4 ways to send your project team the wrong signals

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Morale is an important factor in the success of project teams. Here are four ways you might be sending your project team the wrong message.

Image: iStock/Jacoblund

How well your project teams function and execute project tasks is highly dependent on their morale. As a leader, you play a pivotal role in how invested they are in a project. Are you sending your project team the wrong signals with these four behaviors?

  1. Maintaining a serious demeanor at all times

Project managers may be tempted to keep a serious face in an effort to show leadership, thinking that teams are more likely to follow their lead and work harder. This could not be further from the truth. In fact, team members are more likely to have higher levels of productivity when they feel invested in a project and company and have a connection with their team, project manager, and leadership team.

Maintaining a serious demeanor at all times only serves to send the signal to team members that you are unapproachable. The unfortunate consequence of appearing unapproachable is an increased chance that mistakes will be made as a result of team members avoiding discussions with you.

In order to appear approachable, it is important to know when to be serious and also recognize that a sense of humor—and the ability to at least show a smile—lets your team see that they can approach you. This increases the chance of your team voicing concerns with you when things crop up.

SEE: How to build a successful project manager career (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

2. Rushing around with little time to chat

Most people understand that project management is fast-paced and leaves little time to smell the roses. That said, maintaining a consistent hurried pace can signal to your team that you are unavailable to them, even for a quick chat.

Similar to maintaining a serious demeanor, your team may get the impression that you can’t even spare a minute for them. It may signal to them that you are far too busy to hear the things they have to say, or that anything they have to say may be far too trivial to bother you with.

When this happens, you run the risk of not hearing about potential opportunities or problems that are on the horizon. Slowing yourself down to talk with team members is unlikely to make or break the project timeline. You are more likely to be able to see things clearly when you can quiet your mind. To be able to quiet your mind, you must be able to slow down physically.

3. Only sharing negative feedback 

To be effective as a leader, you need to be able to share negative and positive feedback. Sharing only negative feedback sends the message to your team members that you believe they seldom, or never, do things correctly. It tells them that you are disappointed in their performance which is damaging to morale. Try to put yourself in their shoes and consider how this would impact your morale.

Sometimes, it is best to start with positive feedback to set the tone for the discussion—it lets team members know that you are aware of the things they are doing right and that their work is appreciated. When you are providing feedback that may be taken as negative, it is important to be aware of how you deliver the feedback. 

Monitor your tone and make sure you are respectful at all times. Most people are harder on themselves which means even the slightest negative feedback will impact their morale. Your goal is to encourage not discourage.

4. Spending little to no downtime with team members

Project managers are leaders and team members as well. It can be difficult to remember the latter, especially during times of acute stress. The trouble is, during stressful times, it is more essential to remember that team members are also feeling the strain. It may even seem that during these times there is no room for downtime or taking a break.

This couldn’t be further from the truth. If you believe your role is simply to lead the project towards successful completion, you could give them the impression that you have little interest in being around them, except when required.

Even during hectic times, it may be necessary to take a short break in order to connect and regroup. As a leader, project managers play a key role in helping teams maintain their connection and get through tough times together. For teams to stay connected, project managers must spend time getting to know each team member and not just leading the project.

Make sure you are sending your teams the right message. Show them that you are approachable, you have time for them, give positive feedback, and demonstrate that you are not just a leader but also part of the team.

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