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Managing a project team isn’t easy. Wrangling resources, making sure work gets completed on time, and keeping everyone motivated and on task can be just as messy as the humans that are doing the work. 

So, how can you effectively manage your project team? It’s about learning how to work with different personality types, and sometimes, implementing the right project management software.

What Is Team Management?

Team management is the process of organizing, motivating, and assigning tasks to the people and resources that will be working on your specific project. 

As the project manager, you’re responsible for creating a project brief, a RACI chart, and a project plan to make sure the team is clear on what needs to be done, who’s doing what, and when everything is due.

You’ll also need to keep an eye on team workloads, stress levels, and burnout warning signs. Your project team members aren’t machines—and even if they were, robots need maintenance time too!

How To Manage A Project Team

Every member of your project team will have their own quirks and preferences—lean into these. The tips below can serve as general best practices when managing any kind of team and the personalities you’ll find within them. 

1. Use Project Software

When managing a project team, it’s helpful to have one place to store all the information your team will need about the project—tasks, project requirements, due dates, assignments, deliverables, project objectives, milestones, etc. That place is usually project management software. 

Finding the right project management software or resource management software will make your life as the project manager a lot easier.

It can help you keep track of who is currently working on what, how much progress they’ve made on their tasks, and what each team member’s workload looks like. It’s more difficult to assess everyone’s capacity without software. 

example of resource management in project management software
Here's an example of how project management software helps: you can see capacity, assignments, and total workloads in one view.

It’s also key for dealing with the workaholics on your team. They’re machines when it comes to getting work completed, but they could probably use a break.

Software can help you see exactly what’s on their plate so you can shift some of their tasks to someone else with more capacity. Giving them the right amount of work will keep them motivated and prevent burnout. 

how to manage a project team the workaholic
Keep your workaholics in check—they can't be their usual workhorse selves if they get burned out.
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2. Create A Psychologically Safe Environment

A psychologically safe environment is one in which your team feels empowered and encouraged to share their feedback, ideas, and thoughts with the rest of the team. Without this, you might miss out on great ideas because your team members don’t feel comfortable speaking up.

Psychological safety is especially important for the introverts on your team. Introverts thrive in situations where they feel comfortable and safe speaking their minds. They’re already prone to silence—without psychological safety, you might never hear from them.  

how to manage a project team the introvert
Get your introverts to share their great ideas by creating a safe, welcoming environment where everyone feels heard.

Here are a few tactics you can use to create psychological safety:

  • Establish clear expectations around communication and behavior that emphasize respect and openness. 
  • Build feedback loops into your processes by meeting regularly with team members, soliciting feedback, and then actioning that feedback to ensure everyone feels heard. 
  • Recognize and reward team members for ideas, feedback, and instances where they go above and beyond what is expected of them. 
users can give feedback and collaborate projects
Having guidelines in place for respectful and open communication is important for psychological safety.

3. Create A RACI Chart

A RACI chart outlines who is responsible, accountable, consulted, and informed for each project task. Team members can refer to the chart as they’re working through their tasks to get feedback and input from the appropriate team members.

Project managers can also use it to delegate specific tasks to the team. If you’re using project management software, it’s likely that your tool offers a RACI template. 

The control freaks on your team will be well-served by a proper RACI chart. These team members will likely want to be involved with and give feedback on every task in the project.

Mark them as responsible or accountable for tasks or project deliverables that you know they’ll be able to nail, and make it clear where they are only to be informed or consulted—or where they shouldn't be involved at all.

how to manage a project team the control freak
Preserve that keen eye for detail that control freaks have, and deploy them where they'll shine so they can be most effective.

Here are a few RACI best practices:

  • Try to assign one person as “responsible” for each task, rather than multiple people or a group. This limits confusion as to who is actually working on something. 
  • Avoid making yourself (i.e. the project manager) accountable for everything. This prevents you from becoming a bottleneck in the process. 
  • Clarify the difference between consulted and informed. People that are informed typically don’t give feedback, but those that are consulted can. 
raci matric template example
Creating a RACI chart is an easy way to clarify who is working on what throughout the project.

4. Be Decisive But Flexible

Good leadership means being decisive and taking ownership for the decisions that you make. This doesn’t mean you need to etch your path in stone, however. Remain flexible and open to new ideas, alternate decisions, or changes brought on by something out of your control. 

You’ll get better at this through trial and error as you manage more teams and make more decisions—you’ll develop a gut feel for when to make a decision and when to hold off and wait for more information. 

This skill is important for managing the unsung heroes on your team. They are the type of team member to put their heads down and get work done, but they need strong leadership and direction to be effective. 

how to manage a project team the unsung hero
Your unsung heroes will flourish under your strong leadership—be decisive and make your expectations crystal clear.

Prioritize their work for them and give them clear instructions, but hear them out when they have a suggestion—they’re always in the weeds, so they’ll have plenty of first-hand info to help you with decision-making. 

5. Communicate Effectively

This one’s pretty obvious—clear communication is essential for making sure everyone knows what the plan is and what they should be working on.

Effective communication is also critical for the daydreamers working on your project. People that are lost in thought with creative ideas or new approaches are great to have on your team, but they can sometimes miss important information you give them. 

how to manage a project team the daydreamer
All that time daydreaming leads to good ideas, but make sure to keep your daydreamers motivated and on task.

Set expectations and train them to hone in on what information they need to do their work well and make use of those daydreams. 

