Dale Carnegie’s famous book offers timeless lessons in getting things done and forming productive relationships. His section on leadership is particularly valuable for project managers as they have to win the hearts and minds of their team members in order to successfully deliver projects.
Begin with praise and honest appreciation
If you have to deliver constructive feedback to a team member, while it is never a good idea to send mixed messages or use the “sandwich” approach, recognize the good work done by them before letting them know what needs to be improved. While it may not entirely eliminate any hurt feelings, the team member is much more likely to be receptive to the feedback.
This is especially crucial if you are working in a matrix environment where project managers may not possess any formal authority over their team members.
Ask questions instead of giving direct orders
It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it.
You might get grudging cooperation by directing a team member to resolve an issue or worse, by telling them exactly how you’d like it done but you are unlikely to make them feel empowered. Instead, if you can call their attention to the issue through questions such as “Do you feel that X is likely to impact our timelines, and if so, what could we do to resolve it?” they will be more likely to take ownership of the situation.
Give the other person a fine reputation to live up to
Whether you are trying to motivate a team member or are providing performance coaching, if you can inspire them by expressing the respect you have for their abilities, they will be much more likely to challenge themselves to do better.
On a long running project, drive and enthusiasm often flag as time passes, but instead of criticizing team members for reduced velocity, remind them of how well they had delivered the first few milestones and ask open ended questions to understand what you can do to help them continue to deliver in such a quality fashion.
Make the other person happy about doing the thing you suggest
It’s not manipulation – it’s answering the natural WIIFM question which everyone has when asked to do something. Yes, your team members have to work on your project because that’s their job but why should they give you anything more than a good day’s work? While it may seem easier to do this when there are financial incentives attached to successful project completion, authentic, heart-felt recognition and being able to make a meaningful difference will be more compelling motivators. Engage your sponsor or project customer to help inspire your team members by showing the impact their work creates.
So what’s the WIIFM in this for YOU?
John D. Rockefeller’s quote from Carnegie’s book sums it up the best “The ability to deal with people is as purchasable a commodity as sugar or coffee. And I will pay more for ability than for any other under the sun.”