Removing the Fear

By Bob McGannon

Of all the means to motivate and inspire employees, a key strategy for the successful project manager is to remove fear from their teams mindset. Replacing that fear with conviction – a confidence and direction that will lead to success – creates formidable teams that, with the right leadership, can quickly move a business forward.

Common amongst all people is the need to feel secure in their work. Project managers multiply their ability to make things happen within their project when they successfully make their teams feel as if they have genuine ownership of their jobs and can grow as a result of their efforts. The first step to instilling this ownership and commitment isremoving the fear from their job environment.

I am not suggesting that project managers should not install as sense of urgency in their employees, or totally diffuse stressful situations. In fact, these are tools that managers should use as part of leading their teams. Removing the fear from employees’ approach to work is a product of successful leadership; employees that are not fearful of taking action, constructively disagreeing with “the PM”, or working with their teammates in a collaborative fashion, move the business forward and make the project manager look good.

Successful leadership techniques that can remove the fear from the job environment include:

MBWA – Managing by walking around, asking questions of team members that are genuine and direct like “What are you working on?” or “Is there anything I can do that would improve your ability to get the job done?” works wonders in demonstrating to employees that you care, and that you make an effort to understand their needs and wants. Do this with some regularity but not so much that it is perceived as a “rote process”. Roundtable discussions, which include the project manager and a dozen or so project employees, are effective for larger organizations.

Be Straightforward – Don’t let your desire to be liked and remove employee fears keep you from being direct, with both good and bad news. A project manager that does not discuss “bad news” will not remove any fear; employees will realize that they aren’t hearing the bad news and fear will return. They will wonder what is happening that you aren’t sharing with them. Anxiety over something that is known is much easier to deal with than things that are unknown. If you manage an organization that is dealing with an issue and you discuss it with your employees openly and frankly, and demonstrate your dedication to being part of the solution with your employees, fear can be turned into determination.

Seek First to Understand – This is right out of Stephen Covey’s “Seven Habits”, and it is right on the money. Project managers that will listen first, in a non-judgmental way, are perceived as approachable by their employees. Employees that are not fearful will bring issues and recommendations for change to their project leaders. This input is invaluable, as it can lead to significant improvements for the organization, or it can serve as an early warning for upcoming issues. Approachability is key for any project manager who wants employees to feel as if they are part of the solution to problems, and part of the success for the project.

Demonstrate a Strategy – Define distinct goals for the project organization, and draw connections between those goals and the tasks you require your team members to perform. Employees that understand the project direction, and can visualize their role in that direction will work with greater focus, and have more confidence in their leadership. This understanding can also lead to idea generation, which can accelerate the improvement process for the organization and in turn can lead to more opportunities for the ambitious employee.

Employ “Contagious Enthusiasm” – Managers that demonstrate a genuine excitement for the business that is being performed can generate a sense of caring that transcends employees’ individual capabilities. Like a sports team that is shooting for the championship, teams lead by a project manager that is enthusiastic can consistently perform at greater levels than previously displayed. Applying enthusiasm can instill buy-in to project or sub-team goals, encourage innovative thinking, and assist leaders in taking their organizations to new levels.

Bob McGannon is a Founder and Principal of MINDAVATION, a motivational speaking, team building and leadership coaching company. MINDAVATION can be reached via the web at WWW.MINDAVATION.COM or by calling 877-544-MIND.


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