How to Motivate Others as a Project Manager

How to Motivate as a Project Manager

The first topic of motivation is a fitting start.  Motivation is necessary to lead and to succeed — personally and professionally.

As a project manager, motivation is a multi-faceted term.  There is the inner motivation to succeed as the project manager by delivering a product or service as promised (on time, within budget and scope, and delivered at an acceptable level of quality from the client’s perspective — more on this topic later).  There is also the need to motivate your team.  In most projects, the idea that started the project probably did not come from the project manager or the project team.  It was most likely thought of at the stakeholder / client level or even higher.

So, as the project manager, you are responsible for providing motivation to your project team as well as digging deep within yourself to find and maintain the motivation to succeed and deliver.  When doing this, keep a few things in mind:

  1. Understand what your motivation is first — You will have trouble motivating others if you cannot motivate yourself
  2. Be a good listener — You will not be able to gauge the team’s motivation if you do not open up and listen.  (Sometimes silence can be deafening as well!)
  3. 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
  4. Set goals and create challenges for your team — to help keep them focused, especially during lulls in action
  5. 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.
  6. 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)
  7. Be aware of the work environment — is it comfortable and do they have their basic needs met?  Seems simple, but goes a long way
  8. 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.
  9. 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 break the monotony
  10. Thank others! — People want to feel needed and appreciated

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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.