I have just been assigned a project to lead with a new team, now what?

Taking the lead on a new project can be difficult, but add on that leading a new team and that is a recipe for disaster. Not if you know how to tackle it. One of the first things you will want to do as a team is to develop a team charter.


What is a Team Charter?

A team charter describes how a team will work together. The ground rules, logistics, individual roles and responsibilities, stakeholders, communication methods to name a few.

You may be thinking: why do I need to do this, can’t we just jump in and do the work?

It is important to spend time before the project starts to get everyone on the team aligned and moving in the same direction. If you have ever been in software development, you know how important it is to spend time defining the requirements and design before you jump in and code.

Since this is a new team where members may not know each other, you will want the team members to be comfortable with each other to ask questions, state their opinion, feel free to disagree, comfortable challenging each other and challenging you as the leader. Developing a team charter is a great start in developing this culture of trust, honesty and mutual development.


Template for Team Charter

1) Describe in one or two sentences:

  • The objectives of the team.
  • Why does the team exist?
  • What is the teams’ purpose?
  • What will the team deliver?
  • How does this teams’ purpose fit into the parent companies vision, mission and values?


2) Identify all team members:

  • The Core Team
    • Those that are dedicated to this project
  • The Extended Team
    • May reside in other organizations or function and work on an as needed basis
  • The Advisory Group
  • The Steering Committee

Have a discussion about the skills and talents each individual brings to the team and list core and extended team members with contact information.

Be mindful that you may have team members who work in a different time zone or may be traveling into a different time zone when you want to reach out to them.  Discuss how the team will accommodate everyone in the how they engage and when they engage.

I just mentioned “how” team members want to engage.  Your team members are likely to have different personality preferences or styles. Some may prefer to talk about a topic on the phone or in person and others may prefer to chat or email as their primary means of communication. This is very important – be clear as to the ways each person on the team prefers to communicate. If you do not do this, then you will not get everyone engaged and you may miss out on valuable input from team members.


3) Identify who you will need to interact with

Internal and external customers and suppliers, outsourcing. In six sigma, we call this stakeholders. Who do you need to work with, who cares about the project?


4) Describe the roles and responsibilities of each team member as they function in the team

Note that these responsibilities can be rotated amongst team members.

  • Who sets the meeting agenda, schedules meeting and sends meeting invite (logistics). Team should decide on frequency of the meeting. It is important to have a clear agenda with time allotted for each item and an individual assigned to each agenda item. Clarity is key.
  • Who will take meeting minutes and where will they be posted (scribe).
  • Who will ensure the action items are completed are on time and meeting pre-reading and visible to all team members (ensures accountability).
  • Who will ensure everyone is heard (facilitator) and to ensure the agenda items are discussed in the time allotted (if need more time, then team needs to discuss priority of the topic – whether to move ahead or continue on topic). Discuss ways to engage everyone in team meetings. You may have team members who are quiet and prefer to wait until after the meeting to have a one on one conversation and there may be team members who want to discuss all their ideas during the meeting.


5) Team development and recognition

Keep in mind that individuals do not always have the same preference regarding recognition. Some people prefer a note, others may prefer being recognized in front of a larger group and some may want senior management to recognize them.

It is important that the team continues to develop trust and appreciation for each other. There are many ways to develop a team: team lunch and/or dinner; Ignite sessions; take a coffee or tea break together once a day; celebrate special occasions or bring in a coach to develop the team. The team members should identify ways to develop the relationships in a safe and non-threatening environment.

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