Four key drivers for team engagement

4 key drivers for team engagement“Project management as we know it today is broken,” said Ty Kiisel at the Pink Elephant conference in Las Vegas last month, “and as a software vendor we were part of the problem.” Ty talked about why the command and control methods of managing people that were popular now no longer work. He explained that if you employ these methods, you get project information that is untrustworthy, and you create an overly structured work environment that people dislike.

He talked about the four key drivers for team engagement: things that fly contrary to the command and control management methods and that give you much better results from a project team.

1. I am empowered to do what I do best

Delegate. Let the people doing the work do the work. That’s the easiest way of making people feel empowered. Let them make the decisions, even if you provide some oversight. You should be there to pull in the reins when necessary, not to spoon-feed them all the answers.

2. I have the right tools

“Social media has taught us lots of really important things about collaboration,” Ty said. People share conversational information about what they’re doing. People receive positive feedback from a network of friends. The tools to do the job are really important – whether they are social media-type tools to improve efficiency and collaboration at work, or ‘hard’ tools like scheduling software.

Give them what they need to do the job. Not having the right software installed, or not being “allowed” to have access to expensive software like Microsoft Project is another source of frustration. Don’t let that become a reason why project team members fail to deliver on their milestones. Help them get the job done by making sure they have everything they need.

3. I am recognised for my contribution

Ty’s company, AtTask, did some research and their survey showed that 40% of people don’t think that their managers have an understanding of the contribution that individual team members make. 60% said the executives don’t have a good understanding of an individual’s contribution and their value.

Not being appreciated is a huge source of frustration for project team members. Work often goes unrecognised. This is particularly true if you work odd hours to cope with project team members overseas, and some of the time you are working is not sitting outside the executives’ offices. Late nights and early mornings are often required for international conference calls, and that effort can go unnoticed.

I have tried to overcome this by putting a note in my calendar to say thank you to someone every week. Scheduling this activity is not very spontaneous, and I don’t always do it, but at least it prompts me to think about the project team and recognise their efforts.

4. I know what is expected of me

In my opinion, this is the thing that most undermines team engagement. If people don’t know what you want them to do, they can’t possibly do it. Set clear boundaries. Make sure that everyone on the project team knows what their role is and how they can contribute effectively to the overall project objectives. This is not difficult to do: work with their line manager if you have to.

“We need to start looking at projects in the context of all work,” Ty said. Projects shouldn’t be done differently to other types of work. The traditional approach, he explained, is that if I control everything then I will know what is going to get done. Ty recommended that we move towards a different model “If my people tell me what they’re going to do then I will know what’s going to get done,” he said. This is the new, empowered, approach. “Getting commitment from the team is better than telling them what to do.”

I agree. Do you?



  1. says

    Hi Elizabeth – These are all great points and they all work together, especially, appreciating your team and giving them what they need to get the job done.  Not giving the team access to an expensive product or giving them the wrong tools, can be taken as saying ‘it’s not worth it to make this investment in you’ or ‘your contribution to the team is not worth it’.  That can be severely damaging.

    Anyhow, thanks for sharing! – Aly 

    • says

      In my time I’ve come across several team members asking for access to systems that I don’t think they really need to do their job. However, telling them that is damaging to the working relationship between us and between them and the people who are granted access to systems and tools. On balance, it is worth that small investment to grant them access to a tool (assuming they can’t do any damage with it) for the sake of showing them how much they are valued. After all, you can take the licence away from them and reallocate it to someone else later on, when they realise themselves that they don’t need access to that product after all.

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