Team Happiness
June 13, 2022

How to address team happiness as a project manager

The one thing in common we noticed in all of our projects was that, if the team was unhappy, the project would fall apart.

Tiago Duarte

Team Happiness as the root for quality and efficiency

Let’s start with a bit of context. Throughout my career, I have worked on several projects as a software developer, project manager, product owner, and designer (let’s please not talk about this last one 🤪). There have been projects where I had to use some of these hats at the same time 🤯. Apart from that, the one thing in common I noticed in all of them was that, if the team was unhappy the project would fall apart.

Some of these projects had really good indicators: a great idea that we could relate to, friendly deadlines, empathetic stakeholders but if / when the team was unhappy the project would grind to a halt.

Other projects were the complete opposite: ideas that we would not relate to, non-empathetic stakeholders, tight deadlines. But the team was happy! Besides all the constraints we were all having a blast 🥳 and the project progressed with ease towards completion.

How to take care of team happiness as a project manager - Giddy Blog

Getting back to our initial conclusion: if the team is unhappy, for whatever reason, everything else will fall apart. Having this in mind, we started to think about ways of understanding:

a) how is the team doing;

b) what’s the root cause for the current team mood

That’s how, at Coletiv, we started using Giddy. To give our team an open, friendly space to express their state of mind.

What makes a team (un)happy?

It’s complicated to understand what makes a team happy. Humans differ a lot from each other, so it depends on so many factors, some of which you don’t even control:

  • team members - different people value different things and have different personal experiences;
  • the current state of affairs of the planet - e.g.: an ongoing pandemic/war;
  • weather - yes, the weather! Try to have your team working for months on a cloudy, cold, wet weather 🥶  and observe the increase in happiness when a nice spring sunny day 🔆 comes out. If you don’t believe me, check out what science has to say about winter blues;
  • stakeholders - having empathetic, field-recognized stakeholders boosts motivation and improves the overall happiness of a team. Who doesn’t like to work with the best right?

As a project manager, even though you don’t control these points, you need to have a clear view of what’s causing your team's mood to plummet. Only after going deep into what could be the root cause of the team's (un)happiness, you and the team can come up with possible improvements.

How do I know what’s causing the team’s (un)happiness?

Figuring out what’s causing a team’s (un)happiness is a group task. It will be very hard for you, as a project manager, to figure out alone why your team is down. Especially if everyone is working remotely.

The first step to solving a problem is to actually identify and recognize that there is a problem. Again, spotting happiness problems on a remote team is even harder.

As such, having a place where the team can calmly and privately express their thoughts regarding the project, is the starting point for you to have a high-level overview of the mood.

How to address team happiness as a project manager - Giddy

The second step is to understand the root cause of the problem. Sometimes, everyone is aware that there is a problem, and we all think we know what it is. But we might just have identified a symptom of the real problem. That’s why we get together with Giddy in front of us and, as a team, try to figure out the actual root cause. The 5 whys technique is quite a good one to help you unveil the real problem.

The third step is to come up with an action plan. Identifying a problem is very good progress towards the goal of increasing the team’s happiness. There have been days that just reaching a consensus about what’s wrong, already raised our overall happiness. But the work is not done yet, coming up with possible solutions, and acting on them is the next step.

As with any problem, you might not get it right the first time. The last step is to actually start all over again and check if the team's happiness is at a healthy level! Go back to step 1, rinse, and repeat.

It’s all about trusting the process

Taking care of your team is very similar to taking care of Nature 🌱. It’s a never-ending process that involves work, passion, patience, empathy (🔨🧡⏳👂🏽), and especially it is a trial and error process.

You won’t get it right the first time. Sometimes you won’t find the root problem immediately or you actually found the problem but the actions made it even worse 😬. Don’t give up, the more iterations you do the better the team gets at it.

Thank you for reading 🙏

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Stay tuned for more content on team happiness. 😎