How To Keep Your Team Motivated To Achieve Success


There are times when waterfall diagrams, Gantt charts and other figures aren’t enough to advance your team to the finish line. Many managers make the mistake of thinking that proper execution, technical skills and the availability of resources are the most important factors for achieving project success. When their projects hit a wall, it is difficult to navigate through.

The Success Question

Before delving into what is important in achieving project success, it is important to clearly understand what project success is. Some project managers would deem a project successful when the tasks outlined for the project are completed. There are also many other ways of defining project success.

For the purposes of this discussion, we will use the definition of project success as outlined by the Standish Group in their CHAOS report. According to the Standish Group, for a project to be successful it must have been completed on time, within the set budget and must deliver the quality promised i.e. functions and features.

The People Aspect

Traditional methods of management of projects revolved around procedures and technical factors including scheduling, scoping, quality control and assurance, risk assessment and prevention, budgeting, procurement and communications. This is all well and good. However, there is a major factor missing in these methodologies: people.

The core of a project is people involved in the project. A wise project manager will focus on understanding the people and how they function within the project framework as a team.

Human psychology is a major part of project management. According to Project Times, project managers should spend 40% of their efforts on managing the technical and procedural aspects of a project. 60 – 70% of their efforts should be spent on the people involved in the project. This is what is now termed as people centric project management.

This approach to project management does not deny or seek to eliminate the traditional project management methodology. In its emphasis on the people behavior, it seeks to enhance traditional project management.

Motivation and Emotions

There are various aspects to applying people centric project management. One of the most important has to do with emotions and motivation.

As a project manager, you may be thinking that you’re not a psychologist and should therefore have nothing to do with the emotions of your team. The truth of the matter is that emotions have a heavy bearing on project success. Emotions drive your team members either positively or negatively. Members of the team will have varying emotions throughout the project cycle. They may be happy, sad, scared, angry or excited. Dealing with these varying emotions is a challenge that has puzzled project managers for as long as project management has existed.

Traditional project management pays little attention to the emotions of the team. This is why it is so ineffective. Emotions drive the way your team members as well as stakeholders carry out their tasks in the project. If you’re able to successfully manage the emotional aspects of the project, then you’ll have a higher chance of success.

A wise project manager will make the effort to manage both the emotional and technical aspects of the project. If these two factors are not managed adequately then the project is likely to cost more as the team is likely not to perform as it ought.

Motivation is therefore vital for the success of a project especially in knowledge based industries such as IT. It is important to ensure that your team remains motivated. This is especially important in virtual teams where team members are in varying geographical locations.

Keep Your Team Motivated

Motivation should your primary focus as a project manager and team leader. There are various ways to keep your team motivated. The following are a great to help you get started:

  • Assign ownership

Any effective team will comprises of team members with varying skills and talents. Each team member brings something different to the team and therefore plays an important role towards the success of the project

As a project manager you may feel the need to retain responsibility for actions and tasks that require individual input. This however, can result in holes in the project. It can also lead to a decline in motivation.

You can keep your team motivated by assigning specific tasks or aspects of the project to specific members of the team. This will not only improve accountability within the team, but also motivate the team members. This will come across to them as recognition of your team members’ abilities. It won’t go to waste.

  • Set realistic goals for your team

It’s easy to be excited at the onset of a project. However, it is important to refer to the members of the team when formulating your project plan. You may otherwise end up burdening them with a heavy workload in a bid to meet unrealistic goals.

It is also important to talk to the team members where there is extra work that needs to be assigned. Imagine getting stuck with work that you hadn’t planned for and was not originally on your work schedule? You’d hate it wouldn’t you? So would your team members.

Be realistic in setting targets. This will ensure team members have adequate time to finish tasks properly. It will also ensure that they don’t feel pressured or overwhelmed.

  • Keep track of performance

‘Are we there yet?’ It is important to let your team know exactly where they are as far as the project is concerned. People are often motivated when they can see the progress they’ve made and how far they need to go. It keeps them on track and helps them reassess their methods. Keeping track of performance also helps to identify and correct problems early on in the project cycle. Be sure to provide your team with the tools and support they need to measure their performance.

  • Celebrate successes

It’s important to celebrate the successful completion of a project. However, it is even more important to celebrate the little successes that occur in the course of the project cycle. This includes acknowledging the efforts of specific team members and awarding them. It may also include reaching small milestones in the project as a team.

The celebrations don’t have to be elaborate. A simple pizza or some drinks would be adequate in motivating the team to press on towards their final goal.

As a project manager, it is important to be aware of the people that make up your team. Be mindful of their emotions and their abilities. Be respectful and motivate them to complete the project successfully. This is a major part of your responsibility as a project manager.

Image:  Leo Leung

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