PM Pointers: A “Needy” Team Member Is a Project Risk

A solely results-oriented project manager (PM) sees every project as a personal opportunity to achieve success. On the other hand, some PMs see a project as a series of process steps where their individual role is simply to check boxes.

Neither of these approaches is effective.

To be a great PM, one needs an array of leadership skills. The most critical leadership skill required from project managers is genuine care about the project team members. If you genuinely care about individual contributors you can achieve extraordinary results.

TLC is a natural part of caring about people. Although some team members need more TLC than others.

tending to garden

Extra TLC Requires Extra Emotional Energy

Let’s say your new project was approved. You’ve started executing on a well-crafted plan, but off the bat you feel that the team is uneven. Some of the folks are excited about the project while others seem more distant or outright difficult:

  • Casey has been saving up to buy a condo and seems more preoccupied with househunting than with work.
  • Joe is pleasant and chatty but doesn’t take responsibility for any tasks. There’s a rumor he has incriminating information about one of the executives, so he doesn’t have to try hard to keep his job.
  • Sarah is an incredible designer, but feels meetings are a waste of time. Now, after missing a few, she is not on the same page with the rest of the team.

Having someone on the team who needs extra TLC to get them focused can drag your project down. You only have so much time in a day, and project management is already a full-time responsibility. Taking time out of your day to deal with a high-maintenance team member puts the project in jeopardy.

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What to Do with Needy Team Members

In most cases, we recommend project managers (PMs) try as hard as they can to replace attention-guzzling resources.

However, that’s not always possible. Let’s say that you have done everything you could to drop the productivity-vampires off your project, and despite your best efforts they are still on the team.

You’ll need to plan around the risks they present, and perhaps turn some disadvantages into advantages.

The first step is to point out these needy resources to the project sponsor, stakeholders, and HR. This is the least you can do to mitigate the risk down the line.

Next, apply calculated amounts of TLC in a targeted fashion to see your team perform better as a whole. Regardless of the tactic, a scientific approach to applying targeted TLC will look something like this:

Process Map - identify team member - try targeted approach - mitigate risk

4 Types of Team Members Who Need Extra TLC

Team members that require extra attention fall into one of four categories. Each type requires a different kind of TLC. Some techniques will work for one but could backfire on others. Click through for dedicated posts on each:


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