We have all probably worked on projects and worked with teams, often with the project’s success depending on effective teamwork. And I am sure we have all been on good and not so good teams. I have recently had some firsthand experience dealing with the fallout of the effect of teamwork on project success that have made me think of how the right leadership can drastically change the situation.
I want to share two stories, one where strong leadership created a team and lead them to success and another with a group of colleagues that was not a team. To be fair to all parties involved, irrelevant details have been changed. In the first case, a business associate had a sudden deadline requiring a team of competent laborers to complete a simple, but large construction project. Due to the ongoing drought and recession, this business had not been able to sustain workers and is down to a single man crew, the owner. He had no team to call upon! With a looming deadline that could impose costly fines and possibly legal action if he was unable to comply, the outlook was bleak.
By reaching out to all of his connections and making use of his existing relationships, he was able to gather a crew, lead them through this project, and complete it before the imposed deadline. By using the connections he had within the community, he was able to create and lead a team through a successful project. What had appeared to be an insurmountable obstacle became the catalyst to energize this leader into action.
In the second case, a friend was working to prepare for a big, companywide event. Several times throughout the preparation, I was called upon to offer assistance for jobs that he had been assigned that required more than one person. Always happy to help when I can, I offered the necessary extra set of hands and muscles for these tasks. When pressed, he finally told me that he really felt like none of the other members of his team were able to help him, nor would it occur to them to offer.
This astonished me! I have had the good fortune to be on many teams that have worked well together to overcome challenges, as well as those with weak links, but to feel as if there was nobody on your entire team that you could call upon was staggering! And then I saw it with my own eyes while helping him one day. To me, it appeared that the team members were all working as individuals, rather than as a cohesive unit towards a common goal. This included the head of the organization and the event director.
Perhaps these leaders were ‘empowering’ their employee/colleague/team member to solve problems on their own, but this was highly demoralizing to the individual. If one team member feels this way, there is a good chance that more do as well. If a team cannot rely on each other, who can they rely upon? Regardless of anything else, a leader should be aware of the team dynamics and be able to recognize a problem such as this and try to realize a solution. From an outsider’s perspective, it appears to me that the lack in the team was due, at least in part, to a lack in the leadership.
These contrasting situations helped me to realize how much leadership can affect the outcome of a project as well as the effectiveness of a team. What can we do as team members or as leaders of teams to achieve project success? We will discuss teams in more depth in future blogs, but building relationships with the team members can be the first step to an effective, successful, and healthy team.