Project ManagementGetting Along Within a Team or on a Project

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Getting involved in office arguments is never a good idea. If it’s your team who is at each other’s throats and you are the project manager; getting involved can be disastrous! There are many factors which can contribute to conflicts: differing personalities, styles, and working long hours together can all add up to a blow up.

Before you lose your cool: check out these tried and true tips and techniques to help you avoid conflict and diffuse arguments within your team and organization.

Conflict Assessment

Arguments between team members can slow a project down if they are having a difficult time resolving the issue. But when should you step in? If it’s an enthusiastic conversation about the assignment and the dialogue challenges everyone to find the best outcome, let it run its course to reach a final solution. If the team is visibly upset and individuals are resorting to mean-spirited remarks, it’s time to stop the madness and get to the root of the conflict.

Get Everyone on the Same Page

One of the biggest culprits of hostile conversations is opposing expectations. Teams may get different marching orders from their higher-ups or miscommunication can break out between teammates. Whatever the reason is, reviewing the Project Agreement can help smooth things over and clarify goals and objectives.

Roles and Responsibilities

Don’t forget to outline the Roles and Responsibilities for every project. This documents who is handling what and is color-coded so anyone reading through an updated status reports can easily locate what they need to know.

Communication Breakdown

Is there a set time to meet and go over project status, share information and work together or is everybody in their own corner, doing their own thing? If the conflict seems to be brewing over miscommunication, it’s time to rally the troops to set up a collaborative culture that is performance-driven. If members are working in a silo and not sharing (or receiving) valuable information such as orders to switch gears or changes in plans, then more time and energy is wasted.

Here are a few ideas to boost your communication and ultimately reduce conflict:

Modeling the Leader

Make sure that your behavior reflects the way you expect your team to behave. You should foster a creative environment with trust and communication. If your team members don’t respect you they won’t respect each other.

History Repeats Itself

We all know that history repeats itself so it’s smart to keep track of what has worked well and what’s been a disaster. Industry standard PM practices require a critical project closeout phase that collects lessons learned and gives your organization powerful historical knowledge. A company will move faster if it can learn from mistakes and grow rather than repeat them over and over.

Is That Thing Contagious?

A victory, regardless of whether it’s big or small, has a big impact on people’s morale. A happy office is a well-functioning business. Take the time to acknowledge and celebrate the successes. Choose home-runs that you can hit early in the process so you’ll have some steam and support when you tackle the most difficult aspects of a project. You’ll find the excitement contagious and it may spread to other groups as well.

A Walk in Their Shoes

If the conflict continues and you’ve tried all of the above, there is one more trick I keep up my sleeve. Ask the opposing members to argue each other’s case. A walk in each other’s shoes forces them to see the bigger picture and will encourage empathy and a strong urge to solve the issues together. It might even generate new ideas since the issues are being approached with different perspectives.

Laugh and the World Laughs with You

Humor has been one of the world’s best tension breakers since early civilization.

If team conflict has gotten out of hand, consider an icebreaker before tackling the issue at hand. One quick team-building exercise that can bring some laughs into the room is the “nickname” round-table. Everyone goes around the room or takes a turn on a conference call and discloses their funniest nickname.

The long hours sometimes required to push a project home can wear on all involved. But as the team leader, you need to pull your team mates into success. It is important for everyone to focus on the positives and maintain strict adherence to your plan. The waters can get muddied with personality clashes and petty rivalries. The steps above should help to smooth the path for quick completion and garner great results.

About the Author

Michelle LaBrosse, PMP, is an entrepreneurial powerhouse with a penchant for making success easy, fun and fast. She is the founder of Cheetah Learning, the author of the Cheetah Success Series, and a prolific blogger whose mission is to bring Project Management to the masses. A dynamic keynote speaker and industry thought leader, Michelle was previously recognized by PMI as one of the 25 Most Influential Women in Project Management in the world.

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