You are working on a very important but difficult project for your company, deadlines are approaching fast, everybody in your project team works long hours plus spending time on weekends. Your management is restless and wants an update every few minute like a spoiled child wanting candy. Everybody in your project team is giving more than 100% of themselves and are totally exhausted! When nerves are under stress, the tension rises and people behave irrationally. As the project manager what do you need to do to reduce the tension and anxiety in your project team and calm the nerves? Failing to do so, will jeopardize the outcome of the project and will ruin your reputation as an effective project manager. During times like these real project managers and leaders are born.
In this article I have outlined a few methods that work for me and I have used them throughout my career. If you have your own methods & recommendations please share them in the comment section. Nothing improves project management craftsmanship like learning from experience.
Reduce the number of meetings
Meeting are the biggest source of waste and cause of stress & frustration in teams. Reduce the number of meetings to an absolute minimum. For status reports, just ask each member in your project team to write what they did and what they will do tomorrow at the end of each day. This should be a short report, only one or two sentences. If you are using project management software which has online message board, this should not take more than a couple of minutes and the result could be summarized and made available to each project team member automatically. This way everybody is updated and no time is wasted. Keep the number of attendants in your meetings to a minimum and only invite people who are directly working on the project and have something to say & contribute. Keep the meeting short and standing room only. Keep the meeting time less than an hour, preferably less than half an hour, but never more than one.
Have informal gathering for fun
To refurbish your teams positive energy you need to have fun while working hard. Set a few time slots each week for having fun! Provide food and drinks, bring somebody who can provide entertainment & laughs. Nothing reduces stress like group laughter & games. Make sure these time slots are used for having fun only and no work related items could be discussed! Create a relaxed atmosphere for all project team members, the only objective should be to freshen up and regain mental energy for the rest of the journey.
Set time for group Exercise
Exercise is a great stress reliever. Set a few time slots during each week for group exercise. Meditation is great, group workouts & even group dance helps to reduce stress. Make sure your project team participates. Taking a walk in a sunny day or a short run outdoors can really help mental fitness. If the weather is good and you are located in a safe and scenic area, by all means do the exercise outside. Nothing helps mental health than outdoor activities. In case of bad weather or if your location does not permit outdoors activity, doing exercise indoors will be the best next thing.
Protect the project team from outside interruption
When a project is important, everybody in the company from the big boss to noisy manager working on another project wants to get information. Make sure your project team is protected from these interruption, only you and your group managers should answer all questions and keep the team working on what is really important. Your team members time is too valuable to be wasted on status reporting which does not solve any issue.
If you think brining new resources could help, do it by all means. Just a reminder that most of the time bringing new people to a project late in the game only causes more problems than good. But sometimes there is an experienced player who has been there before and has the expertise you need to be able to help you. In that case, new blood helps! If you find out that one of your team members is struggling and is falling behind, get help either from within the project team or from outside. Pay extra attention to the person who is falling back and help anyway you can.
Everything I said above about your project team members, applies to you too. As the leader of the project you need to keep calm and be the leader that everybody relies on for strength. To be able to do that you need fun, exercise and help too!
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