Inspired Project Teams

Enduring Wisdom & Guided Challenges to Help Project Teams Achieve Their Best

  • Apr 28

    Image: Authority & Responsibility in Balance (scales)Remember the first time you were trusted — truly trusted — to act on behalf of someone? Maybe it was babysitting your kid brother so your parents could have that special night out or taking care of your aunt’s favorite plants and her beloved old dog while she went on vacation.  You know the kind of trust I’m talking about: the kind that weighs on you a little and causes you to take a deep breath and say to yourself, “I can do this! This is really important and I can do this!” Remember what that felt like the first time you experienced it?

    That kind of trust can be a powerful motivator. And it can be even more compelling when it’s accompanied by the full authority— money, tools, decision-making power — to take action.  Feeling the responsiblity for handling an important job and knowing you have the authority to make things happen somehow helps you stand a little taller and strengthens your resolve to do great work — to prove that the trust isn’t misplaced. So, in the end, trusting people completely can inspire them to do their best.

    So You Say You Trust Me? Prove It!

    To clarify, it’s not enough for you to say, “I trust you to do this job” and then withhold meaningful authority by requiring me to ask your permission to make simple decisions or by forcing me to beg for resources to get the job done. No. If you really trust me to do the job, then you’ll give me the full authority (decision-making power, money, tools, people, etc.) that enables me to do it. By granting me this breadth of authority, you prove that you trust me. And, given that proof, I will be more likely to work hard to ensure that your trust hasn’t been misplaced.

    This balance between authority and responsibility is an important component of all sorts of human relationships. When we strive for and maintain this balance, we ultimately prove that we respect the dignity of those whom we’ve tasked with doing a job. In ethical terms, getting this balance right is simply the fair and decent thing to do!  Whether the work to be done is within the context of your family, a formal work team in an organization or society at large, it’s critical to achieve. This little video illustrates:

    Greer’s Challenges

    The questions below can help you make practical use of these ideas.

    Reflections

    Reflect on these questions:

    • Are you conscious of the authority/responsibility balance when you assign work to team members?
    • Do you have enough authority to do all the chores assigned to you? (If not, how might you get this authority?)
    • What specific actions could you take on behalf of your project team or yourself to better balance the authority and responsibilities of everyone working on your projects?
    Team Challenges 

    Ask your team:

    • Do you feel adequately empowered to do the work assigned to you? (If not, what additional power or resources do you need?)
    • Do you recall any specific situations in which you lacked adequate authority (resources or power) to do your job? (If so, what can we do to prevent this from happening again?)
    Project Manager Challenges 
    • Make certain that everyone on your project team has the power to get and use all the resources they need to do their assigned tasks.
    • Make certain that everyone on your project team has the power to make all the routine decisions necessary to keep from getting “stuck.”
    • Make sure you don’t micromanage your team.
    • If you are currently being micromanaged by your senior managers or don’t have enough authority to make key decisions to keep your project moving or lack the resources (people, tools, money, etc) to get good results, then resolve to do what you need to do (have that “tough talk” or confront that difficult senior manager) and get your authority and responsibility in balance!

    Learn More…

    Check out these related Inspired Project Teams posts/podcasts:

  • Dec 23

    Audio:  Make Time for Recreation [Time – 7:49, File Size – 7.3 MB]

    “Do you know what the word ‘recreation’ means? It means ‘re-creating’ your energy, your enthusiasm. You’re no good to me all burnt out and crispy. So this weekend, go camping with your family or something… anything. Just don’t bring back your musty old, stressed-out self!”  – Anonymous supervisor, my first job out of grad school

    “Rule #24:  One must pay close attention to workaholics: if they get going in the wrong direction, they can do a lot of damage in a short time. It is possible to overload them and cause premature burnout but hard to determine if the load is too much, since much of it is self generated.  It is important to make sure such people take enough time off and that the workload does not exceed 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 times what is normal.” – from One Hundred Rules for NASA Project Managers (Curator: James Atherton)

    “I’ve created the concept of a holi-hour, a shortened version of a holi-day.  I allow myself at least an hour each day to relax totally.” — Susan Jeffers in Feel the Fear… And Do It Anyway

    _____________________________________________

    Energy, enthusiasm, creativity, and the ability to interact pleasantly and productively… if you or your team is going without adequate time off, it is unlikely that they can muster any of these traits in a sustained way.  Simply put: Working around-the-clock without taking time for recreation is not heroic, nor is it even sensible. It can lead to mistakes, low-quality project results, and (worse) to burnt-out team members and even shattered personal lives.

    The trouble is that many professionals — the top-knotch people we all want on our teams — may have accepted a level of overload in their lives when they were in grad school or serving internships that is simply unrealistic and unsustainable over the course of a career. It’s important to their long-term health, and the health of your organization, that they learn to value recreation as much as they value making high-quality professional contributions. The fact is, in the long run, quality results depend upon rested, invigorated people.

    Greers Challenges…

    Read the rest of this entry »

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