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PositiveTeam Progress

The concept of breaking down a decision into smaller pieces was very helpful in our team going forward with a huge project. The project involved personal accountability of each member in order for the project to be completed accurately. How do you set appropriate time limits for each team member as some have different work loads but all need to complete their "piece" project?


That’s a great question. The amount of time given for a task needs to be commensurate with the effort the task is going to take, its confluence with the other tasks, and its priority level. Very often, the most important pieces are given to the busiest individuals because they have proven an ability to get the work done. The old adage says, “If you want something done, give it to a busy person.” However, if that person has competing priorities, and if his or her piece will hold up other team members if not completed timely, you need to consider reassigning that task or some of the person’s other responsibilities.

I usually ask my team members how long they think it will take to get the job done. Then I build in a 10%-20% “fudge factor” to give myself some assurance that we have the combined resources to get the job done. The elevated number is what I use as the official deadline to my superiors. The more you get to know your team and their capabilities, the less and less you need to rely on a fudge factor.

Dr. Jamie Morley

In my experience, the time limits are going to be based on realistic expectations and knowledge of each team member's abilities. How well team leaders know their members and how well they commumicate with their team members are also important pieces.

If each member's part is not interdependent, then the team leader has the ability to incorporate incentives for those who meet an early deadline. This can be accomplished with friendly competition that instills support and productivity. However, if interdependency is a factor than use a shared incentive that rewards everyone for his or her participation and mutual accountability.


Setting up competitions is a fun way to encourage participation and teamwork. Good job! Another idea is to reiterate the expectations for every project and track the follow-up during each meeting. This enables you to give encouragement, praise, directing, or coaching as necessary and keep the progress moving.

Dr. Jamie Morley

Absolutely! Team members also benefit from feedback sessions where they can share their take-aways. This is empowering even for the smallest contributor on the team.


Agreed. Providing consistent feedback helps team members realize how their contributions impact the project as a whole. You cannot over communicate.

Thanks for your insights!

Dr. Jamie Morley

I to feel it is a lot on the team leader to know the team member strong and week points befor asigning taskes. Yet the time frame may not be in the comfort zone of the team member. this is when i feel the team leader need to be a coach and suport the team. to many time the leader startes but never coaches along the way til its to late. then it turns bad. really need to be a true team not a dicktatorship as they turn in to so many times. Also i feel that full discloser of the project will alway help.

right now my boss and our team are going back and forth as she is not sharing all inforamtion and making us fix issues that we didnt no about. So know thing get touchie. never good when someone in the team holds back, team member or leader.

You make several good points. First of all, it is easier for a manager to dictate when they do not know the strengths of the team. If the manager is under pressure to perform, it is much simpler to assign tasks indiscriminately just to get the job done. As you suggest, this doesn’t improve the functioning of the team. One idea is to send your boss an email describing your strengths and core competencies and areas where you would like to contribute. Even though it seems like a forward approach, your manager will appreciate your willingness help.

Dr. Jamie Morley

I like the idea of setting up competitions as a way to encourage teamwork to achieve a mutual goal. The ones I have been involved with help each member - especially if they are timid - to find "their voice" and gain confidence.


I like the idea of competitions as well! Keep in mind that there are all kinds of new rules governing what you can do in this area if you work for a school that offers Title IV financial aid to students. Just be sure that the incentives you give for “winning” a competition won’t put the school in jeopardy.

Dr. Jamie Morley

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