The NFL always showcases some great talent and it’s inspiring to watch and consider how the world of sports relates to project management. As I reflect on the highlights of a past game in which the winless (at the time) Cincinnati Bengals went up against the Los Angeles Rams, I wondered if the coaches of the respective teams feel more or less confident based on their teams’ records. Specifically, does head coach Sean McVay or one of his players think ‘We’re playing the Bengals who have yet to win a single game this season, this will be an easy win for us!’?

I’ve seen this mentality play out in projects and found that the outcome is usually not good. Team members who are overly confident fail to prepare for meetings, show up late, or wait until the last minute to complete tasks; all of which result in missed deadlines, unexpected or unpredictable performance, and failure.

When you have a project, what can you do to make sure your team is preparing sufficiently to attack each challenge to ensure success? While this isn’t an all-inclusive list of tips for project success, these are three of my favorites you can’t go wrong with.

Reward the Good

Give credit where credit is due. That means if you notice a team member is always prepared and on point, acknowledge and thank them in front of the team. Give them a pat on the back. People want to be recognized for their hard work and dedication. However, if someone appears to be ‘shooting from the hip’ or not prepared, consider taking them aside to give them some examples of what they can do to be better prepared. The goal is to guide your team to be successful and manage expectations.

Shared Tools and Trackers

This takes some preparation on your end as the project manager, but the time spent is well worth the effort. Use tools to track all future milestones so everyone knows what the team’s goals are. Make them available to everyone so they can feel empowered to update their own information. Send reminders about the team’s goals and to update completed milestones prior to the next key meeting. In status meetings, focus on those areas where the tracker has not been updated or where your team members may need additional help.

Change Up the Routine

A prepared team can handle impromptu product demos, surprise customer visits, or unplanned requests for information from leadership. You should set the expectation that things can change at any moment and team members should be prepared to effectively handle each situation. For instance, surprise your team by running the meeting a different way. If you always start off with Jane’s status, ask her to go last and start with Brian instead. If you always have phone meetings, make the next one in person. Have someone else kick-off the meeting in your place. You get the idea – agility. Changing the routine will encourage and challenge your team to be ready for any situation.

The bottom line is to prepare your team for success with every project using a proven methodology, regardless of how easy or repetitive the project may seem at first glance. T2 Tech Group’s project management methodology combines principles from PMI and Agile for team collaboration and empowerment. Remember, as a project manager, you are a guide and not a dictator. Have fun and leverage the knowledge and skills your team brings to the playing field.