Team Leaders in project management: 10 must-have hard skills for effective leadership

date: 20 May 2021
reading time: 6 min

While Team Leaders (TLs) are not Project Managers (PMs), they still need to have some basic project management-related hard skills to be able to do their job effectively. We know this from personal experience, and that’s why we’ve gone ahead and prepared a short crib sheet for all of those TLs who aspire to be as efficient as possible. Obviously, they don’t always have to do everything on the list, but they should definitely at least be familiar with each of the concepts mentioned below.

Here are the 10 skills that every Team Leader needs:


Business case skills

  • Be able to judge if a project is desirable, viable and achievable. If not – it shouldn’t be initiated, and if it’s already an ongoing process – it should be closed. However, it’s not your job to decide what to do. You should ask the right questions, present your point of view, and let the stakeholders/investors decide on their own.

  • Understand why you are running the project in the first place and make sure you are clear on the expected goals and benefits, so that you, your team and your client are all on the same page.


Stakeholder management skills

  • Identify the stakeholders so that you know who is who in the project.

  • Determine individual attitudes, influence/power and interests. This will help you cooperate with everyone more effectively. The most important thing here is to recognise key players so that you know how to always keep them satisfied and well-informed.

  • Establish and follow a communication and engagement plan that lines up with the specific descriptions of the stakeholders that you’ve prepared.


Risk management skills

  • Determine threats and opportunities, and try to predict any possible scenarios they could lead to, should they become a reality. Remember that risks can pertain to every area of your project, from the way that it’s organised and the business environment, down to technological limitations, security issues, resources, finances, brand image aspects, and legal matters, etc.

  • Determine probability and urgency for these risks, so that you know what you need to deal with first and how likely you will succeed or fail. This will give you a much better sense of security and control.

  • Prepare an action plan for:
    – Avoiding risks – is there a way to improve your current strategy?
    – Mitigating risks – how can you reduce the likelihood of occurrence for certain risks?
    – Sharing risks with a client – could you and your client share responsibility?
    – Facing threats when they occur – what should be your next step?


Gross Profit Margin (GPM) calculations

  • Calculate how much your team costs. Sum up their salaries and any overtime payments. Don’t include expenses that are not people-related (such as tools, licences, and rent, etc.).

  • Calculate GPM for the project. Take your total revenue minus the costs that you need to bear, and then divide this amount by your total revenue. Next, multiply this figure by 100%. This gives you the project’s profitability ratio.

  • Constantly optimise costs so that you can cut any unnecessary expenses. For example, maybe you’ll find that instead of adding another senior developer to your team, a mid-level developer will be more than enough.

  • Always look for cross-selling opportunities. Maybe you’ll be able to expand the scope of cooperation.

DEDICATED TEAM


Change management skills

  • Analyse the change. Begin analysing the effects of the change as soon as it’s been implemented.

  • Estimate the costs of this for the client, if this is something that needs to be paid for separately.

  • Discuss this with client beforehand, and act in accordance with the agreed upon arrangements.


Acceptance testing skills

  • Prepare the team so that they know what steps to follow during the acceptance testing procedure and how to react to the problems reported. And make sure they are aware of any potential issues that could trigger the client’s concerns, etc.

  • Determine the time, place, and resources that you need to run the tests.

  • Prepare all the instructions/criteria/equipment for your client to review as well. They need to have a clear understanding of the process.

  • If acceptance testing is not included in the plan, come up with other verification procedures with your client. They need to know how to determine whether the product or system works for them and who is going to test it, etc. This is one of the most important parts of the development process, and should be done by the book.


RACI matrix skills

  • Determine which stakeholders will be engaged in the project – from the list that you already made earlier.

  • Identify project members who are:
    Responsible
    Accountable
    Consulted
    Informed

The RACI matrix is not just for stakeholders, but also for other key persons in your project, such as the Product Owner, Team Leader, Lead Developer, Project Manager, and Engagement Manager, etc. The matrix simply shows you a clear division of responsibilities, so that everyone knows what to do, and there are no overlapping duties.


MoSCoW method skills

  • Assign each of the project requirements to one of the prioritisation categories below:
    Must have
    Should
    Could have
    Won’t have

This will help you find out what definitely needs to be done for the solution to work, what should be done (one way or another), what would be nice to have but is not strongly required, and what doesn’t have to be finished now, but can be implemented in the future.

  • Use the MoSCoW method throughout the entire project, especially when you need to talk about the project requirements – whether it’s with your team or with the client.


One-Page Project Manager (OPPM) skills

  • Reduce your project down to a simple one-page document by leveraging OPPM. This tool will allow you and your client to keep all the most significant information and metrics in one place, so that you can maintain control over the progress of the project and make quick adjustments, whenever needed.

  • Determine project owners, priorities, milestones, tasks, responsibilities, and costs, etc. And don’t forget to include a short summary, along with some predictions for the future.


Project diary + Minutes of Meeting (MoM) skills

  • Write down all relevant events in chronological order. This will be your project diary, containing all the data from the project’s lifecycle. You can use it to draw on lessons learnt and then apply this knowledge to your next project.

  • Write up a summary of any meetings or hearings, and then send it as an email. This is called the MoM and it allows you to have a written record of everything that was agreed upon, so that you can refer to it whenever necessary.


Wrap-up

This may seem like a lot to learn – especially if you are a new team leader – but, actually, these are just some basic hard skills that are not so difficult to master. Not only that, they will also allow you to move freely and intuitively within any project, so that you can organise your work better and manage your team more effectively.

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