Monday, February 27, 2012

Stress Busters for Your Project Team

Satisfying clients, making a profit, hitting deadlines, meeting professional standards, and avoiding liability actions all create stress on A/E/C project teams. Additionally, your team members are also juggling family obligations, fun, hellish commutes, and other personal commitments on top of their work responsibilities. Project managers that master these normal stress inducers report lower turnover, higher productivity and profits, and increased work satisfaction among their team members.

How can you lower your team members’ stress? Encourage your team to try the following four approaches:

1. Set specific, short-term objectives: Young, eager professionals frequently set high, long-range goals for themselves. During interviews and annual reviews, help them think more realistically. Show them they can realize their lofty ideals by scheduling bite-sized objectives. As they complete each one, they will have moved that much closer to the goal. Encourage them to keep a task list and tracking log of their completed actions.

2. Break down assignments into smaller parts: The suggestion above also goes for specific task assignments. Your team members will feel more successful if they break their tasks into manageable subtasks. Completing one or more of these each day gets the momentum up and the project out. We’re all familiar with writing outlines – just do the same thing with your task list.

3. Experiment with time-management techniques: Teach your team to identify the important things and tackle them first. Show them different time management alternatives. Your goal is to help them make their time productive. Help them avoid procrastination; putting off tasks produces even more tension than taking care of them immediately.

4. Learn to say NO: In an effort to prove themselves, many eager professionals take on far too much work with unrealistic deadlines. By learning to periodically say “no” to supervisors and clients, your team members place more reasonable demands upon themselves, and also train those to whom they report, that they won’t willy-nilly accept every request tossed their way.

Set up a support system for your design professionals that can observe and assist then when they’re overwhelmed. Talk this over with your Human Resource Director, if you have one. Assign a mentor to advise each person on your team. Encourage open communication and mutual support among your whole professional staff. Don’t let them perceive their peers as merely competitors for advancement. Another suggestion is to hold a forum to discover what in your office and on your project produces stress. Listen openly to everyone’s thoughts.

Many A/E/C firms work under a “feast or famine” mentality, where there is either too much work or not enough. As much as possible, plan project workload to reduce the stress inherent in your work environment.

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