It’s baseball’s Opening Day: Fanfare, flags flapping, and plenty of excitement. It’s just like the start of a new project, when optimism abounds and the future still looks just like you drew it up in the plan.
Here are some Opening Day tips for project leaders.
Put the optimism to good use
Let everyone know that you share the good feelings and that you have high hopes for the project’s success. Take note of anyone who isn’t on board, take them aside, get them to express their reservations, and see if you can point them in a more positive direction. (It’s much easier to do that now, at the beginning of the project, than later on.)
The team’s euphoria will dissipate soon enough. But with enough memories of a successful launch, they’ll continue working with a sense of purpose.
Bounce back from your losses
Much as I want them to, I know that my Orioles won’t win all of their 162 games this year. In the same way, your project — no matter how well you planned and how good your team is — will hit some bumps along the way. People will make mistakes. They’ll miss deadlines. They’ll get on each other’s nerves.
When the bumps come, don’t panic — and see that the team doesn’t panic either. Analyze the failures — not to assess blame but understand what happened and prevent it from recurring. As the leader, stay focused on the future, never on the past.
Give your team the best chance to succeed
The Orioles will play 162 games this year, but they won’t use the same lineup every day. Sometimes a player needs a day off. Sometimes a righthanded batter will play when the opposing pitcher is a lefty. Manager Buck Showalter will juggle the lineup as often as necessary to give his team the best chances of winning in the long term.
In the same way, you’ll need to change things to respond to circumstances. You won’t always do things exactly the same way, and you won’t ask your people to do the exact same work. Don’t be the captain who stands implacably on deck as his ship sinks under him. Be flexible, and especially be sensitive to your people and their needs. You’re not abandoning your overall game plan. You’re employing tactics to help your team succeed today and again tomorrow.
Are you about to start a new project? What other tips can you suggest to help your team succeed?