orld-class project managers
can deploy sophisticated strategies, organize scarce resources
and excel under tight deadlines.
But possessing the right skills
doesn’t mean much if they can’t
build a cohesive team.
“A project manager isn’t just
there to run a Gantt chart,” says
However, galvanizing the troops
requires a project manager to act simultaneously as army sergeant and amateur
psychologist—a no-nonsense leader
with an iron fist and a silver tongue.
Failure to create collaborative teams
can have a disastrous impact on a work
force’s morale and an organization’s bottom line.
“There are four costs of conflict:
time, energy, money and reputation,”
says Neil Denny, author of
Conversational Riffs: Creating Meaning out of
Conflict [Sunmakers, 2010]. “When we
encounter conflict in organizations, we
expend massive resources under all of
these headings, which leads to incompetent teamwork.”
The group is often
able to identify for
itself behaviors that
assisted conflict resolution, such as
listening to others,
not talking over
people, not rushing
to conclusions and
prepared. They get upset and often take
an adversarial approach. Conversations
to deal with the problem tend to go
One useful tool is reality testing.
This is often used by mediators to get
team members to question and challenge their perception of the problem or
the position they are taking. Training in
this technique helps people adjust their
position and become more flexible.
“Some training in questioning skills
that engage people in problem solving,
along with effective listening and reality testing can minimize the adversarial
approach and keep everyone working
together,” he adds.
—Neil Denny, The Wilsher Group,
Monkton Combe, Bath, Avon, England
CLASS IS IN SESSION
To prevent such losses, project managers who undergo training can become
true leaders, capable of clearing up
employee misunderstandings, more
effectively handling difficult team
members, negotiating sensitive issues,
assigning responsibilities and holding
Lesson One: Start with
“Typically, team members are so worried about staying positive that they
avoid difficult or crucial conversations,”
Mr. Furlong says.
When something unpleasant rears
its head, many team members aren’t
Lesson Two: Brainstorm
Group brainstorming sessions can
explore the kinds of behavior that help
team members achieve greater collaboration.
In workshops, Mr. Denny has project managers and team members identify obstacles or challenges they are
facing. Next, he forms mixed teams that
select one challenge and discuss it for
“When it comes to the debrief, the
group is asked questions such as, ‘How
did you approach and debate the issue?’
rather than concentrating on the specific
issue itself. This focuses on the ‘
meta-conversation’ or ‘how we talk about what
we are talking about,’” he explains.
As a result, “the group is often
able to identify for itself behaviors
that assisted conflict resolution, such
as listening to others, not talking over
people, not rushing to conclusions or
solutions and asking questions,” says
Mr. Denny, who also serves as an associate at the training and coaching consultancy The Wilsher Group in Monkton
Combe, Bath, Avon, England.
Training can go one step further to
“align and harmonize everyone’s expectations with a team-developed set of
team values or ground rules,” Mr. Furlong says.