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Selecting and Motivating a Successful Project Team - 16th June 2015

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The main theme of the June event is about building and managing an effective project team.  The talk entitled “Selecting and Motivating a Successful Project Team” was presented, as usual, at Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club on 16.6.2015.  The presentation by Mr. Steve Palfrey and Mr. Martin Woods focused on some of the key aspects of appropriate team selection, objective-setting, motivation, communication and conflict resolution.  These principles were demonstrated based on their experience of complex projects successfully completed in Hong Kong. 

CBRE is the world’s premier, full-service real estate services company.  Steve Palfrey is currently Executive Director for the CBRE project management team in Hong Kong.  CBRE Hong Kong has successfully completed over 170 projects for more than 100 different clients over the past seven years.  Steve has over 20 years of strategic and operational experience in design, project management, delivery and operations.  Martin Woods, Managing Director, has been in Hong Kong for more than 20 years as both a consultant and as a client representative.  He leads CBRE’s project management team, comprising over 1,000 professional staff in Asia Pacific. 

The presentation began with the understanding and importance of strong teams.  A comparison was made between successful people and unsuccessful people.  The former always talk about new ideas; the latter, about people.  The former give compliments, but the latter always criticize.  In today’s constantly changing, fast-paced environment, it is not surprising to learn, all too frequently, successful people embrace change to benefit the project while the unsuccessful ones resist changes.  The former continuously learn new things to equip themselves for new challenges while the latter think they know everything; the former take responsibility while the latter escape it and blame others for their failure, so-called the blame culture in Hong Kong.  This simple comparison already highlights some key characteristics, among others, of effective, strong-performing teams.  

Apart from team members, the team leader also plays a very important role in the success of a project team.  Clearly defined goals and well defined roles are essential so that each team member understand the purpose and vision of the team and the classified risks.  These make people work together towards the end goals of the project.  Clear goals create ownership and foster team unity, but these require a good leader, who is also a good coach, to identify and define.  Team members should have well defined roles to understand their own responsibilities for deliverables and schedules at different stages of the project.  It is the responsibility of the project manager to ensure that is accomplished.

Turning to motivating the team, Martin emphasized the positive mindset and building a positive environment.  A successful team works together in an open and honest environment.  He advised the project manager to open their ears to listen to others and learn something new.  “When you talk, you are only repeating what you already know.  But if you listen, you may learn something new.”  The audience was told of Dalai Lama’s saying.  Project managers therefore need to prepare to listen, using effective listening techniques.  Team members are free to express their feelings, no hidden agendas.  He also quoted what Bruce Lee, a Chinese Kung Fu star, had said: “Knowing is not enough, we must apply.  Willing is not enough, we must do.”

If there are conflicting projects and responsibilities, it is the role of the project manager to resolve for the team members.  Using Thomas Kilman Conflict Mode, Martin introduced the “Uncooperative to Cooperative” against the “Unassertive to Assertive” matrix to explain the conflict management.  There is a menu of strategies we can choose from when there are conflicting situations: 1. Accommodating – the goal is to yield, allowing others to satisfy their concerns, 2. Avoiding – the goal is to delay, paying no attention to the conflict and taking no action, 3. Compromising – the goal is find a middle ground, attempting to resolve a conflict by identifying a solution, 4. Competing – the goal is to win, using formal authority to satisfy one’s concern, and 5. Collaborating – the goal is to find a win-win solution, cooperating with the other party to understand their concerns.  There are many conflicting situation that should be handled by one or more of the above strategies.  There is no right or wrong strategies, and there is not always the best solution, as Martin strongly advised.

The presentation went on to discuss selecting the right project team and how to manage people to accomplish their goals.  We need to choose people for their technical talents, the ones are of right skills for the job and give support to the project team leader.  Apart from technical competencies, communication, two-way communication, in particular, among team members also plays a major role.  We need to overcome the negative attitude if the project is to be successful.  For team management, a project manager should look at collocation to achieve maximum productivity, accountability, effective communication, team building.  It is important to get the right set of people and build the project team right from the beginning.  


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