Creating Great Project Teams

Personality-based project management training can help improve team performance

By Michelle LaBrosse Nov 24, 2014

Being a great individual performer doesn’t always translate to being a great team player.

Case in point: the comparison of two stellar U.S. Olympic basketball teams. In 1992, Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Charles Barkley and Patrick Ewing led what was dubbed the “Dream Team” and won the gold medal for the U.S. To this day, the team is still remembered and admired by many sports fans.

The star-studded 2004 U.S. team was led by basketball greats LeBron James, Allen Iverson and Carmelo Anthony—all exceptional players in their own right. But collectively, some say, they were an inferior team, which led to them capturing only a bronze medal.

What set the two teams apart was the 1992 team’s ability to work together and bring out the best in each other. This is what differentiates a good from a great project team, as well.

Organizational success requires not only getting the best players to form a team, but getting the best performance from each team member. Say you’ve done an impressive job of picking out the most valuable players in each business unit to build your team (i.e., the best salespeople, finance people, marketing people), but there’s still something missing and your team’s performance is dragging because of it.

Finding the ‘State of Flow’

Project management training can often help managers develop their own dream teams by helping to ensure each individual identifies and uses his or her innate strengths to support the team.

Start by identifying each team member’s personality type. Explain the unique strengths of each type for learning, project management and negotiating. For each employee, mastering the ability to make the most of their own personality type, and understanding other personality types in a way that allows them to collaborate effectively with others, can help raise the level of performance of the whole team.

Having people with strong project management skills can benefit organizations in the following ways:

Employees who learn how to use their innate strengths learn faster, get their work done more efficiently, and get along with co-workers and supervisors better. According to a 2012 Gallup survey, when Americans use their strengths more, they stress less. Yet the study noted that only one of every four adults lives and works in an area that capitalizes on their strengths.

When employees are working from their innate strengths, time often becomes irrelevant as they intently focus on the task at hand. This is sometimes referred to as being in “a state of flow,” where there is a balance between a challenge you can meet with your ability level and a very clear goal. Learning team members’ areas of strength—from which they will be able to achieve this state of flow—can help managers more effectively delegate project tasks in order to improve overall team performance.

Companies with a core group of employees who know how to use their innate strengths show measurable improvements in not just earnings, but also profits. A study of 31 clients of Cheetah Learning that conducted onsite project management training from 2003 to 2013 showed that 90 percent of them increased their profitability and 85 percent of them increased their growth rate following such training.

Measuring Individual Performance

Identifying and measuring key performance indicators (KPIs) can show whether individual employees have the capability to be top performers. Developing KPIs that account for the degree to which each member is working in his or her areas of strength also can help to develop a high-performing project team.

For example, when developing KPIs to evaluate employees’ effectiveness, consider creating a balanced scorecard (BSC) that focuses on the following areas:

  • Communications. How well does each team member communicate with co-workers, supervisors, clients and other stakeholders?
  • Learning and performance. How quickly is each team member able to move from acquiring new skills to implementing these skills in a way that creates value for the organization?
  • Organizational commitment and growth. How passionate is each team member about his or her work? How well does each team member collaborate with others to generate new business ideas?

Making use of project management training and individual KPIs in managing teams will provide a clearer picture of the extent to which team members are working in their areas of strength and whether they are creating real value for the company. Developing a BSC that accounts for team members’ unique personality strengths can help project managers assess whether a team member might be holding a team back or just doesn’t “fit” well within the group. In such cases, those individuals could be assigned to other projects well-suited to their strengths that would allow them to soar as valuable team players. By bringing in a personality-based project management training program to their team, project managers raise the bar for the whole team while empowering each team member to reach his or her highest potential.

Michelle LaBrosse, CCPM, PMP, PMI-ACP, is founder and chief cheetah of Cheetah Learning.


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