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How to get good team results when you are not the boss (part 2)
By Kim Harrison,
Consultant, Author and Principal of www.cuttingedgepr.com
This is the second of two articles.
PR practitioners often have to work on committees with people from other departments. One of the most common problems in such projects is how to lead or shape the project when you have no formal power or authority over the other team members.
How can you get good team results when you are not the boss or if someone else is nominally the boss and is quite ineffectual?
Good communication is crucial
There are various ways you can informally lead or influence a project outcome. You can lead such areas as communication (obviously!), team recognition for milestones achieved, project reviews, change management, measurement and reporting cycles.
These techniques are also suitable for projects in which you are formally the leader, because they help you avoid the problems of potential resentment and lack of cooperation that may arise when you outrank the other team members.
There are three general ways to increase your project control: project processes, influence and measurement. In this article we will look at communication. The key to success is good people management through good communication.
The project leader shapes projects, for instance receiving most progress information and controlling where it is distributed. Providing clear, factual status information can be a source of significant influence.
If the project is proceeding well, stakeholders are impressed. If things are going badly, factual information will document your actions to recover lost ground and gain visibility when you need help. Provide just enough data, never more than people need to receive, or they might try to second-guess your decisions and actions.
To a considerable degree, what you say and how you say it determines how you are perceived, especially by your managers and peers. Use all communication methods available to you. Effective project leaders tend to over-communicate – just stopping short of being annoying. Better to have too much information than not enough.
Repeat your messages
Recent research found that managers without formal power who repeat messages about tasks and projects in different ways achieve more successful results than formal managers who rely on their authority to send messages just once. For example, when a manager who doesn't have formal power sends an email after a face-to-face meeting to confirm decisions, their team gets more tasks done and with fewer stumbles than managers with power who appear to assume that employees will follow their requests (reported in the Harvard Business Review Daily Stat, 26 April 2011).
Similarly, in this role you can follow up a complicated written communication with a phone call and can document the content of a phone call or discussion in a follow-up email. This finding supports the general conclusion in public relations practice that messages need to be repeated in more than one way to be most effective – methodical communication throughout a project is one of the most effective control tools available to you.