ASK THE EXPERT: How Can I Better Engage My Project Team?

Featuring Expert Nicole S Bond, PMP

Isn’t this the $20,000 dollar question?

Statistically only 20% of any team is actively engaged. Reality test and ensure that you have your core 20% onboard and then assess for the rest, most importantly get the actively disengaged off the team since they have a negative impact. Once you have identified the positive pole and removed the negative pole, focus on re-engaging the remaining team.

As a Project Manager it is our responsibility to steer the ship.  To ensure that the project is on course, the Project Team is engaged and executing.

There are 2 key “rules” for a Project Manager:

  1. Never harm the Project or the Project Team.
  2. Run to the problem.  Do not wait!

10 Steps for Engagement:

1. Expectations and Accountability. Clearly define expectations. Set SMART goals with the Team and explain impact and accountability.

Provide positive feedback real time and often – this will encourage the behavior to continue. Negative feedback should be given real time so that Project Team members have an opportunity to adjust behaviors as needed.  Do this in a private, direct  yet tactful manner.

2. Communicate, Communicate, Communicate and communicate again.

Communicate frequently, using a variety of methods (i.e. written, verbal, interactive).  Share how the tasks performed by the Project Team impacts the overall project and create value.

3. Ask Questions. Engage the Team in the process of reframing by asking open ended questions.

Keep in mind that communication is a two way street.  Listen to understand rather than listening to reply.

4. Resources. Ensure that the Project Team members have the tools and resources needed to execute the Project deliverables.

5. Train. Include refresher training in bit size chunks to provide the Project Team with an opportunity to grow and learn.

“Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember.  Involve me and I learn.”  Benjamin Franklin

6. Trust. Believe in your Project Team and believe that each and everyone wants to do a good job.

Monitor and control work quality, however avoid micro management.

7. Decision Making. Involve the Team in the decision making process when possible, particularly through the use of Lessons Learned and Business Intelligence.

Use your power as Project Manager for the good of the team.  Be fair and respectful. Pride is concerned with WHO is Right.  Humility is concerned with WHAT is Right.

8. Positivity. Create an environment of success, demonstrate positive and forthright communication. Do not tolerate passive aggression and negativity. Train yourself to have immediate short conversations to praise and correct.

“Bob I can sense your frustration related to the project. I would be happy to discuss these one on one with you. Your comments in today’s scrum were counter productive because they derailed the project discussion. If you need a few moments to vent see me before or after scrum. The meeting is my time to coach the team and discuss project goals and deliverables.”

“Bob thank you for supporting your team today. Your words of encouragement to Jane were a boost to her self esteem and she is more focused. I appreciate your contributions on the team.”

9. Gratitude. Two simple words “Thank you” are often the most appreciated and recognized.

10.  Acceptance. Your role is to lead the project. Team members will or won’t, can or can’t perform. Try your best to communicate and achieve engagement.

Remember…people make their own choice to be engaged, neutral or actively disengaged – you will need to accept this truth above all.


About The Expert:

Nicole  S Bond PMP, is the  Senior Project Manager in the HEOPS Project Management Office (PMO) and works with clients to plan and implement winning Network Development Initiatives and other health plan operations projects. To discuss this article with the author you may contact

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