In an ideal world, running a project would be a pleasure. A project manager would trust their team to work together effectively: to deliver high-quality objectives on time and on budget. Unfortunately, this is almost never the case: obstacles arise, deadlines drift, and fires must be put out. The biggest difference between teams that overcome these setbacks lies in the project manager’s ability to trust everyone on the team.
Below is a road-map for project managers that will allow them to hand off more responsibility to team members: let those team members prove themselves, and eventually take much of the pressure off the project manager while the team works harmoniously.
1. Give Your Team The Opportunity to Own a Task & Its Solution
Ari Buchalter, writer at Fortune, says that the primary role of any manager is to define a strategy and empower everyone on the team to realize that strategy.
That’s why his company designs project teams to function as self-contained, self-sufficient units within the larger company structure. “We set up teams that can independently develop solutions—each with effective leadership, strong talent within each functional area, and a clear sense of their unique objectives,” he writes.
“They are empowered to think creatively about the technology and business challenges before them and define and own the solutions. … Autonomous teams increase throughput, creativity, and sense of ownership.”
Of course, it will be up to the project manager to make sure these teams deliver objectives to spec. But that spirit of autonomy often incubates ideas that will wow stakeholders as results ripple throughout the company.
By fostering that environment of independence, you open the door to team members who want to do good work and prove themselves. But this independence requires a checks-and-balances mechanism, which brings us to the next point.
2. When Delegating Tasks, Build Accountability Into The Process
Accountability is the key to letting go and learning to delegate out tasks effectively. For many project managers, however, holding someone accountable for an outcome feels a little like playing the bad cop. As a result, tasks often get delegated then lost in the ether.
“Effective leaders build accountability into the assignment; they don’t leave it to chance,” writes David Dye, founder and president of consultancy Trailblaze, Inc. “To build accountability into the assignment, schedule a mutual appointment where you will receive the assignment back from the other person.”
When delegating, Dye recommends project managers set up a specific meeting — time, date, place, and mark it on the calendar — with team members to discuss final outcomes of a task. The person will understand that there will be a moment when he or she must be able to speak to outcomes and findings. That way, the assigned task doesn’t get de-prioritized into oblivion.
3. Grant Authority to Team Members Who Prove Themselves
When those team members deliver great work, you’ll feel more comfortable putting your trust in them. The beauty of trustworthy people is you can hand off more than specific tasks to them; you can trust them with decision-making authority.
Executive mentor Steve Caldwell, writing for The Huffington Post, recommends giving these team members a budget where appropriate and a green light to make decisions without consulting you.
“When you approach delegation in this manner, you are moving away from only managing tasks to leading a team”, he writes.
“Work to structure your schedule so that the majority of your time is spent in one-on-ones with each team member, being sure they are moving forward with their projects and goals, and you are intercepting roadblocks and paving the way for them to accomplish their responsibilities.”
Once you do this, you’ll have a process in place that will build mutual trust between you and your team. When you have trust and everyone doing great work, you can focus your energy elsewhere. For exampling, keeping track of your calendar: on meeting deadlines and accomplishing all of your objectives.
This model is scalable: department managers can empower their team with these tips: find ways to let go of any micromanagement tendencies, and just maybe find time to actually use all of their vacation days.