Monday, April 16, 2012

The Fearsome Foursome

It’s Monday morning and your boss calls you into his office. He tells you about a huge contract that the company just won and that he wants you to be the Project Manager.  You are excited for the chance to showcase your leadership skills and start mentioning the names of the people you want to be on your team. Your boss stops you right there. The  group has already been assembled and are waiting for you in the conference room.

As you walk to the conference room,  your mind starts to think of your past group projects. You begin to reflect on all the experiences and team members that you have encountered...

Struggling Sam

Sam usually showed up to meetings when he wasn’t too tired or busy with other things. He tried to get his deliverables in on time but never could. Unbeknownst to you, Sam was struggling with issues outside of the project. His personal problems were not only effecting the quality of his work but his attitude, communication abilities, and stress level. To you, it just seemed like Sam was not invested in the success of the project. He wasn’t the worst team member, but there was a lot of room for improvement.

Slacker Sara

Sara was a constant source of stress. She didn’t do her work. She was talkative and disruptive during meetings, and, overall, she really didn’t care about anything. Sara was disrespectful, unprofessional, and rude. You tried your hardest to remain strong and not let your personal feelings towards her affect your leadership. You contacted your supervisor about her behavior but his advice was to “do what you think is necessary." Sara has skills that you needed, but you could get anything out of her.

Shy Sally

Feedback and progress reports from your team are very important to a project where responsibilities are split between the members. Sally was extremely introverted. She did her work well, but it always took her longer than promised because she never reached out for help. She kept to herself during meetings and nodded assurance that everything on her end was fine.  When it came to deadlines, Sally turned in what she had completed without explanation.

Scab Sean

Sean was a great asset to the team. He took minutes at the meetings, turned in work on time, and always volunteered to take the lead when you were unavailable.  Sean was well spoken in meetings but sometimes went against what you advised as the leader and did what he thought was best. Sean assumed he knew it all and rarely checked in with the team before continuing to work. He undermined you to superiors behind your back and always reminded them how he would have done the job better.

You promise yourself that this time will be different. You keep in mind four tips that help you overcome these kinds of team members and be productive.

1. Get to know your team mates before you start working. 

Having a personal 1 on 1 with each person can help you understand the pressures they may deal with outside of work. It also gives you the opportunity to assess their skills and divide work evenly.

2. Let a teammate know there is a problem.
Be kind when you offer constructive comments on the behavior and work of a co-worker. 

3. Set team goals, provide support, and give feedback.
Set realistic goals together. Because not all people will ask for help even when they need it you will make yourself available. Evaluate and review goals together so that everyone understands what is going on.

4. Show respect and share power.
You may not be the only strong leader of your team. Allows others to take control and manage parts of the project. Sharing these responsibilities can reduce your stress and give others a sense of investment in the project.

Below are some questions that you can ponder on your own or respond in the comments.
  1. What was your worst group experience? 
  2. Were you able to turn things around in the end? If so, how? If not, why?
  3. How do you deal with troublesome teammates?
  4. Who is the most responsible for the success of a project?

1 comment:

  1. Wow! I am doing doing Senior Design (a major team project that is the culmination of my undergraduate degree) and this post has given me some clarity for dealing with my Struggling Sam. Thank you for this.