Informal Team Leadership

What can you do if you’re a team member without legitimate, organizational power to influence the work of others yet recognize a weak link on the team?

For the Project Manager, lots of good material already exists about how to engage every member and inspire performance.  But what do you do as an engaged teammate?  There’s always someone on a project who isn’t passionate about it or motivated by the fear of a poor appraisal.  (These teammates are the same ones with whom you worked on college projects:  they’re content to earn a “B” or a “C.”)  If the team is led by someone who (for whatever reason) is not able to address the problem through reassignment, one-on-one discussions, or persuasion – what do you do?

Here are three ideas:

 1.  Invest in your teammates, then focus on strengths.

My college students work in groups and then execute an actual project.  There’s always someone who doesn’t pull his fair share, and there’s always someone who is concerned about it.  I once had a student spend 15 minutes enumerating the weaknesses of all of her teammates.  I listened, and when she was done I said, “You’ve spent a lot of time describing their faults.  Now tell me about their strengths.”  No answer because the student had not invested in her teammates.  That is, her internal monologue was focused on critique rather than strategy about how to best discover and use their talents.  Ideally this exercise occurs in the Forming stage of team development.  However, it’s never too late!

 2.  Create a culture of hard work and accountability.

Readers may think this is the Project Manager’s responsibility, and it is.  But it’s not his alone.  Team members can also help.  One person who exhibits and espouses a certain work ethic could be dismissed as unique.  But with an ally (or two or three) enlisted who openly supports a dedicated approach to work, a culture starts to emerge.  Completing tasks on or ahead of schedule with the requisite quality becomes the normal way of doing business.  The project climate can be a powerful incentive leading to better overall team performance.

3.  Create a RAM or RASCI.

A RAM is a Responsibility Assignment Matrix.  It is a simple table that cross-references the Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) with the role or person responsible.  If your project doesn’t have one of these already, then create one.  The format is simple, although the discussions that surround responsibility assignment may not be.

RASCI stands for Responsible, Accountable, Support, Consult, and Inform.  It is a form of RAM, but it provides additional information.  Specifically, although the RAM may identify who does what, the RASCI also categories the roles of other team stakeholders.  For example, Marketing may be responsible for the creation of a marketing plan, but the Product Development department will certainly support the effort.  Given that a RASCI is a more detailed form of RAM, it is not necessary to create both documents.

The purpose of either document is to instill public accountability, another good motivator.


Learning how to best use resources – and turn non-performers into contributors – is not only invaluable to the success of the project, but it’s also excellent practice and preparation for roles with more responsibility.  Think of the above as an investment in your future as well.

Comments?  Drop me a line using the Contact Eve link.  I look forward to hearing from you!

Posted in Blog Entry
Ask Eve: Submit Your Question News & events

News & Events

The Risky Business of Small Projects (Part Three)

Risk Knowledge Area

In this space, I have discussed some tools for Risk Management on a

The Risky Business of Small Projects (Part Two)

Risk Knowledge Area

One of the great things about my Project Management course at the University

The Risky Business of Projects

Risk Knowledge Area

I teach Project Management at the University of Arizona, and my graduate students