How to lead projects: A 5-step plan for a successful project team

How to lead projects: A 5-step plan for a successful project team

Learn how to lead projects with this five-step guide. Dive into how successful project leadership and management takes more than solid leadership skills.

How to lead projects: A 5-step plan for a successful project team

Learn how to lead projects with this five-step guide. Dive into how successful project leadership and management takes more than solid leadership skills.

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Written by
Webflow Team
Webflow Team
Webflow Team
Webflow Team

Project leadership isn’t just about overseeing tasks — it’s about managing team dynamics, allocating resources, communication, and more.

As project milestones approach, aligning team members and synchronizing every element becomes increasingly challenging due to increasing complexity, task interdependence, and unforeseen issues. That’s why management skills and a well-crafted strategy are essential to ensuring a project’s completion.

Whether you’re a product manager, team lead, or scrum master, good project leadership goes beyond task management. You’ll also need to motivate your team and keep everyone’s efforts aligned with the overall goal. Check out our tips for the skills you need to lead teams and our five-step plan for project success.

4 essential project leadership skills

While there’s more to effective project management than good leadership, these four core skills are an excellent place to start:

1. Clear communication

Communication is a soft skill that’s crucial to successful project leadership. It includes active listening, expressing ideas effectively, and providing constructive feedback. A capable leader articulates team and project goals clearly, ensuring everyone — both team members and stakeholders — understands and aligns with the vision.

Fostering an inclusive atmosphere where team members feel comfortable voicing their opinions, raising concerns, and contributing ideas is equally important. And when conflicts arise, as they often will, you’ll also need to manage team dynamics and use conflict resolution strategies to maintain harmony and momentum.

2. Delegation

Effective task delegation is an art that hinges on understanding team members’ strengths and availability. By matching tasks with individual strengths or growth areas, you maximize output and foster a sense of accomplishment and motivation within your team. This leads to a more engaged team eager to deliver their best.

3. Problem-solving

Problems inevitably arise in project management, and the most effective leaders sharpen their problem-solving abilities to spot potential issues early and understand their underlying causes.

Taking proactive approaches, like developing a risk assessment plan when starting a project, can mitigate many issues before they emerge. For example, if your team needs to catch up, adjust your project plan and rebalance workloads to hit project milestones. Trying strategies such as brainstorming sessions and mind-mapping can also foster innovative solutions.

4. Adaptable to changes

Project environments are dynamic, and a critical project leadership skill is adaptability. By being flexible in the face of changing priorities, scope adjustments, or unexpected obstacles, you provide your team with the stability for high-level performance amid uncertainty. When you steer your team fluidly through changes, you maintain your project’s trajectory toward achieving its business objectives and ensure milestones are met on time. This has the dual effect of boosting team morale and ensuring stakeholder confidence in the project’s successful completion.

The 5 project stages

Successfully navigating a project requires a systemic approach that evolves as you progress. Check out these five project stages to learn how to structure your current and future projects:

1. Initiation

In the initiation phase, you lay the groundwork for the entirety of the project. Here, you define the project’s purpose and scope to ensure that everyone understands the project’s direction and objectives from the get-go. Doing so drastically reduces the chances of misalignment and misunderstandings later on.

Essential steps during this phase include:

  • Performing a feasibility analysis to assess the project’s viability
  • Setting clear and attainable project goals
  • Identifying and engaging relevant stakeholders
  • Crafting a high-level project vision

For instance, if a design team aims to perform a website update, their primary goal might be enhancing lead generation through intuitive web design.

2. Planning

In this stage, you transform your project vision’s broad strokes and objectives into a detailed roadmap. When you craft a detailed plan, you provide your team with a clear path to follow, which minimizes uncertainties and maximizes efficiency. Crucial elements to address in the planning phase include:

  • Creating a project schedule that outlines critical milestones and deadlines
  • Setting a budget that details expected costs and financial allocations
  • Identifying potential risks and developing strategies to mitigate them
  • Defining team roles so everyone knows their responsibilities and ownership areas

Project planning for a new website, for example, might involve finalizing the site’s structure through wireframes, selecting the right technology stack, and breaking down the design and development process into actionable steps with clear timelines. With a clear website project plan in place, every team member knows their role, enhancing their ability to contribute effectively. A clear plan also streamlines the development process and produces a more cohesive final product.

