Just about every project management job description entails “motivating people who do not report to you”. It’s clearly important, but how can you do it well? The key is encouraging rather than squashing your team’s inherent self-motivation.
Most people want to do their best. This is especially true when team members maintain a strong sense of ownership in their work. As a project manager, you can help foster that sense of ownership by:
1. Developing the project plan together
Not only will you get a more realistic plan, but you will reinforce everyone’s stake in the outcome.
2. Managing to milestones (stay out of the details!)
Critical path milestones help keep everyone focused on the bigger picture. When a milestone is at risk, implications are clear and can help rally the team. Conversely, tracking the status of every detailed task can obscure the big picture. Even worse, it can easily become micromanagement and a time sink (big de-motivators!)
3. Asking for their help
There’s a BIG difference between telling someone what you need them to do, and asking them for their help. For example: we were working with a vendor who was living up to their obligations. We needed an extra day to review their work, which unfortunately gave them our feedback on a Friday. If I had just told them what we needed them to do (e.g., “We need you to work the weekend to hold to our original schedule”), the response might have been indignant (e.g., “Why is your delay our problem?”). Instead, I laid out the situation and asked if it was still possible for them to hold the original delivery date. With the decision in their court, they stepped up to the plate and said they could, if there were no further delays.
4. Showing your appreciation
Everything from regular positive feedback all the way up through celebrations for a job well done can make a difference. Positive feedback is free and easy to give, but also easy to forget. You might think, “They’re great, but that goes without saying.” WRONG. What better way to motivate someone than to tell them how much you appreciate their work?
What motivation techniques work for you? I look forward to hearing from you.