Here are a few strategies for improving your communication:

  • Be action-oriented and use clear verbs in your instructions. Cut out unnecessary fluff and details and focus on what the next step should be for the reader or listener. 
  • Keep it consistent with timing, formatting, channels, and even color-coding. Sending a status update in Slack one week vs over email the next will only confuse the team. 
  • Include the right team members. Get the message out to those that need it without bombarding everyone else’s notifications. 
communication plan sample screenshot
A communication plan is a useful tool for keeping stakeholders and team members on the same page.

6. Establish Clear Metrics

Determine which KPIs you’ll use to determine how much progress the team is making throughout the project life cycle and whether their work is on track to meet project goals and stakeholder expectations. 

Loop the team in on metrics—if they don’t know what to work towards, how can you expect project success? 

Setting clear metrics is particularly useful for the innovators on your team. They have great ideas and clear plans for implementing those ideas, but they need guardrails. Strike a balance between letting their creativity flourish and making sure their work still delivers on the project needs and expectations. 

how to manage a project team the innovator
Innovators are visionaries, but they don't always follow through. Give them proper guardrails, and keep them on task with clear metrics.

Here are some metrics you should consider using:

  • Sprint velocity: Used in Scrum, sprint velocity is a measure of how much work the team is completing in any given sprint (a predetermined amount of time, usually two to four weeks). Velocity should increase as the team gels and gets used to the project. 
  • Earned value management: This puts a dollar value on the amount of work that’s been done and compares it to how much budget has been used. It provides a more accurate picture of project progress than how much work has been done in a given time. 
  • Resource utilization rate: This measures how much billable work team members have on their plates and whether it’s feasible. Don’t aim for 100% utilization—people need time for things like meetings, emails, and coffee breaks. Shoot for between 70 and 80%. 
click up screenshot example
Here's an example (via ClickUp) of the kind of dashboard you can create in project management software. As you can see, it makes keeping track of key metrics a lot simpler.

7. Hold Team Building Activities

It’s easy to understand why many project managers skip team building activities—tight deadlines mean there’s often barely enough time for the project work to get done, let alone a fun bonding activity.

But if you can squeeze something in between projects (or even icebreakers into your internal kickoff meetings), it will go a long way to building collaboration and teamwork amongst the team, which will result in higher quality, more successful projects. 

Team building activities are where the personality hires on your team can shine. This isn’t a dig—the so-called “personality hire” is typically a strong collaborator and social connector.

Give them a starring team role in whichever activity you choose, and they’ll rally the team and kickstart effective teamwork.

how to manage a project team the personality hire
Lean on your "personality hires" to get the team collaborating and motivated.

Here are a few ideas:

  • Try easy icebreakers for internal meetings, such as sharing fun facts, a favorite trip they’ve taken, or whether they’ve met any celebrities. 
  • A virtual or in-person scavenger hunt or escape room—this tests teamwork and collaboration.
  • A team happy hour—this is a great opportunity for team members to get to know each other (but make sure to be considerate of team members that don’t drink).

8. Give The Team Autonomy

Don’t micromanage your team—let them make decisions about how they want to work. Allow them to own their creative ideas and chime in when there’s a process or deliverable that is hindering the team or the project.

Your job as the project manager is to steer the team in the right direction, rather than dictate exactly how everything should be done. 

This is great for the devil’s advocate on your team. Give them enough autonomy to challenge the status quo and your usual process, while still providing enough leadership to make sure they don’t go too far afield. 

how to manage a project team the devil's advocate
Let your devil's advocates be the contrarians they are, but set clear boundaries and teach them to be constructive.

9. Celebrate Wins

Celebrating wins, big and small, is a great way to keep your team motivated and engaged in their work. Find out what each team member prefers when it comes to recognition (i.e. do they like to be publicly recognized? Would they prefer a private message?). 

On most project teams, you’ll also likely find a cheerleader  who is always hyping up their team members. It’s important for you as the team leader to shout out excellent work, but empower your team to do so as well. 

how to manage a project team the cheerleader
Your cheerleaders will help you keep morale and motivation high, as well as celebrate those much deserved wins.

Here are a few ways you can celebrate wins:

  • Send the team member a card—virtual or handwritten.
  • Give them a little reward if you can. This might be a gift card to their favorite coffee shop or taking them out for lunch. 
  • Create a designated place for shout outs. Set up a designated Slack channel or a whiteboard that anyone can add a shout out to. 

Tools For Managing Project Teams

Managing an effective team becomes a lot harder without a centralized place to keep an eye on what the team is working on and what’s coming down the pipeline.

Project management tools give you insight into capacity, workload, and whether someone has too much or too little to do. It’s a lot easier to manage than manually updating an Excel spreadsheet every morning, and team members can use it to communicate about project work and give each other feedback. 

It can also make your Gantt charts and Kanban boards visible to everyone on the team, which increases transparency and accountability.

Here are the best project management software tools available on the market right now:

When choosing a tool, make sure to check for integrations with other software you’re already using (Google Drive, Slack, Microsoft Teams, etc.) so data and information is visible in all your platforms. 

Need expert help selecting the right Project Management Software?

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Nuala Turner
By Nuala Turner

Nuala is the Editor of The Digital Project Manager. Her background is in content strategy, content production, and managing projects. She brings a strong editorial eye and a passion for connecting with experts in the field and teasing out their stories, as well as ensuring digital project managers are winning at work and smashing projects out of the park.