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Team Productivity

How to Fuel Project Success by Building a Positive Team Culture

Laura LaPrad
March 28, 2019
tips for creating positive team culture
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It doesn’t matter how many spreadsheets you build or what project management method you use. When it comes down to it, award-winning keynote speaker and cultural change specialist Colin D. Ellis says, “Projects are still about people first.”

That’s why it’s important to look beyond dollars and dates and invest time and energy into building a culture your team cares about.

“The effort that you put into conversations at the start, to organize people and yourselves, will never, ever be wasted,” Colin says.

Colin met TeamGantt’s director of education Brett Harned on the mic to talk about how team culture plays out in organizations and on teams on a recent episode of Time Limit.

Listen to the full interview in Episode 06 to hear how you can impact culture as a project manager, plus how to work on it in your limited time.

Research shows positive teams are more productive—and it makes sense. Happiness fuels motivation, and that energy spills out into everything you do. So why not make positivity a regular part of your team culture?

Here’s how to get your team pumped up about the work you’re doing together.  

Make your team feel seen and heard

Good news! Building positive team culture doesn’t rest squarely on your PM shoulders. In fact, you’ll get best results by making it a team affair.

“Culture is the sum of everybody," Colin explains. "It’s the sum of everybody’s attitudes, beliefs, behaviors, traditions, and skills, and everybody’s got a role to play in culture.”

One thing positive team cultures have in common is people who are highly engaged in the work. Bringing your team into the conversation from the get-go establishes a critical foundation because it gives you a better understanding of what makes your team tick.


Here are 2 great ways to make your team feel seen and heard.

Ask what’s worked—and what hasn’t—in the past

If you’re working with a new project team—or one that’s got a reputation for being difficult to work with—this is a great place to start. You’ll gain insight into your team’s hits and misses, and your team will have a say in shaping a process that’s meaningful to them.

“Just remind people that we're here to create something that we're all proud to be a part of, but also that takes the organization forward,” Colin advises.

Hold onto the things that are good, then work together to fix what’s broken. Ultimately, you want to establish a process that feels like it truly belongs to the people who use it day in and day out.

Learn each person’s individual style

No one likes feeling like a cog in the wheel. That’s why it’s important to treat your team as valuable individuals working together toward the greater project good. Invest in each individual on your team by getting to know their unique personality and working style.

When you have a deeper understanding of where your team struggles and shines, you can lay a path for each person to bring their best self to the table and look out for distractions that typically knock them off course.

Define what it means to be a good team member

Ever wonder why just about every classroom you walked into as a kid had the rules posted on the wall? It’s a lot easier to follow the rules if you actually know what they are. Now imagine if your teachers had asked you to help define those rules. You probably would have been extra-motivated to own your actions!

People thrive off clarity. If you want your team to have skin in the game, you’ve got to take time out to work together and draw a clear path to success. Here’s how:

Set your vision

It’s easy to kick projects off by divvying out assignments with a hearty rah-rah. But your team won’t win by encouragement alone. Setting a vision for your team—and your projects—gets everyone looking in the same direction so you can point all your arrows toward a singular goal.

Question to ask: What are we aiming for?

Lay the ground rules

As humans, most of us like knowing where the boundaries are because it maps an outline for success. Even better if we get a say in what’s expected of us. Inviting your team into the process builds buy-in by ensuring the guardrails you set together matter to the whole gang.

Question to ask: What behaviors are acceptable?

Determine your guiding principles

Your company probably already has a defined set of core values. But every team brings its own flavor to the organization. So talk about the principles your team lives by—whether it’s celebrating wins, having tough conversations, or hitting milestones. Don’t forget to document these team values so they act as a guiding light, rather than a vague ideology.

Question to ask: What drives us to push forward?

Foster trust and group accountability

Want to shake the sense that you’re the team taskmaster? Encourage your team to hold each other accountable.

“Everybody sees the project manager as having this complete and utter responsibility for everything," Colin says. "If you can get the group at the start to agree that we’re all in this together and what the project manager will do is remind us of what needs to be done and when, if that’s the way you’re gonna do it, then at least you start off on the right foot.”

This doesn’t have to feel oppressive. Think of it as positive peer pressure instead. When your culture is shaped by and for your team, doing right by each other and pushing each other to succeed will just come naturally.

