As a project manager, motivation is a multi-faceted term. You most likely were assigned or hired to manage a project that was the brainchild of someone else, be it another organization, department or colleague. So you might not be married to the idea. But you still need to find the motivating factors to drive you and your team through to the finish line. It can be a daunting challenge at times — especially on Monday mornings! So how can you keep your motivation up, and motivate your team in the process as well? Here are a few tips to that might help:
- Understand what your motivation is first — You will have trouble motivating others if you cannot motivate yourself. Take the time to understand what aspects of the project you enjoy and challenge you. Find ways to stay engaged in those areas. In the other areas, find team members that can help. Remember, as the PM, your job is not to be good at everything, but to know how to bring out the best in the team. Finding others that can take on the aspects of the project that you might not be good at, or enjoy, is not only good for the project, but part of your responsibility as a leader and coach.
- Be a good listener — Hold on! Before you roll your eyes, keep in mind that this is a simple concept that many find very difficult to follow. You will not be able to gauge the team’s motivation if you do not open up and listen. Observe. Find out what challenges individuals are facing and make plans to address them. But you can’t do that if you don’t take the time to observe (Sometimes silence can be deafening!). Put yourself in the place of a third party observer. This can be hard to do sometimes, but try to do this. Here is a tip. Ask someone else to run the meetings sometimes and listen to the topics, tones and issues in the meeting. Better yet, don’t attend the meeting in person. Just call in if you can and try not to speak if possible. If you have the ability to record meetings and listen to them later on your own, this is also a good way to hear not only others, but your communication style. Did you listen and respond accordingly to the topic at hand? Or did you simply wait for the talking to stop so you could make your point?
- Understand the source of each person’s motivation — Motivation means different things to different persons on your team, so the same motivation will not work for everyone. Again, this requires some introspection and the ability to observe the team. Have one-on-one conversations with team members to understand where they are facing challenges and how they are perceiving successes an areas of improvement.
- Set goals and create challenges for your team — to help keep them focused, especially during lulls in action. You’ll find that team members that have a goal will focus on taking ownership and achieving the goal.
- Give people responsibility and let them run with it — Try not to micro-manage the team. You will find that following this point frees you from having to take care of every detail so you can focus on other challenges. I recall when I reached this fork in the road in my career. I had a very talented team member that was very capable and, rather than take on all the responsibility, I passed on some of the responsibility of the project to him, which freed me to take on other value-added initiatives within the project and within the organization.
- Communicate what is at stake (if you do not succeed) — this is the “stick” part of “the carrot and the stick” — but, again, be aware of what motivates your team (see bullet 3)
- Be aware of the work environment — is it comfortable and do they have their basic needs met? Seems simple, but goes a long way. Try motivating the team in the morning if the office is out of coffee! Good luck!
- Have a plan and stick to it, yet remain flexible as needed — Nothing drains a team more than not knowing the trajectory of the project, or feeling that the project is flailing. When this begins to happen, it can turn into major motivation killer for the team. Set your sails and go! But be flexible. Don’t head into a storm just because you’ve charted that direction.
- Treat the team once in a while — Bring in donuts or bagels, or have a friday lunch meeting. Whatever works to motivate the team and breaks the monotony.
- Thank others! — People want to feel needed and appreciated
- Shrinkonia has a good blog post containing 25 ideas for motivating your team: http://www.shrinkonia.com/motivate-your-team-members-248.html
About the Picture: This photo was taken from a boat on the Occoquan Bay near the Virginia / Maryland border — on a beautiful day in August 2012.