Leading a team can be a psychological minefield. If you want to see your project to completion, you’ll have to motivate the unmotivated, inspire shirkers to pull their weight and deal with uncommunicative superiors who expect you to read their minds. In short, people problems are everywhere. Below are some tips built around core people skills to help you navigate this hazardous terrain:

The role of team leaders has changed as companies become less hierarchical.
The interconnected world means organisations rely less and less on traditional pyramid structures, but more on collaboration. An even playing field allows organisations to leverage employee talent, passions and expertise to better apply these to business challenges. A company can cut overhead costs by minimizing the layers of management and, therefore, empowering employees to take the lead and pursue their passions. Companies must have clearly defined missions, goals and growth plans to be successful with a less hierarchical structure in the long term.

The wedge model is a great tool to visualize and manage team performance.
Today’s project managers play a vital coordinating role, and it’s your job to make sure all sections of your company’s wedge structure are working together. So what do you do when things go wrong? Well, like a doctor, you’ll need an accurate diagnosis before you can prescribe a course of action. The wedge model is a diagnostic tool that helps you do just that.

Effective team leaders understand the difference between friendship and friendliness.
In business, friendliness is so important. Whether you’re interacting with clients, customers, co-workers, or even competitors, presenting yourself in a friendly manner builds trust and credibility. And you need these to do business successfully. Your place of business should be a welcoming space, but also requires professionalism. Working with people who are your friends opens the door for preferential treatment and biased decisions.

Successful teams are defined by their emphasis on inclusiveness.
A more diverse workforce can better understand and empathise with customers, which can help improve innovation and implementation. The first step to leveraging the strength of a diverse team is, of course, getting unique voices to the table, but the work doesn’t end there. Once people are at the table, it’s important to create an inclusive environment where they can share their thoughts and perspectives.

Attitude matters
Attitude is an intangible soft skill that everyone wants their manager to have even if it’s not easy to define. Attitude starts with mind-set. Being optimistic, confident, trusting, growth-oriented, and open staves off insidious thoughts that take us to the negative. Highly successful managers work, intentionally, to maintain a good attitude. They understand that their attitude will be contagious, and they avoid bringing negativity into the workplace. They don’t indulge their emotional whims without forethought about the impact on others.

Tackle poor performance by using the Past-Present-Future model.
Letting poor performance go unchecked will undermine your team’s projects. Fortunately, there’s a tool you can use to get troublemakers back onside. Call it Past-Present-Future model. As the name suggests, the model consists of three stages. Your first stage is the past. Here, you want to practice active listening and find out about the problem. In the second stage, your job is to provide a diagnosis. Essentially, you put the problem in context and remind the employee of the rules and regulations that apply to this situation. In the third stage, you move into the future tense. Ask the employee for feedback – what could you do to improve things.

Manage fear.
Fear stops us from starting businesses, taking the necessary steps we need to take, having hard conversations, expanding our businesses, making big decisions, and generally many of the things that matter to us. Fear causes us to self-sabotage our good intentions and prevents us from doing the things we want to do.

Manage your bosses.
Your role as a team leader is full of tough calls and awkward situations. Dealing with difficult employees is hard enough, but that’s nothing compared to your relationship with your boss. Almost everyone has a manager. And, whether you love your manager or can’t stand them, research shows they have a lot of control over both your day-to-day happiness and long-term career growth.
Whether or not you agree with trying to manage your boss, it’s still important to understand how he or she works. And from there, perhaps you’ll be one step close to being a more effective manager yourself.

Team leaders constantly run up against people problems. Whether it’s underperformers, employees pushing to be their friend rather than then supervisor, or a tricky boss you have to deal with, project management can be a psychological minefield. But there are tools you can start using today to clear a path through this hazardous terrain.