When pulling together a team for a project, there will be ‘types’ of players – often with good skills – who will put their own ambitions ahead of the team’s objectives. By Angela Carroll
How your team interacts can make or break a project. However, often little time is spent at the front-end of the project, recruiting the right personalities and working out how the team ﬁts together.
Sally-Anne Mitchell, lead consultant of analysis and change at business and consulting company Ajilon Australia, argues that identifying key personality types and discovering whether they are the right “fit” for a team are as essential as the project itself.
“It is assumed there is a collective understanding of how the project team will be improving things for the business and/or the customer but when you are recruiting new team members to work together for the first time, understanding what motivates the individual and how to change-manage the team can mean the difference between success and failure,” she says.
Project recruitment is a quick process according to Mitchell. “The recruiter looks at who has the skills to deliver and speed to pull the team together, often at short notice.
“In contrast, a permanent position takes an average of four to six weeks to recruit for, to establish if a candidate has the right skills, experience and ‘fit’ for the business as well as the role. Project team members are not always assessed for ‘organisation fit’. Additionally, those who are attracted to project roles tend to have different motivators than permanent recruits.”
With more than 25 years’ experience within the information and service industries, Mitchell has come across many types of personalities. She says there are certain “types” who are attracted to project work, and while each type has many excellent attributes, Mitchell says they also carry risks that need to be understood and assessed when recruiting your project team.
The big game player
Attracted to the company logo, not the project. The big game player is motivated by working for the largest company in an industry sector often updating their LinkedIn profile with details of the organisation before the ink is dry.
“The risks associated with the big game player is that they rarely buy into the organisation’s culture,” warns Mitchell. “If you are looking for a person to work from the beginning to end of the project then they are not for you. They have a tendency to jump to your competitor when they take over the number one spot, their stocks are rising or favourable business secured. This type of player is not dependable and will not be part of the project for the duration.”
The project player
Attracted to the highest profile project in town. It could be a political favourite, have the public perception of generating jobs and revenue, or the biggest spend or most innovative technology.
According to Mitchell the project player wants to be better than their professional network of peers
“They seize on the opportunity to further their personal philosophy/ideals to aid the community good. They want to work on the forefront or leading edge technology. The project player gets easily disillusioned when the project doesn’t go as expected or can push their own agenda to the detriment of the project and/or organisation.”
The profit player
Attraction is the highest daily rate or dollar return, not the project or company. For this player, personal ethics has a price on it.
Mitchell cautions: “Unless there is an endless budget, the profit player is likely to just do what is asked and any more is an extra charge. “They may actively identify reasons for more work to be done or delay the project. For this type of player they may want the project to drag on forever to get additional income.”
The person player
Attracted to a person on the project because they see the project leader as a potential mentor and a way to open doors for their career goals.
Mitchell acknowledges the risk here may seem small but says risk lies in the person player’s unrealistic perception of their mentor.
“If they are wrong and the mentor doesn’t have the depth of knowledge or the network assumed, they will leave the project. There is also the potential for personal conflict that may impact the project if either party doesn’t feel the mentor/mentee relationship exists,” she says.
The hero player
They don’t think the project is adequately managed and are looking for the kudos to turn the “failing” project around.
“The biggest risk of this player is their intention to tinker with the project engine whether there is an issue or not. Personalities clash as this type of player discredits the work done to date and having poor emotional empathy they are not skilled in engaging stakeholders and the project team. Despite their intentions to rescue the project they are the real threat to the project’s demise.”
So how can you avoid hiring these personality types?
“Personality players are often very difficult to avoid,” Mitchell says. “But finding the right mix of personalities at the beginning of the project will minimise your risk of staffing issues at critical points of the project and putting strategies and approaches in place to ensure everyone is on the same team journey.
“There is a need for change-management for the project team as much as project recruitment and project management. Change-management is generally an afterthought on the project for the business and/or customer in the first place. Traditionally, change-management of the project team to take them on a journey has even less emphasis but is just as important as it is for the business or customer.”
Mitchell recommends companies practise regular health checks to ensure the team is collaborating and working towards common goals. This way if the project is coming off the rails there are ways to recover the situation quickly through open communication and encouraging full collaboration.
This will be helped by a full understanding of the different personality players on your project and what motivates them to find the common ground you can all work towards.
This article appeared in the May 2014 edition of Management Today, AIM’s national monthly magazine.