Closely Manage Tough Team Members or Risk Project Failure

When projects are scheduled and team members are assigned to your team, it’s important that everyone understands your project end-to-end. Every once in a while, no matter how well you prep your team, you’ll end up with a team member who thinks they are special — you know who I’m talking about, the Prima Donna. This is the team member who thinks the scope and boundaries of the project, and the team ground rules don’t apply to him.

To survive as this team’s leader, you’ll need to monitor and manage this team member or your project could be in jeopardy. They have a tendency to do what they want, when they want so keep an eye on deliverables and commitments. Here’s what to do if the team member:

  • Thinks they can take more than the allotted time on their part of the project because it’s more complicated. Each team member should be held accountable for completing their portion of the team’s work during the agreed upon time frame. If one team member fails, the team fails. Conduct a one-on-one with this member, provide feedback on how his piece of the work is impacting the entire team’s results, and create an action plan to fix the problem.
  • Never meets commitments. A missed commitment should never be a surprise to you if you are leading your team properly. First you’ll need to get the immediate problem fixed, then deal with the commitment issue. Find out why the commitment was missed and you weren’t advised. Then set up a process between you and the team member to keep future deliverables on track. You’ll need to manage this team member closely until you have confidence the issue is resolved.

In the real world of team leadership, you will encounter all types of team members. Knowing how to deal with each type will be critical to your success.

Have you had a Prima Donna on your team? How did you deal with it?

Denise O'Berry

Denise O’Berry — aka the Team Doc — has been working with teams and team leadership in the public, non profit and private sectors for over twenty years. Follow her @askteamdoc.

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