Ask the Expert: March'08

1. I have been identified for a Team Leader position for one of the company projects. My peers are questioning this since we all worked together as a team on one of our earlier assignments. How do I go about delegating the work among my peers without them undermining my authority?

Leading your team members rather than just delegating work to them is what you should focus on. Leading individuals who were your peers in earlier assignments can be a touchy proposition, but not an impossible undertaking. You have been selected to lead the team because of the confidence your seniors have in your abilities. So exhibit confidence in your abilities.

Start by asking your team members for their inputs and suggestions in making the project a grand success. By using and implementing the team’s ideas, there would be greater encouragement and motivation among the team members. Do not just delegate the work but also assist by giving them a better understanding of the task assigned.  Do not get dejected if they don’t come to you immediately for guidance. Help those who do and if you give valuable inputs word will get around. Credit team members with project successes. Your willingness to help them while giving them credit for good work would be well appreciated! If any of the team members disobeys you, be direct and firm in dealing with him/her.

Your team members have not had a chance to see you in action as a team leader. Once they see you as being capable they will naturally appreciate and respect you. Work towards wining their confidence over a period of time.


2. Recently in a meeting with senior managers I completely embarrassed myself by not being articulate in the discussion. That day, I realized that I need to improve my communication skills to be more confident and to be able to persuade others in a meeting. What are some of the steps that I need to adopt for the same?

You are right! Being articulate gives people the impression that you know your subject well, an important aspect of convincing others.  Here are some suggestions to help you become more articulate.

  • Know your subject well: Firstly, get a thorough understanding of the subject and make a note of relevant points that can be discussed in a meeting.
  • Visualize yourself speaking: Imagine yourself adding to the discussion with grammatically correct and complete sentences.
  • Think before you speak: Once you get into the meeting, take a moment before highlighting a point. This helps you eliminate verbal pauses and may prevent you from saying something that does not make sense.
  • Be as concise as possible: Add valuable content to your discussion by stating your points briefly. That way you don’t loose the attention of the audience.
  • Eliminate pauses and restrict usage of big words: Fillers like ‘um’ etc can disturb the flow of thought and make it seem detached. Simultaneously, make sure you restrict the usage of big words, which may reduce the clarity of your communication.
  • Self-improvement: Reading aids the effort of being articulate. Attend seminars on communication and presentation skills to gain some valuable insights.
  • Have patience and practice continuously: Improving the way you speak takes a great deal of time and effort.


3. My Manager is not assertive enough when it comes to clients constantly changing their requirements. This is causing a lot of undue stress, longer working hours and de-moralization of the team. How do I convey to him the need to be more assertive in extending deadlines when clients change project specifications constantly?

This is a common scenario in most companies these days. However, it can be subtly dealt with. Bring to the notice of your Manager the current de-motivation within the team owing to the long working hours. Veer the discussion to possible ways of avoiding undue stress for the team. See if the manger himself comes up with the suggestion of being assertive with the client on deadlines. If not, you can check with him whether it would help being assertive with the client.

Make sure that the communication is positive and does not offend him in any manner. Do not take an accusatory tone of “You should….” but that of a “we are in this together” tone by using “We can…. We should explore…”

Some points that you could cover at the time of discussion are:

  • If the team gets stressed the quality of work output will suffer in turn affecting the client satisfaction. Team members may also exit the company. Cite examples.

  • If the client requires the team to complete additional or changed project deliverables, then the Manager could ensure that the team gets sufficient time to complete the project. A reasonable timeframe can be established in consultation with the team and client. If anytime this has been done in the past mention it.

  • While some deadlines can be negotiated some cannot and there still will be times when the team needs to put in that extra effort. What will help then is the team bonding. So the manager should plan for the entire team taking some time out to have fun and de-stress together. This enhances team spirit and it will also increase the productivity among team members even under tight deadlines.