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4 Ways to Motivate Your Project Team

Jennifer Whitt

Paper people chain linked

So it's time to kick off that big project, and keep our team motivated. I'll never forget Sue, one of my managers a long time ago, and how she kept us motivated. We had been working on a project for months on end, with many long days and nights. Sue came in one evening with pizza, and worked with us through the night to keep her team motivated. It reminds me of my father who was a coach. Before a ball game, one of his big things was to motivate the team before, during and after the game whether they won or lost. It was important to keep the team motivated for the next game. The lessons I learned from Sue and my dad's examples are things that I try to bring to my own teams today. There are times, of course, when I as project manager forget about my team, and I have to be reminded how important it is to keep them and myself motivated and engaged. I'd like to share four tips that work for me.

1. Set Realistic Goals

It's great to be excited and gung-ho when we first begin a new project and are formulating our plan, but don't neglect to get input and agreement from team members about the work load. Have you ever been stuck with work that suddenly appeared on the timeline without your input? We hate that. I don't want to do that to my team, and have found that setting realistic targets for the work they have to do prevents that from happening.

2. Measure Performance

I am reminded of family trips, and repeatedly asking, "Are we there yet?" Similarly, we need a tool that measures and tracks performance. How are we doing against the baseline of what we said we were going to do? Are we on track? Are we off track, and if so, how do we get back? How do we meet the goals that we set? As the project manager, what support or resources might my team need to get us back on track? Sometimes it may be one team member not meeting their performance objectives, because they need additional training or expertise to handle issues they are running into. Provide the support and tools, but continue to measure performance to see how you are doing.

3. Celebrate Success

This is a big one. Celebrate successes not just at the end of the project, but all along the way, even small milestones. Acknowledge that, "Hey, we met that!" Be excited about it and look forward to the next one. Reward the team for achieving success and more importantly, for working together as a team, so the focus is not on one hero. We can do that with simple measures. Me, I like pizza and chocolates, Starbucks cards or funny Dollar Store knick-knacks that say thank you.

4. Know Your Team

If this is a detailed task, is the person working on it a detail-oriented person? If they are not, we need to know that and get them some support. Also know whether or not a team member is an introvert or extrovert. When we talk about rewarding and motivating a team, we motivate an introvert a little differently than we do an extrovert. An introvert doesn't like a lot of attention, and most likely does not want the balloons and the party, whereas the extrovert might. Know their skills, expertise, idiosyncrasies, what they like and what they don't like. Knowing these kinds of things help you to keep your team motivated.

In closing, simply be aware of the people on the team, of where they are in the project and what they need to succeed. Be mindful to treat people with respect, not driving them to the next project. I'm guilty as charged; I've kept a team going, going, going and had to stop and become mindful of what they needed. In running a road race or marathon, there are stopping points along the way intended for keeping runners motivated, nourished and ready to run the full race. You are the project manager, so it's your responsibility to make sure your team is motivated for the duration of the project.

Jennifer Whitt is a speaker, trainer, Certified Performance Coach, author, and company president of PDUs2Go.com. She is a PMI-certified Project Management Professional (PMP) and knows how difficult it can be to make time for classroom or online learning so she has developed a new way for Project Managers to Earn n' Learn while on the go. For more information, please visit http://www.pdus2go.com.