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Teaming Tips Case 1: Project Leadership Pyramid | ALiEM Faculty Incubator

Many of you are asked to take a leadership role within your department: managing a research team, joining your administration, or spearheading a clinical effort. It is easy to feel unprepared for these roles, and there are many pitfalls waiting to sabotage your team’s productivity. The ALiEM Faculty Incubator has created a series of 10 case-based teaming problems to provide you with evidence-based advice and solutions for tackling some of the more common problems encountered in our professional team experiences.

Case 1

Your group is excited about a set of new simulation cases and wants to write them up for publication. However, very little progress is being made. The deadline for submission is looming. As the group leader, you are feeling the pressure to just take the reins and do it yourself.

What strategies can you use to ensure that everyone in your group is a productive member of the team?

Project Leadership Pyramid

The Project Leadership Pyramid is a useful framework for successful team management.1 It is comprised of 5 practical leadership principles:

  1. Build a Vision
  2. Nurture Collaboration
  3. Promote Performance
  4. Cultivate Learning
  5. Ensure Results

Step 1: Build a Vision

Rather than considering the base our starting point, as we do with Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs2 or Miller’s Pyramid of Assessment3, let’s tip this pyramid over and look at it differently.

Defining your vision is the first step towards successful completion of your project.

The vision might start with just one idea, but you may need more than just the leader’s view to initiate the climb towards success.

Step 2: Nurture Collaboration

Nurturing collaboration starts with you as the leader. Be a role model.

To do this:

  • Foster open communication.
  • Give and accept constructive feedback.
  • Provide clear expectations and deadlines.
  • Cultivate a culture of trust so that members are not afraid to fail. Learning from failure often inspires!
  • Foster respectful debate and do not shy away from passionate discussion.4

Step 3: Promote Performance

A significant challenge in promoting performance arises when one team member is struggling in their assigned task. This may require reassignment, altering expectations, and above all, encouragement to allow the person to succeed in other ways.5

Additional tips to promote performance:

  • Take breaks. Reassess weather conditions often.
  • Approach schedules and deadlines in a realistic manner.
  • Be prepared to give and receive feedback.
  • Maintain an open mind.

Step 4: Cultivate Education

To keep your team moving onward and upward, you must facilitate learning by serving as a coach, sharing information, and doing the climb yourself.

  • Nobody expects you to have all of the answers, but you can make a big difference by creating a strong learning environment.
  • An effective leader builds in time to learn, create, and innovate.
  • Establish regular sessions with your team to review performance and share information about accomplishments and obstacles.
  • Give your group room to share ideas and learn from each other. Time spent towards reduction of uncertainty and increased flow of ideas will pay for itself with better performance.

If you want your group’s performance to progress toward results, you need to learn and adapt along the way.

Step 5: Ensure Results

When you are part of a team, your rewards come not only from the joy of your contribution, but also through encouraging, supporting, and cheering the contributions of your fellow climbers along the way.

Leaders must recognize strengths and weaknesses of individual team members. Then, through mentoring or coaching, find an area in which everyone can feel comfortable and learn. This will help individuals become successful, and in so doing, this will ensure success of the entire group!

Case Conclusion

As the deadline looms the leader should take a step back, build the group’s vision, assign and encourage completion of roles, and promote collaboration and continued learning. The entire group (including the leader) will feel more fulfilled when they have made a valued contribution to an overall successful project.
1.
Juli T. The five team leadership principles for project success. In: Dallas, TX; 2011.
2.
Maslow A H. A theory of human motivation. Psychological Review. 1943;50(4):370-396. http://psycnet.apa.org/record/1943-03751-001.
3.
Miller G. The assessment of clinical skills/competence/performance. Acad Med. 1990;65(9 Suppl):S63-7. [PubMed]
4.
Blanchard K, Ripley J, Parisi-Carew E. Collaboration Begins with You. Berrett-Koehler Publishers; 2015.
5.
Ashton DN, Sung J. Supporting Workplace Learning for High Performance Working. International Labour Organization; 2002.
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