I had the good fortune of spending yesterday evening at the Thunderbird School of Global Management. Professor Denis Leclerc led a discussion on cross-cultural communication when working in project teams.

Through many of his international travels in recent months, he has been surveying individuals and has collected data from over 640 individuals who are actively leading meaningful projects. Although he has not completely digested the results, his preliminary findings and suggestions were interesting.

Respondents were asked what their greatest personal challenge was in being a part of or managing a project team. From the chart below, you can see that 50 percent suggested managing the team, 40 percent stated the organizational culture and 10 percent said self-leadership. Leclerc then congregated six major issues under each heading: Team Management, Organization and Self Leadership.

Source: Denis Leclerc

The last section of chart details suggestions that Leclerc has for project managers to interact with their teams better, to keep their stakeholders in the loop and to continually improve self. I completely agree with his recommendations and would like to add a few thoughts:

Team Management – From my perspective, there is little that is more important that planning the work and then working the plan. That is why establishing objectives and ground rules for how the team functions (think Tuckman’s model of forming – storming – norming – performing) is paramount to future success. Also, we often forget how to personalize our relationships with our team members, so find time to build in discussion about some wonderful event that just happened to a family member. You’ll be amazed at how others will begin bringing their proud moments to the table and how the team will begin to gel on a new level.

Organization – Having the ability to influence without authority is becoming one of the most sought-after skills a professional can have. It is important to note that you must spend time learning how to appropriately influence colleagues below, at your level and above you. Proactively “managing up” does require extra work before and during a project, but the time is well spent as it mitigates risk in the latter stages of the project.

Self Leadership – One of my favorite components of organizational development is the development of self. As Peter Barron Stark once said, “Organizations don’t change, people do.” In order to be a strong leader, you’ll want to consider how a healthy life style (regular exercise, limiting processed foods, periods of rest) will help you use your strengths and more constructive thought to advance your project.

As you continue to take on more projects and continue to hone your skills, think about the above information and how it can help you become indispensable.

“If it is to be, it is up to me.” – Anonymous