“What roles?! There are only three roles in this project: project manager, assistant and financial officer!” This was a response from a participant in a “Giving positive feedback training for managers” at the point we were discussing how to get the best from team members to achieve success. And that answer made me sad.
“She should resign from this position. She is more of the creative type”, I heard one day in respect of a team member of a diplomatic mission.
What the two above have in common? The missed opportunity to look beyond and to put to use the best of everyone for the project.
Job descriptions are necessary. No doubt. They offer clarity and a certain protection to staff. As it was the case of a driver in a project team who was asked by a consultant to deal with his expired driving license. “Sorry, Mark, it is not his job. If you need help, we can talk about it outside working hours and see if I have private connections to guide you through the right procedures”, was my response back then. It protected my colleague and offered clarity on roles in the project.
Back to roles and missed opportunities. People are different and this makes their skills and competencies complementary in a project/team. It is the project manager’s job to ensure this complementarity. To do that, he/she needs to learn what each member of the team is best at, ideally before the start of the project.
There are a variety of ways to do that. I remember a team building retreat we had at the World Bank, when each was asked to describe the skills he/she brings to the team. Through a skillful moderator we realised how many various skills we bring individually to the team and how, as a result, we make the team collectively strong and unique.