How to Motivate Your Project Team in Four (4) Simple, Strategic Steps

  • from ITtoolkit.com

Image of road sign with the word 'motivation' signifying the need to motivate project teams.

Motivated teams produce better results. That’s stating the obvious. It is also stating the obvious to acknowledge that the "ability to motivate" is a manager's job, whether the designated team is responsible for a project or day-to-day IT service operations.  That said - what’s not so obvious is how it all gets done. When it comes to motivational techniques, the starting point is established by the IT management vision and the IT/End-User Partnership, both used to establish key principles of teamwork, collaboration and cooperation.  Read on for more.

Take Positive Action to Motivate and Engage

The first step in this "motivating" process is to ensure that, as manager, you are fully motivated to motivate others - to establish an ongoing committment to maximized team participation and engagement.  It takes a sustained and strategic effort to maintain a motivated team, as can be seen from the primary "motivational" techniques listed below.

#1 - Take the time to identify clear goals and objectives.

To develop the right set of steps and strategies for motivating your team, you must take the time to identify your current goals and objectives using the following questions:

Why do you need to motivate your team?

  • Are you experiencing identifiable performance problems or are you looking to increase team productivity as part of ongoing management objectives?
  • If you are experiencing performance problems, then you have to look at the nature of the problems (i.e. work delays, poor quality of work, poor attitude, etc.) in order to determine the cause, and potential solutions through motivation.
  • Is the problem systemic and integrated with the group dynamic, or can it be traced to a one or more individuals? Motivating the group as a whole vs. individuals brings different needs and issues.

What are you trying to accomplish?

  • Do you need to improve team performance, meet specific deadlines, prepare for tough times ahead, push to meet expectations, or do you need to get your team to go above and beyond expectations? Obviously, individual needs and pressures of the moment will drive the intensity of your motivational efforts.

#2 - Take an honest look at your capabilities and constraints.

Every team needs motivation, but even with performance problems, your team is still your best asset. Typically, working teams are vested with significant institutional knowledge that must be continually cultivated and leveraged. Motivation is the key to achieving that goal.

You are also an asset as a leader. Of course, you must be motivated yourself, both to motivate others and to lead by example. But you must also be realistic – considering your goals and objectives, are you capable of motivating the team, or will you need help? You also need to know what you have going for you in terms of motivational resources. On the flip side, unless you are very lucky, you will also have to deal with any number of constraints that will limit the range of potential tactics and techniques you can use to motivate others. These constraints can be organized into four (4) main categories:

  • Financial Constraints: How much money can you spend on motivational tangibles (bonuses, gifts, time off, awards, recognition events, etc)?
  • Time Constraints: How much time do you have to achieve your objectives utilizing motivational techniques? Do you need a quick result or do you have a more expansive window for long term benefits? If you need to motivate your people to work through crunch time, you will likely have a limited window of opportunity to achieve desired results.
  • Resource Constraints: Do you have access to all the resources you will need to achieve motivational success (management support, management participation, trainers, etc.), and if you don't how will you fill the gap (or mitigate the limitations)?
  • Capabilities Constraints: Do you have the skills you need to motivate your team, and if you don't, how will you fill the gap (or mitigate the limitations)?

#3 - Examine current and upcoming work conditions and characteristics.

Motivational strategies have to be closely aligned with the realities of your work environment, whether you are running a project or day to day operations. Any or all of the following conditions and characteristics will influence the "degree of motivational difficulty".

  • Is your work environment more formal or informal, and how will that influence the motivational possibilities?
  • Is your work environment highly stressful?
  • How is your team viewed by company management?
  • Higher visibility and value may simplify motivational needs, as opposed to a team that may feel isolated and devalued. What are your working conditions like? (Is there sufficient work space, access to equipment, supplies, training etc.?) Team motivation in a negative environment is much more difficult and challenging.

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#4 - Consider the people involved and how they can best be motivated.

Once you have identified your needs, and assessed your capabilities and constraints, you have to consider the key question – what can I do to motivate my people considering “my peope”?

To motivate individuals working as a team you must balance individual recognition with group recognition, and establish a good working environment with reasonable boundaries, flexibility, consistent empowerment, open communication, positive feedback and constructive criticism. The real question is how to put it all together so that you can successfully motivate your team considering actual needs, conditions and circumstances.

For more on this subject turn to our next featured articles:  How to Encourage and Increase Team Participation and Performing the Project Stakeholder Analysis


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ITtoolkit.com staff writers have experience working for some of the largest corporations, in various positions including marketing, systems engineering, help desk support, web and application development, and IT management.

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