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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

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!

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