Motivating your project team

Dave Wakeman
December 10, 2014

One thing about being a manager or leader that can frustrate many people is how do you motivate your team to get the work done in a manner that keeps your project on time, on scope, and on budget?

Being from the leadership school of thought that says we are all motivational leaders, I have developed a few keys that help me motivate team members in even the most difficult of situations. Here are my 3 favourite motivational tactics:

1. Communication

As I said at the top, we are all motivational leaders, whether we like it or not. One of the biggest de-motivators is for your team to be in a communications vacuum. As a leader of a team, you need to communicate effectively with your team, just the same as you would with a sponsor or key client.

To motivate your team and have open communications doesn’t mean that you have to spill the beans on everything that you know about every detail of the project, but it does mean that you need to keep your team in the loop on any relevant information that you have that you can and should communicate with them. A quick way to ensure that your team is getting this communication is to plan for it at the beginning of the project and set up clear goals and expectations for your communications.

2. Socialisation

Get to know your team as individuals. When pressed with a tight deadline, a problematic client, or any number of other issues that will confront your team at one time or another, it is easy to lose sight of the fact that your teams are made up of individuals with unique passions, goals, and ideas. As a motivational leader, you can go a long way to helping your team and yourself by spending a little time getting to know your team members as individuals.

This knowledge can be personal and professional, or just professional. The key from your perspective is that you want to find ways that your team members are looking to grow, what they are trying to achieve in their careers, and ways that you can effectively communicate with them. Once you begin to have a better understanding of your team as individuals, you are going to have a much easier time motivating them because you are going to be able to speak to them in a way that will make your point or provide them with opportunities and feedback that will motivate them to work harder.

3. Empowerment

This one falls back on knowing your team as individuals and setting a plan for your communications, but to go a little deeper as a project manager or leader, you can’t have all of the specialised knowledge that is needed to move most of our modern projects to completion and by the same token, you can’t begin to know the best ways to resolve every issue in any project, which leads us to empowering your team members to make decisions within the context of the project.

Empowering your team members doesn’t mean giving them the power to do whatever they want. It just means that you are going to set your team goals, objectives, and expectations. And, if a situation arises that falls outside of these parameters, you and the team member will work on the solution together.

Maybe the easiest way to begin empowering and delegating relevant decisions to your team is to give them ‘if, then’ directions that go something like: “If this happens then you have my permission to make the best decision you can within these parameters.” This will give your team a great deal of latitude, it will empower the team to make proactive decisions, and it will motivate them to do great work.

What are some of the ways that you have used to help motivate your team?

Author avatar
Dave Wakeman
Dave Wakeman is an expert in organisational development and works with clients in four primary areas: leadership, communications, strategy, and change. He has worked with global organisations like American Express, Google, and Best Buy. He is a recognised global expert on project management and is often asked to speak on issues important to project managers.
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