Building a great team

02 December 2016

In my option, a project manager’s biggest asset is the team of people around him/her that contribute time, hard work and expertise to get the job done. As project managers, we would be unable to deliver projects and meet deadlines without the support of a dedicated team that work tirelessly to create, build and deliver the products and services that our clients need. It is therefore vital for us to consider carefully how we interact with our teams and how we motivate, inspire and encourage them. Many of the lessons that I’ve learned over the last few years can be summarised in the following list:

Invest in them personally

When you begin to see your team as an asset, you begin to see the value of investing in them. This investment can take on many different forms, but they all communicate the same message to your team – “You are important to me.”

  • Training and skills development – sending them on courses, seminars, conventions, and camps.
  • Flexibility – helping them to find a good work / life balance.
  • Good equipment – giving them the best hardware and software possible to make it easier for them to get the job done.
  • Financially – paying them a competitive salary and performance bonus where possible.
  • Social interaction and team building – making an effort to spend time with them outside of work hours to build stronger relationships.

Never take them for granted

When you begin to see your team as an asset, you realise how easy it is to take them for granted. There are a few simple, but powerful inter-personal skills that will make a big difference:

  • Say “please” and “thank you”.
  • Acknowledge a job well done.
  • Be kind and approach them with a good attitude.
  • Treat your team like you want them to treat you.
  • Lead by example – never expect them to do something that you are not willing to do.

Empower them to succeed

When you begin to see your team as an asset, you understand the need to create an environment where they have the best possible chance to succeed:

  • Set definite boundaries (working times, dress code, office culture, work-flow processes).
  • Communicate expectations clearly (deadlines, company policy, personal goals).
  • Give them the space to make mistakes (without harsh criticism, encouraging them to try again).
  • Reward success (verbal or written affirmation, time off, promotion).

How we are doing it practically

Here are a few examples of how we’ve tried to take this approach on practically over the last few years at Big Blue Door:

  1. Ensuring the whole team attends professional development events and conferences such as DrupalCon.
  2. Supporting formal qualifications such as ScrumMaster and ProductOwners across the team.
  3. Being flexible about working hours and holiday – due to family commitments we have a range of working hours across the team to help fit in school runs, nursery drop-offs and so on. We’ve also supported remote working from Australia over a two-month period to allow one of the team to do some traveling and see family and friends.
  4. Having regular social events, from poker nights, to seeing comedy, or just going to the pub as a group.
  5. Making sure we buy lunch for the whole team every day and have a well-stocked fridge with any treats as requested.


Tony Dungy, a former professional American football player and head coach in the NFL once said:
“Good leadership is about making the lives of your team members better.”

Susan Vobejda, general manager of media licensing and distribution for Bloomberg, phrased it this way:
“Being a leader is not about you. It’s about the people that are on your team and how you can help them be successful.”