In most projects there is that one perfect moment when you look up from your screen and observe the team you are leading only to realize that they no longer need you. It is both terrifying and absolutely the best moment you can have.
As a project manager I have my own style that comes from many aspects of my life. From my brief time in the military I bring my sense of protection of the people I lead and from my childhood upbringing I bring a desire to encourage and treat others with respect. On top of that I add a touch of my need to understand the things around me and a curiosity to learn new things.
These things make me be the first one to start the workday and the last one to close my laptop at night. It is also the reason I gladly spend hours upon hours to make sure everything is prepared before my team start their work. Not because I want to control their work, but because I deeply feel that my single purpose as project manager is to make their life easier.
In order to do that I will put my heart and soul into solving as many problems as possible before my team ever need to know that they exist. This so they can focus on the work at hand and on becoming more than just a group of people working together so they can become a team.
I do not control my team, because I trust them completely and because I know that they work better if I give them the tools to manage themselves. In the beginning I steer the the team towards a work process I have used before and then I encourage the team to make changes together so we fine tune the process based on the need of the team.
By focusing on their need and by making sure everyone feel that their voice is heard and respected the team grow towards a sense of unity. I give responsibilities and make sure everyone in the team is pushed a little bit beyond their abilities or comfort zone. Not to punish, but to help them grow as I am there to support and assist every step of the way should they feel insecure or have doubt.
Then somewhere along the course of the project that perfect moment will happen. Usually when sitting at my desk on the outskirt of the team as I try to make sure the team sit closely together with me on the outside. In that moment it is like the sound of the room will change and become almost inaudible and as you look around you see the team engaged in work, helping each other or discussing solutions together.
Instantly you feel that the team no longer need your guidance and you no longer need to help them find their place within the team. They are a team now and all the heard work to build that up is now over. There is a positive energy over the team and you will see them smile and laugh together and then returning to their work with an amazing focus and efficiency.
In that moment there is a pride in your heart that threaten to bring you to tears. Not because of your accomplishments, but for theirs. As a proud parent you will see the growth of each of the team members and you will see how they take on responsibilities because they want to, not because they have to. They respect and protect each other as a team.
It is in that moment you have accomplished the most important aspect of leading a group and that is that you have managed to make them all feel safe. Safe to speak their mind and safe to take on any task knowing that it is ok to fail and try again. Safe because everyone share the same vision and motivation and safe because that they all know that no matter what happen you will always be there for them and have their back should they need it.
While you are no longer needed to guide them and to help them become a team, they still need you to be there to support them. Your role will change from that point on and you will spend less time managing and more time leading. Your team will look to you for decisions and clarifications, but other than that they are from that point on more than capable of managing their work on their own without you.
It is truly one of the best feelings in the world.