Tag Archive: communications skills

How to Increase Teamwork to Ensure Project Success

March 17th, 2016

Encouraging strong teamwork paves the way for successful projects completion which contribute to company improvements and growth.

As I work with manufacturing and distribution clients from all industries such as aerospace, building products, and medical products and across a wide range of sizes from a few million to multi-billion dollar companies, I find that project management is one common thread across every client. Since growing the business and improving performance is of paramount importance to compete, new programs, process improvements, and other organizational changes continue to increase in numbers to support this expectation. Thus, project management is increasingly a strategic imperative to success.

We can be more assured we’ll achieve success with our projects if we have strong teamwork. Two minds are better than one tends to come true 99.9% of the time. What one person misses another one catches. What is one team member’s strength is another’s weakness. One person’s relationships supplement the other team members’ relationships. Thus, a team can accomplish at least 10 times what any individual can achieve. It is well worth it to figure out how to increase teamwork success. Several keys to success include:

  1. It starts at the top: As with success overall, it is most easily stimulated from the top. If the project leader and project sponsor foster teamwork, it will occur. As project leader, notice when team member’s work together to brainstorm ideas or when they help each other with tasks. If you notice and communicate the value of these, teamwork will increase.
  2. Communicate the value of teamwork: Again, solid leadership will “win” the day. Set your project up for success by communicating the importance of teamwork. Make sure you provide examples and clearly communicate the importance and how teamwork will tie to the end result and the value to the organization.
  3. Establish common metrics: One of the keys to increasing teamwork is to establish common metrics. If one member can succeed while another fails, teamwork will not occur. The team must understand that they are in “it” together. Make sure your metrics drive the behaviors you want to occur.
  4. Ask teamwork questions: While following up on the critical path and project progress, make sure to ask specific questions related to the importance of teamwork. People do not pay attention to what you pontificate about; they pay attention to what you seem genuinely interested in on a day-to-day basis. Thus, include questions that demonstrate that you value teamwork.
  5. Bring out individual strengths: One value-added way to encourage teamwork is to bring out each person’s strengths. If the team can leverage the collective strengths of its team members, there is no doubt success will follow. Search for the strengths of each member. Highlight them. Encourage people to focus on strengths and deter the parts associated with their weaknesses to teammates with strengths in that area.
  6. Communication skills: Develop your project team. Teamwork can be a learned skill. Help each person understand the best ways to communicate and collaborate to aid teamwork. Provide examples.
  7. Mentoring: As much as we’d like to think that a training class solves all ills, it is just the start. Mentoring is required for success. Dictating teamwork is like dictating to complete calculus homework without any idea of how to complete the problems. Mentoring means “living an example.” Make sure you exemplify the right behaviors. Find other exemplars to refer to as well. Give people an opportunity to test new ideas. Do not beat them up for mistakes; instead provide corrective feedback and make sure they know that you believe in them.
  8. Critical path focus: Typically, the critical path is focused on cross-functional tasks as they are the ones that directly contribute to the project’s timing and success. Emphasize the importance of teamwork as it relates to cross-functional tasks. Undoubtedly, teamwork is bedrock to succeeding in a cross-functional environment. Make sure your team understands this tenet.
  9. Performance feedback: Since project metrics have been set up to track team progress, make sure that performance feedback also aligns. Again, as obvious as it sounds, the team member must receive performance feedback from their manager that aligns with the value of teamwork. They cannot succeed in getting a huge raise if they acted as a lone ranger on a project. If so, teamwork will fail. Follow up with the managers of your team members, and make sure they understand the metrics, their employee’s strengths and weaknesses as it relates to the project, etc. Make the time to ensure this feedback makes its way into their performance review.
  10. Communicate, communicate and communicate: Just as in real estate where location, location and location are the three most important attributes of a new house, communicate, communicate and communicate are the three most important attributes in achieving any desired objective. If all team members, supporters, sponsors and other related parties understand and value teamwork, it will succeed.

Since executives count on projects to deliver the vast majority of improvements to their company performance, fostering teamwork can greatly increase the chances of delivering a project on-time, on-budget and on-results. Those who follow these 10 strategies will succeed significantly more often than those who don’t. Why take a chance on what’s vital to business success?

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The Power of Communication

July 28th, 2015

Make improving communications the cornerstone of your goals and you will have more engaged participants willing to help you achieve the rest of your goals.

If there is one thing that ALL of my clients have in common, it is that communication always needs improvement. It almost seems like no matter how much effort is placed on communication, improvement opportunities exist. In essence, just like in real estate where “location, location, location” is #1 to success; in business, “communication, communication, communication” is paramount.

In order to communicate effectively, here are a few tips to be as effective as possible:

1. The Rule of 7 – the rule of thumb is that people need to hear a message 7 times before it is absorbed. Repetition is your friend!

2. Varied messages – do not repeat the exact same message. Instead, vary the phrasing while keeping the meaning. Different phrasings might get through to different people.

3. Varied media – different people learn (and remember) in different ways. Email appeals to some. Phone calls to another. Physical letters to others. Social media to others. TV/video works for many. Vary your media for different styles.

4. Consider your audience – change your communication style to appeal to your audience. It is natural to use the style you are comfortable with; however, it is not what will be most effective. Find out what will appeal to your audience.

5. Spend more time listening than talking – as odd as it might seem, listening will enhance your communication skills. Listening allows you to know how to tailor your communication to be effective. Presentations are often boring whereas discussions can be engaging.

6. Consider pace – talking at 100 miles an hour can be very hard to follow; however, slow communication can be equally challenging.

7. Remember tone – Have you ever heard someone drone on that could make landing on the moon seem mundane? We all have! Align your tone to the situation. If you want people to follow, be engaging and communicate excitement.

Those who communicate effectively will thrive. Undoubtedly, a strong communicator with medium technical skills will outperform a weak communicator with strong technical skills every day of the week.

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Communications Rule!

December 26th, 2013
Communications rule!

Too busy to communicate? Research reveals that communications skills are lacking in the manufacturing and distribution workers.

As much as we, in the supply chain business, know that communication is critical, we often ignore this key area. We are swamped with daily work, getting the month’s sales shipped out, learning the latest technical gadget etc., and our communications go by the wayside.  In my recent skills gap survey in combination with APICS Inland Empire chapter, we found communications skills to be lacking. So what are a few tips for communications success?

1. Repetition – In today’s information-overloaded society, we cannot pick up on all the information we receive. If you plan to be heard, you must repeat important messages. There are varying studies; however, the bottom line is repetition is essential.

2. Varied formats – Repetition alone can just be annoying. To be successful you must vary your communication mode. Do you write it? Speak it? Illustrate it in Power Point? Hold a group meeting? Post on the website?

3. Listen first – Successful communicators listen FAR more than they talk. Do you listen carefully to what people are saying? Do you let them know you are following along? Do you paraphrase? I’ve found people can think I’m a master communicator when I say 5 words – solely because I’ve listened.

4. Talk about the why’s – One of the keys to communication in the workplace is to explain WHY the topic should matter to the recipient.  WIIFM!  I find that when employees understand how they contribute to value, communication suddenly improves from the listener’s perspective.

5. Stick to the big picture – Don’t go into all sorts of details that will likely confuse meeting attendees. Stick to the big picture and impacts.  Pictures and graphics will help with this objective.

6. Be succinct:  Less is more.

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