Dear Elizabeth:

I manage a team that that is always juggling multiple project tasks. How can I keep my team focused on their top priorities, and help them know what the latest priorities are? – All Over the Place

Dear Place:

Welcome to my world! Juggling is the norm, I’m afraid, but it’s great that you’ve accepted it, and you’re looking for ways to keep the focus.

The first question, and forgive me for asking, is: Do you know what the priorities are?

If you do, it’s a far easier job than trying to work them out. Let’s assume for now that you are clear on what the team needs to do to complete their projects successfully. (If not, find out what they are and then apply the following tips.) Here are three tips to help the team stay focused.

1. Keep in touch

There’s a balance between micromanaging and staying on top of the work, but try to find it! Keep close to the team so that you can steer them in the right direction. Daily stand ups (even if you aren’t an agile team) are a good way to check in and make sure everyone understands what the priority is for the day.

2. Explain the priorities

Don’t just tell people what the priorities are. Explain why. This gives people some context so that if they can’t work on the top priority for whatever reason (say, they are waiting on a colleague for information) they can make better decisions about what to do instead.

3. Stop the distractions

As a project manager or team leader, you are the one to shield the team from annoying distractions. Keep them out of office politics, protect them from the day-to-day headaches and give them the space and the tools they need to do their jobs to the best of their abilities.

Hope that helps!

Every month, project management expert, Elizabeth Harrin, fields readers’ questions about the challenges, risks, and rewards of project work on the LiquidPlanner blog. This selection is used with permission.


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