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Strategic Projects: Work the team, not the Project!

As a leader it can be tempting to get drawn into your team’s problems. But don’t. That is probably not where the greatest reward for your effort will be, especially long term. The advice is to work the team not the problem.

Every day teams will face obstacles and challenges.  But if the success of a project depends on regular heroic interventions by you as the leader, there are likely to be more fundamental challenges longer-term. 

Micro-managing by a leader risks undermining the team’s confidence and capability – making it dependent on the leader always being around.

The leader jumping in to solve the problem denies the team some of its greatest moments.  That is because it is when a team is faced with a problem that it has the greatest opportunity to shine, to pull together – to innovate, learn and grow. 

In other words, set the team up for success – making sure that the right people are in the right roles, doing the right work, working in the right way and focused on the right results with the right rewards.  Then let the team do its work. Let it take charge of the project – taking full responsibility for its success.

It is the team’s job to fix its own problems, not yours.  The leader’s job is to empower them, create the space – to help them to realize they can solve their own problems and to help them to remove anything that is getting in the way of doing that.

Chances are that people will be highly engaged, will take care of each other, will figure out ingenious solutions, and will deliver exceptional results.  That is if you show them that you trust them to do it.

How do you ‘work the team and not just the project’?

  • Let the team meeting go ahead even if you cannot be there
  • Talk last – let others share their views and ideas before you add yours
  • Ask people what they think, encouraging a diversity of views
  • Promote dialog through a combination of good questions and careful listening
  • Empower the team to make its own decisions

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