So you’ve found yourself in charge of a project as well as a group of people looking to you to lead. It might be a school project, a community project, or a project team at work. Whichever it is, leading a group of people to complete a task can be intimidating. Don’t let the pressure get you. This is an opportunity to gain valuable experience and by keeping a few simple steps in mind you can both start and end a project with confidence you have done a great job. Let’s start with the steps to consider before starting the team on a project. It all revolves around one very simple but often overlooked concept: clarity.

Know before you begin if work on this goal will bring you closer to your overall goals or take you farther from them.

Step 1: Clarity on the “why.”

If you’ve read some of my posts you’ll know the emphasis I put on the “why” of things. It is important to know before you begin a goal, a project, or make a major life decision that you are confident this investment of time and energy brings you closer or takes you farther from your end purpose. The why is the larger strategy. Let’s say your goal is to achieve a certain GPA and you know this particular semester is the one that will be the hardest in terms of study. Also, you would like to start a band. Now, certainly nothing wrong with having a side hobby but is the most challenging school season the time to do it? You likely can’t give time to one without taking it from the other. As the leader, you need to have a strong understanding of where this project sits in the grander scheme of things and is it moving you closer to overall goals or taking energy from them.

Do you truly understand the objective of the goal?

Step Two: Clarity on the goal.

This may sound redundant but a quick check is in order here. Do you truly understand the objective of the goal? The last thing you want to do is lead a team to complete a project only to have the supervisor say “that’s not what I wanted.” Make sure you walk through the goal with your leader so that you clearly know what they want this work to accomplish.

Step Three: Clarity on the roles.

Just as you need to know you understood what you were being asked to do so do your team. Make sure that you as the leader have taken the time with each team member to walk through their role, assignments, and expectations clearly.

Step Four: Clarity on the requirements.

What does this team need to succeed? Is it budget money? Is it access to supplies or contacts you may have? As the leader, you need to ask the questions and make sure your team members have what they need to succeed at the level you desire.

It’s a good practice as the leader to set several milestone goals with team members.

Step Five: Clarity on the milestones.

This is part of having a strong action plan. Make sure your team members have a full understanding not only of the end deadline but deadlines you may have along the way. It’s a good practice as the leader to set several milestone goals with team members along the way so that you can see drafts of their work as it is being done rather than just having an overall deadline date and being surprised that the work wasn’t what you wanted from them.

Leading a team is a big responsibility but with some careful planning and a high level of clarity on purpose, roles, and deadlines you will have laid a great foundation for the team to succeed. In the next post we’ll take a look at how a good leader ends a project with their team.