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Tips on Leading a Project at Work

by Kristine Tucker

When you're asked to lead a project at work, create a productive, team-centered work environment that produces quality results. It's your responsibility to make sure each team member does her part to make the project a success. Others will see you as a mentor, so set a good example by displaying positive work habits and a strong work ethic.

Remain Authentic

When you're put in charge of a project, keep it real. In other words, be yourself, show a willingness to learn and be open to suggestions. You may be in charge, but you don't want to run the project like a dictator. Your co-workers may have fresh ideas that you never imagined, so respect their views and use your authority wisely. The best leaders realize that change isn’t a threat, and they adapt to it, says management expert Jeff Schmitt in "Forbes" magazine.

Give People the Right Tasks

As a project leader, it's your job to make sure you put people in the right positions and give them tasks that are well-suited to their talents. When you don't know your team members very well, take a survey, meet with each member one-on-one or consult with previous supervisors to uncover each person's experience and qualifications. You may even have to rearrange job responsibilities once you start the project if you find out that one person is more suited to the task. As long as you try to place people in areas that fit their skill sets and they're passionate about their responsibilities, your project will likely end in success.

Manage Your Time and Resources

Set a realistic time frame for the entire project, so each team member knows what she must do and how much time she has to get it done. Break the project into manageable sections, define duties associated with each section and assign tasks to specific members of the team. You may need to create a calendar of deadlines, host weekly or daily meetings to update everyone on progress and oversee the work to make sure team members are doing their part. Make sure each part of the project stays within the budget. You'll likely have to account to upper management -- who may be testing your ability to lead, organize and delegate -- and assure them that everything is in order. By effectively budgeting your time and resources, you could be on track for a promotion.

Stress Team Work

Stress the importance of teamwork. Nobody likes to work with a "do-it-all" or a "know-it-all." Since you're the one who sets the stage for the team, focus on collaborative efforts and make sure everyone knows that her part is critical to the assignment. Praise the team as a whole so they feel unified in their goals. You can express gratitude individually or acknowledge a specific member's contributions, but balance those comments with team-centered praise. Make sure your team members trust you so they do not have to worry that you'll undermine their efforts or take credit for their accomplishments. By creating a positive, team-centered work environment, employees will be less likely to complain if they have to work late or put in extra hours on the project.

Network

Networking is a key ingredient to successful leadership. You may need data from a different department, expertise from a consultant, advice from a senior-level executive or hands-on technical help, to complete a project. Your ability to network could save you valuable time and help you meet deadlines. Sometimes it's not what you know, but who you know. Take time to research all available resources and talk to other project leaders to find out how you can accomplish goals quickly and effectively.

About the Author

As curriculum developer and educator, Kristine Tucker has enjoyed the plethora of English assignments she's read (and graded!) over the years. Her experiences as vice-president of an energy consulting firm have given her the opportunity to explore business writing and HR. Tucker has a BA and holds Ohio teaching credentials.

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