucial as it is impossible for the PM to be involved in every project activity. I would agree with Scott that the key is to verify. I trust that team members are doing the work they are tasked with but I to have been bitten by not verifying.

This also plays into discovering team members' strengths and allowing them to grow. I have seen scope changes made in midstream of a project with no concern over the impact on the project. I like to think of these as teaching moments, which have allowed both myself and the team member to grow.

I've found that the smoothest projects were the result of accurately assessing the skills of the individual team members, assigning them to the role in which they excel, and empowering them to have the confidence to move forward with limited direction.

Let's face it...no PM can be everything to every project. Some try. The project struggles and no one grows.

It's risky...turning over control. But a good PM knows it's an absolute must. The team members grow and the PM grows.

And there will always be the risk of a negative impact now and again. I always say, "Trust but verify. Always." And the times I was bitten, it was because I overlooked the "verify."

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