Keeping It Zen: Dealing With Different Personalities In Your Learning And Development Project Teams

Keeping It Zen: Dealing With Different Personalities In Your Learning And Development Project Teams
Summary: Similar to any project teams, Learning and Development project teams are made up of unique individuals, which can result in hot beds for all sorts of behavior and conflict. More often than not, teamwork can get disrupted by personalities. It’s important to identify trends in your team to help develop your strategy for managing from things to meetings milestones.

How To Deal With Different Personalities In Your Learning And Development Project Teams 

We all realize that it’s difficult to get busy sponsors to take a second glance at projects plans or initiatives unless urgently required. Especially in most Learning and Development initiatives, as companies often sees this group as a cost centre. And as long as the project was delivered on time and under budget, it often doesn’t matter how it got there. In most cases, as long as it made money or saved the company money, it is considered a “win”. But what happens when completing the project felt like having a root canal?

Projects are completed and closed out, but not necessarily successful, due to the overruns in cost and schedule. An organization can employ as many bright ideas, innovations, best practices, project methodologies and frameworks, but in the end, the whole premise of a project accomplishing goals relies on individual project team member’s interaction.

5 Behaviors That Undermine Learning And Development Project Teams (And How To Deal With Them)

Everyone is different. Sure, but that’s not always the most wonderful thing to have when trying to hammer out deliverables. Projects can be filled with people with talents, but projects often fail or become everyone’s “pain point” due to the patterns of bad behaviors by individuals in the team.

Below are varieties of bad behaviors that top the list:

  1. Lack of accountability.
    These types of people often appear to be the one in control and have a lot of ideas to solve issues but do not want to act on them. They use statements like “let me know where I can support you” or “send me an email if you need my assistance”. These statements allow them to distance themselves from the situation and point the blame directly to someone else. When this happens, confusion and often frustration take over the project that typically ends with negative results. The best way to avoid this is to collaboratively create a RACI document, which clearly delineates who’s accountable for what.
  2. Resistance to change.
    These types of people are easy to spot. They often stay in the same safe and secure role forever – never moving, settled, and just good where they are. These people will often struggle greatly to get on board with change that directly impacts them. Sometimes resistance to change manifests itself in verbal criticism, nitpicking at details, missed meetings, failed commitments, interminable arguments, or even outright sabotage. These people impact your project since they will likely take time to adapt to any innovation or ideas you may propose. To mitigate, you could try to meet with the resistant personality in person, or even with your business lead to help bring them “onboard” faster. Sometimes all it takes some hand holding to build their project performance.
  3. Aggressiveness.
    These types of people also appear to be in control. They appear to be decision makers and leaders, but in reality other team members are only bullied to agreeing with them. You have to be careful with these team members in your project team. They easily undermine decisions not made by them even if it means derailing the project. Always argumentative, they will challenge your teams’ decisions at every turn. It’s always helpful to ask these types how they would solution the problem. It not only pulls them back to solving the problem, it also puts them back in with the team as a colleague, and not a critic.
  4. Wastefulness.
    Large projects often suffer from bringing on unnecessary people who are unknowingly the cause of waste (MUDA). You don’t need Lean Six Sigma training to recognize when a person or persons are part of the wastes in the organization. A good exercise is to assess if you have too many “cooks in the kitchen”. If you do, then consider leaning out your team. Simple rule: If you can make use of them as Subject Matter Experts, and they aren’t essential to the core project work, you probably don’t need them in your daily check-ins. You can always consult these people with your outputs, their input might be helpful to round out the “bigger picture”, but keeping them in the project would probably just waste resources.
  5. The Lucrezia Borgia.
    If you don’t know who Lucrezia Borgia is, you might want to look her up after this reading this article. There is almost always one Lucrezia Borgia in an organization. This person is bright and clever but evil. They are typically very destructive on your project team. They act as saboteur (intentional or not) and can deftly derail the team with small provocations and constantly causing panic. Sadly, there is no great strategy with managing this type of person in your group, there only exist ways to reduce the impact they have within the team. Your main tactic will be counter sabotage, and coincidentally all of these strategies line up with good project management.

So What NOW?

Project management, whether for Learning and Development projects or another, revolves around sound technical, procedural process. But the success of any project is its people – which all project processes and procedures revolve and interact around. People Centric Project Management (PCPM) teaches us about focusing on how individuals behave and adapt in a project-centered environment rather than process. Poor communication, lack of leadership, unclear lines of authority, and office politics are often linked to people’s bad behavior in the team. PCPM encourages project managers to view project management holistically – from the traditional project management with the addition of people-centric management techniques. We will not go into what it means to incorporate people-centric project management here, but the key is to be aware of the ones we mentioned already, along with other toxic behaviors that individuals in your project team are exhibiting. Look at each team member’s behavior, then tailor your approach to reap the good behaviors as part of your project implementation. By being aware of their behavior, you can manage Learning and Development project teams more effectively.

In The End…

You can talk strategy until you are blue in the face, but the reality is that you will need to learn to lead various types of people to success, it can easily be the most difficult part of our role as Project Managers. So take a deep breath and add your people knowledge to your OPA’s. Also, put the same emphasis on people’s behavior and conduct in your closeout as you would any lessons learned.

People’s behavior in the project team affects the time, cost, quality, and scope of the project in the same way as other key performance indicators in any traditional project lifecycle. So adding this extra PCPM axis to your documentation will only work to identify who will be the “right” people for the next project.