I believe that every person has his own strengths and he may or may not be aware of them. In corporate world, it is the job of Managers / Leaders to identify the strengths of the employees and utilize them effectively for the growth of employees themselves and ultimately growth of the organization.
Being a project manager (and also a Leader!), one of the most important tasks is to develop strengths of team members. On the basis of my experience, I would like to share my thoughts and few steps to achieve this.
Following are the 5 steps that I would suggest to develop strengths of team members:
1. Identify the strengths of team member
As a Project Manager, you work with your team every day. You discuss with your team members about project, requirements, tasks, schedule, efforts, reports etc. Sometimes, you may also discuss about topics which are not related to day to day work, like movies, food, politics, different places etc.
From these conversations, you can easily find out the hidden talents of your team members. One of your team members may be very good in presentation skills. Somebody may be very organized and always prefers to put the documents at right place. Somebody may have in-depth knowledge of a specific domain, may be different from your project. Somebody takes initiative to learn new technology and share with others.
These are the pointers towards strengths of each team member. You need to note down these strengths for next steps. Need to keep in mind that sometimes the talents of a team member are not exposed because of his personality. E.g. Even though a team member is very good in application design, he may not be able to present the skills because he is a shy person. So, you have to be alert all the time to identify the hidden talent and strengths of your team members.
2. Make the team member aware of his strengths and their importance
Once you identify the strengths, next step is to discuss about them with the team member. Do not assume that he is aware of his strengths. Let’s take an example. A Test Engineer in your project participates very actively in the discussion when you talk about Capital Market. He explains the Capital Market terms, dealings, types of stocks, market updates etc. in detail and in easy to understand language. In this case, discuss with him about his excellent domain knowledge, explain the importance of gaining domain knowledge in IT organization. Guide and motivate him to get certification in the respective domain. Explain how it will help him in his career as well as to the organization.
Let’s take another example. There is a .Net developer in your team, who always follows best practices in the code. He uses design patterns, follow best practices very effectively. However, he may think that this is what is expected from a developer and there is nothing great about it. Although, he is right, every developer in your team may not have same understanding and knowledge. So, it is very important to share the knowledge and best practices of this developer with other team members. As a Project Manager, you need to discuss with the developer, appreciate his skills and describe how important it is to follow the best practices/patterns in application development, share the same with other team members and appreciate his good job. Guide and motivate him to write articles, white papers, blogs etc. and explain how it will help him in his career growth.
3. Find opportunities for team member
Once the strengths of team member are discussed with him, then it is the responsibility of Project Manager to identify the right opportunities for the team member where he can actually use the strengths of team members effectively.
Some examples are-
- Assign appropriate role to the team member where he can explore his strengths. You may have to switch the team members across the projects to give such opportunities. A Test Engineer, who is also an expert in banking & finance domain, may perform better in Business Analyst role in a BFS application project. Check the feasibility to assign such role to him.
- Give additional responsibilities to team member, which are aligned with his strengths. If you could communicate the importance and benefits of these extra responsibilities to him, then he will accept the responsibilities willingly and will also put extra efforts to fulfil them. A developer, who always follows best practices in coding, will be ready to put extra efforts to conduct presentations and trainings on coding best practices for different teams.
4. Provide feedback to team member
Once you provide right opportunity to your team member, start observing his performance either in his new role or towards the additional responsibilities. Note the observations, including improvement areas, and provide feedback to him regularly. Also, you may redirect him to a Subject Matter Expert (SME) in the respective area. E.g. if the new role of a developer is Business Analyst, you may ask him to discuss with a Senior Business Analyst and get his guidance on processes, documentations, presentations etc.
You need not have to wait for year-end appraisal discussion to give such feedback.
5. Don’t ignore improvement areas of team member
While finding the strengths of the team member, do not ignore improvement areas of the team member. Let me give an example. A developer in your team may be very strong in designing and coding of the application, however, he may be lacking in communication skills. That means, he may not be able to present his application design/architecture effectively to team members and client. Effective communication is one of the key skills while moving up on the career ladder. Lack of communication skill will become hurdle for the developer. So, you need to make him aware of this hurdle and guide him to take right actions to improve on communication skills. Probably, ask him to attend a training session on communication. Give him samples and examples of emails, presentations etc.
What do you get out of this?
More productive, effective and self-organized team!
That’s the key benefit for you as a Project Manager and Leader. If each team member feels that he is getting the kind of work he is looking for, with enough challenges, then he will be more satisfied, innovative & more productive. It will contribute toward building a strong and self-organized team. Obviously, it will make your life easy!
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