I've been reading a lot lately about what motivates a person in a work environment and, more specifically, in a project environment. Motivation is one of those things that is different for different individuals but if you can get it right in your project team then a motivated team can overcome all sorts of problems and issues. In my experience a motivated team will always deliver a project successfully.
And yet, for all the advice available on how to motivate people, somehow many organisations fail to do it well. That's, of course, partly because they don't have the will or the ability to implement changes that might improve motivation.
I used to work with a bunch of high-flying city traders – almost without exception they said that money was the only thing that motivated them. But they were all young and I have to wonder what is the motivation once you have more than enough money. They would probably argue that you can never have enough money but in the real world when you are being paid well to do a job, what then motivates a person week after week, month after month and year after year?
Well, this is my highly distilled list of the top ways to motivate your project team:
1. Let their voices be heard. Listen to their opinions and concerns and act on them whenever possible. If you don't agree with their opinions then explain why and take their concerns seriously (even if you think they are trivial, they are clearly important to the project team member).
2. Talk to the team members in person on a regular basis and not just at scheduled meetings or brainstorming sessions. If you are in the same building and can talk face-to-face then don't phone or send an email.
3. Help each team member to gain new project experience – push them outside their comfort zone a little by giving them additional tasks and responsibilities that will increase their confidence.
4. Be flexible about when their working day starts and end – recognise that the team members have a life outside work. As long as every team member is in the same location for a core number of hours every day, and that tasks are completed on-time, a little flexibility can make a big difference in motivating a project team.
5. Encourage the team to work together, to learn from each other and to be a sounding board for bouncing new ideas off each other.
6. Discourage competitiveness between team members – of course competitiveness between other organisations can be good for motivation, but within the team it will simply lead to a divisive and "me-centred" attitude.
7. Help each team member to develop professionally by encouraging them to attend professional project management courses. If traditional off-site training is not an option then look into e-learning and podcasts that will enhance their project management skills.
8. Encourage creativity and innovative thinking by giving the whole team the opportunity to get together for informal sessions that are not concerned solely with the current project. Use it as an opportunity to come up with ideas for the next project.
9. Don't let a blame culture become established either within the project team or within other departments involved in the project. Encourage acceptance of a problem or mistake and move on to finding ways of resolving it. But don't forget to make sure everyone has learned a lesson for next time.
10. Buy coffee and doughnuts every once in a while for the whole team. Everyone loves a treat!
Now that I have written that list it doesn't sound too hard to motivate a project team. Just remember the key points are to allow the team to learn and develop professionally in a creative environment. Make sure they have access to the right project management training so they can learn new skills and put them into practise in a project environment.