3. Execution

The execution phase is where your plans transition into tangible actions, propelling your project from concept to reality. Successful project execution requires:

  • Coordinating and aligning team efforts to help every team member complete their assigned tasks
  • Regularly communicating with stakeholders to keep them informed and involved in the project’s progression
  • Producing and refining project deliverables to meet standards and expectations set in earlier project stages

Take building a website as an example. During execution, designers shape the visual layout, developers program functionalities, and the team collaborates to blend features, ensuring the site matches the project’s vision. Proper execution guarantees the end product meets project goals and audience and stakeholder expectations.

4. Reporting

The reporting stage involves monitoring project performance to align with your management plan. Key tasks include:

  • Actively tracking project milestones, noting any interruptions or delays
  • Continually evaluating and mitigating risks as they evolve or emerge
  • Proactively managing any modifications or changes in project scope
  • Ensuring quality control

This stage would involve usability testing, analyzing website traffic, and addressing any identified bugs or design inconsistencies for a project like a website launch. The information gathered during the reporting phase, such as performance metrics and user feedback, equips you to make informed adjustments and sets the stage for continuous improvement.

5. Closure

This final stage signifies the culmination of your project efforts as you formally close your project and obtain client or stakeholder approval. Essential steps in this phase include:

  • Gathering feedback to understand the project’s success and areas of improvement
  • Conducting comprehensive project reviews or postmortems to evaluate overall performance, lessons learned, and best practices for future endeavors
  • Communicating any maintenance or ongoing support plans and providing clarity on post-project completion responsibilities

In a web project, closure includes confirming that your website is fully operational and compiling project documentation for future reference. This provides a clear record of decisions, methodologies, and solutions implemented that will provide valuable insights for subsequent projects.

Build a better site experience

In our ebook, learn how to approach your next website redesign — from collaboration and trust-building to finding the right tools.

Read now
Build a better site experience

In our ebook, learn how to approach your next website redesign — from collaboration and trust-building to finding the right tools.

Read now
Read now

Project success: A 5-step plan for leading teams

Building on the fundamental skills and concepts of team leadership discussed above, here’s an actionable five-step guide to steer your team toward project success.

1. Define project scope

Your project scope sets the boundaries and objectives of the project. This ensures that team members and stakeholders understand what you want to achieve. Document your scope to avoid scope creep — uncontrolled changes or continuous growth of the project scope that derail timelines and makes your project run over budget. After scoping your project, break it down into smaller, manageable tasks and deliverables.

2. Establish a timeline and allocate resources

Create a timeline that outlines milestones, deadlines for each task, and task dependencies. This way, you can account for how changes to one task affect subtasks and overall delivery estimates.

Assess the required resources — human, financial, and technological — and strategically distribute them based on project needs and priorities. This step optimizes resource usage, helping you gauge your project’s feasibility within constraints.

3. Set up a framework for collaboration and communication

Any project’s success relies heavily on efficient collaboration and open communication. But being articulate isn’t enough — establishing a structured system to support smooth teamwork is equally important. This involves integrating effective project management and collaboration tools, designing clear procedures, and establishing consistent workflows.

For instance, if your team is remote or distributed, you’ll need to consider communication and collaboration solutions that support asynchronous work and enable every member to effectively contribute regardless of their location or time zone.

4. Monitor project progress and document everything

Keep a vigilant eye on project tasks and deliverables to ensure your project stays on schedule, within its resource and budget constraints, and meets its objectives.

Maintaining comprehensive documentation is also crucial. Document everything, including project progress, challenges, and decisions. This documentation allows for transparent tracking and monitoring and provides a reference point to understand project deviations and setbacks. Analyzing this accumulated information lets you refine your methodologies and gather valuable insights to improve future projects.

5. Keep your team engaged

A motivated, happy team is more likely to be a successful team. When delegating, align tasks with individual members’ strengths to pave the way for their personal growth. Then, keep your team performing at their best by acknowledging their contributions, which signals to them that you recognize and value their efforts. Depending on your leadership style, you can also include team members in decision-making processes based on their area of expertise. This involvement fosters a sense of ownership and boosts commitment to project goals.

Streamline your web project with Webflow

Lead your project team to success with the best tools. Optimize your project workflow and collaboration with Webflow’s design, web-building, and collaboration tools. From creating visually appealing designs to translating them into fully functional websites, Webflow’s visual web development platform empowers your team to work cohesively and deliver stunning websites.

Whether you’re a small business or a large enterprise, check out Webflow Enterprise for resources for building and managing sites with advanced collaboration workflows and enterprise-grade security and scalability.

Last Updated
December 4, 2023