Of course, group accountability works best when people trust each other first. Building fun into your workplace culture can create a sense of solidarity that makes it easier for your team to confront issues head-on without souring relationships or morale.

Want to boost your team’s productivity and morale?

TeamGantt makes it easy to lead your team to success. Set clear deadlines and direction, collaborate on projects, and quickly spot and resolve bottlenecks.

And with TeamGantt’s team availability and workload management features, late nights and job burnout can finally be a thing of the past. You’ll have your whole team cheering across the finish line! 🙌

Watch the video below to see how TeamGantt works, and give our online project management software a free try today!

Project management milestone examples

Milestones make it easier to keep projects on track by calling out major events, dates, decisions, and deliverables. Here are a few examples of project milestones you might include in your plan:

  • Start and end dates for project phases
  • Key deliveries
  • Client and stakeholder approvals
  • Important meetings and presentations
  • Key dates or outages that may impact your timeline

Let’s dig a little deeper and explore 3 specific examples of how using project milestones can benefit your projects.

Monitor deadlines

No plan is ever complete without a list of deadlines! The best way to make them noticeable is to use the project management milestones and deliverables technique. What does this mean? Make the deliverables project milestones!

Why do this? Well, it’s no secret that not everyone wants to pore over your beautiful project plan to find key dates. Most people—your teammates included—want a top-level view of key dates and events. Milestones are great for this purpose because they’re called out in a special way—usually with a diamond—in project plans.

While you should list the tasks and effort leading up to a project milestone, be sure to present the milestone at the end of those tasks to signify a delivery, or even a presentation of, the deliverable.

Here's an example of how Washington Hyperloop uses milestones to track an important deadline in their project.

Spotlight important dates

Are there days from now until the end of your project that could impact your project in some way? Maybe your team will need to be out of the office for a mandatory training. Maybe there’s a board meeting you’re expected to attend.

It’s important to keep all of these important events in mind when you’re planning a project because they could possibly impact your project schedule. So why not include them as project milestones so you can track them all in one place?

In this example, the team’s off-site strat-op meeting has been added to the project plan as a milestone so work can be scheduled around it.

date milestone in gantt chart

Identify potential project bottlenecks

Many projects rely on the work produced by external teams or partners to make forward progress. If you’re not tracking those external factors somewhere, there’s a great chance you’ll forget to follow-up on it.

That’s why it’s important to list these deliverables as project milestones if you’re working on a project that depends on someone or something outside of your project. Here’s an example of what that might look like for a client approval.

deliverable milestone in gantt chart

Want to hit major milestones on time more often?

We’ve got a free class to help you get everyone on board with your plan! Register for Plan Up: How to Create and Sell a Winning Project Plan to see why planning sets the stage for project success, and get a free Guide to Project Planning when you sign up.

How to create a project milestone

Creating milestones for your project plan can be simple, especially with TeamGantt. Once you’ve mapped out your overall process and plan with your team, you can easily add tasks, identify gantt chart milestones, and determine task owners. Adding a milestone (or converting a task to a milestone) is very easy in TeamGantt.

Once you’ve signed up for a TeamGantt account, here’s a quick video on how to create milestones:

Project milestones are easy to create and even easier to track because you’ve called out the most important points in your project.

How to share project milestones with clients and stakeholders

Want to give clients and stakeholders a high-level view of the project? Simply follow these steps to share a PDF of key project milestones in your gantt chart.

1. Filter your project by milestones.

From your gantt chart view, click the All Dates menu at the top of your gantt chart, and select Only Milestones from the drop-down.

filter gantt chart by project milestones

2. Export your filtered project to a PDF file.

Navigate to your project's Menu, and select Print/Export PDF from the drop-down.

export gantt chart with project milestones to PDF

Customize your PDF settings, then click View PDF to complete the export. From there, you can download and/or print your PDF to share with clients and stakeholders.

share PDF of gantt chart filtered by project milestones

Who would have thought such a critical step could be so easy?

Hit every project milestone with ease

TeamGantt makes it easy to create, track, and collaborate on all your project milestones so nothing slips through the cracks.

You’ll have all the features you need to ensure projects finish on time and under budget—from drag and drop simplicity and team collaboration to customizable views and workload management.

Best of all, it’s all wrapped up in a simple and intuitive interface your whole team will love. 😍

Give TeamGantt a free try today!

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