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Key Characteristics of Successful Project Teams

Dec. 1, 2020
This article was written by Brad Egeland. Unfortunately, there really is no magic formula that will ever guarantee project success. However, there are some major ingredients, I believe, that together […]

This article was written by Brad Egeland.

Unfortunately, there really is no magic formula that will ever guarantee project success. However, there are some major ingredients, I believe, that together often characterize a team that will tend to experience more success than others. The list likely includes many more than these that I’m about to discuss here, but these 4 (Clear Goals, Well-Defined Roles, Experienced Leadership, and Positive Atmosphere) are critical ones, in my opinion — and experience.

Clear Goals

A project team with clearly defined goals for the project has a much better chance at achieving project success. These goals can and should be well-defined at the outset of the project. All key project stakeholders should gather to lay out what the overall goals of the project actually are.

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I’ve found great success leading these types of efforts by using strategic planning sessions early in the project to drive the team to a final list of key project goals. It has always worked very well for me. Plus it’s a great chance to gather the key stakeholders and to form a bond and good communication flow that can last throughout the entire project.

Well-Defined Roles

Project team members who know their roles and, therefore, know pretty much what’s expected of them, can perform at a higher level of efficiency and competence because there’s little to no uncertainty of the expectations surrounding their tasks. It’s easier for them to take ownership of their "portion of the project", so to speak.

Ownership breeds accountability and accountability breeds quality workmanship.

Experienced Leadership

Experienced leadership — both at the project managerial level and among the skilled project team members — is a great ingredient to have as part of the project team. You always have those early PM career projects that you have to get under your belt where you won’t have the "experienced leadership" possibility: everyone has to earn their stripes. But once you get there, and are using best practices and learning lessons along the way that you build on for future successes, then the likelihood of overall project success is much higher.

Positive Atmosphere

Finally, a project team that enjoys what they are doing and can work well together will be more cohesive, and the communication will flow more freely, and the atmosphere will likely be very positive. That positive atmosphere can be an incredible contributor to project success.

Even if every project team member is working remotely,  you can still have a very happy and cohesive team and a very positive atmosphere that will affect the outcome of the project.

I’ve had many projects where none of the team ever worked face-to-face with each other, yet the camaraderie was incredible and the atmosphere was very positive.

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Summary, and Call for Input

The bottom line is this: the most effective teams are ones that understand the mission, understand their individual roles in providing a successful outcome, and have access to experienced leadership.

This is not a recipe that guarantees project success every time out, but teams with these characteristics should work well together, be and feel more empowered and communicate well, and succeed more often than not.

Readers – what are your thoughts? What would you add to or change on this list?

About the Author

Michelle LaBrosse

Michelle LaBrosse, CCPM, PMP, PMI-ACP, RYT, is an entrepreneurial powerhouse with a penchant for making success easy, fun, and fast She is the founder of Cheetah Learning, the author of the Cheetah Success Series, and a prolific blogger whose mission is to bring Project Management (PM) to the masses. Cheetah Learning is a virtual company with 100 employees, contractors, and licensees worldwide. To date, more than 50,000 people have become "Cheetahs" using Cheetah Learning’s innovative PM and accelerated learning techniques. Michelle also developed the Cheetah Certified Project Manager (CCPM) program based on Myers-Briggs Type Indicator personality profiling to help students master how to use their unique strengths for learning, doing projects, and negotiating. Michelle is recognized by the Project Management Institute as one of the 25 Most Influential Women in Project Management in the world. For more information, visit To read my business-oriented blogs, please visit Cheetah Learning Blog at,, and read my columns here in ISE magazine at