Uma closely monitored the quantitative performance of the project by comparing actual work completed to budgeted work that should be complete. She also spent time around the project core team to find out if they had any issues affecting their performance.
Scott stopped by Uma's office one day to discuss an issue regarding one of his team members. Tom, the systems administrator (who is a consultant from another company), had not been performing well during the last couple of weeks. He seemed to be preoccupied and had made a couple of mistakes. Since these were in the development and testing environment, the consequences were controllable. Scott mentioned that Tom is a very intelligent person and it is not his usual habit to make these types of mistakes. He wanted Uma's advice on how to deal with the situation. Uma advised Scott to take Tom out for lunch, talk to him casually, and find out if he is having any personal problems.
Over lunch, when Scott asked him if there were any problems, Tom mentioned to him that his company had announced a merger with another solutions company; there would be a reduction in force and he was worried about it. Scott assured Tom that he would do anything he could to help him be secure in his job. Scott returned from lunch and updated Uma. Uma talked this issue over with Gary, who told her that Tom had been a consultant with the company for the last six years and was a valuable asset. If Tom were laid off, Gary could secure an agreement from Tom's company to allow him to work as independent consultant for the duration of the project. Gary told Uma that, if Tom is interested, he could perhaps join CSM later. Uma asked Scott to convey this message to Tom. Tom felt secure and his performance improved.
Jeff and Elizabeth developed a personal relationship during the course of the project, but recently their relationship ended. As this became public, some of the team members avoided having Elizabeth and Jeff in the same meeting. As the project was nearing the completion stage, Elizabeth's team had a major role in accepting the system for day-to-day operations. Uma talked with Jeff and Elizabeth separately to ensure that their personal issues didn't impact the team's performance.
Scott could have simply stated to Tom in a private setting, "I noticed that you made two errors recently. This is so unlike you. Is anything getting in your way? Is there any way I can be helpful?" A skilled leader speaks to the behavior and the facts, not to assumptions.
In the second situation, private meetings may or may not be wise. Again, a simple factual statement to the team is usually best. The leader might say to the team, "I am aware that some team members are not being invited to meetings they should attend. That can negatively impact the project. I assume that everyone will behave responsibly and not let any external matters affect how we treat each other".
In supervising work performance, project leaders need to define their work expectations to enable the individual contributors to understand what they are supposed to do, how they should do it, and their degree of freedom. Then the project leaders need to assess the work as it is being performed so they can apprise the workers how their actual performance compares with the expectations. The twin goals at this point are to (1) close the gap between the performance and the expectation so the project work can be completed as planned, and (2) help the workers improve.
A key balancing act at this point is to determine how much focus should be on achieving the project goals versus how much time should be spent on improving individual work performance. In most situations the work of the project cannot be sacrificed for improved worker training and education. A wise project leader will learn how to keep the focus squarely on project work performance while simultaneously giving individual workers immediate feedback that will help in their growth and development.
A few ideas project leaders may want to keep in mind as they supervise work performance include:
Lead by example so you can establish trust, integrity, and mutual sharing in both work performance and professional growth and development. A wise leader will seize opportunities to help the hands-on workers improve and to help himself improve.
Involve workers in communicating work progress. Project leaders are almost always challenged in terms of time. If she needs to monitor every worker's performance closely, a project leader may be very limited in her ability to complete a myriad of other project leadership responsibilities. Along with laying out expectations for the work, she also should lay out expectations for reporting the work. (This should have been accomplished in communications planning.) Wise project leaders will begin to understand which workers can be trusted to report their work progress at less frequent intervals versus those who need to be managed more closely.
Regard helping others reach their potential as a key responsibility and a source of personal fulfillment. A project leader should help individuals assess their strengths and weaknesses as a means of facilitating their professional growth.
Be a good trainer and mentor. Some feedback discovered while supervising work performance will suggest group training needs and some will suggest individual mentoring as the preferred vehicle for improvement. The old saying that "when the pupil is ready the teacher will appear" pertains here. The project leader needs to help the individual workers understand when a teacher is needed and often must be that teacher herself. Project leaders need to decide when more efficient group training is sufficient versus when more time-consuming mentoring is needed.
A Project Leader Needs to:
Accept that actual project results need to be compared to planned project results
Have the courage to uncover reasons for work performance problems
Exercise the wisdom to do so in a fair yet effective manner.