When starting a new project, especially one that is large and complex or highly visible, most people are a little leery. This is a natural human reaction– who wants to sign on for failure, right? Few corporate cultures reward mistakes, and in some, being associated with a failed initiative is career suicide.
This fear of failure can become a self-fulfilling prophecy if people distance themselves from your project. The best “A-team” players will find ways to dodge participation, and everyone else will do their best to keep at arm’s length. Without strong engagement, any project is doomed from the start.
A team that is resistant and fearful is looking for a strong leader. They want someone they can trust to run interference, someone with an unshakable confidence in their own abilities and the ability of the team to reach success.
A Project Manager plays an important role in setting the early tone of an initiative. Even if you as the P.M. are not brimming with confidence, you must step up through that uncertainty. A strong Project Manager will paint a vision of success, and convince the team that “We may not know exactly how we’re going to get there, but we will get there. We’re smart, capable, and strong. Failure is not an option!”
Whistle a happy tune for your team! Sometimes a little bravado, even if false, goes a long way in motivating a team. If a team starts off believing that they will succeed, there’s a much greater likelihood that they will.