Have you ever worked on a project that was critical to you and your stakeholders – but it seemed that your team did not care?  How hard was it to motivate people to get the work done on your project when it seemed they were more motivated to work on something else?

This is a scenario that seems to play out in our project management lives more often than we would like: varying levels of commitment across our projects.  This is not unusual, as we are having to work with cross-functional teams throughout the organization with little, or no, authority and often a lack of familiarity with the players.

So, what can we do to motivate and inspire the people who work on our projects when we are faced with so many obstacles?

You need a plan. As is so often the case with leadership strategies, you just can’t wing it.

Here are suggestions for that plan.

  1. Assess your audience to understand, as best you can, what drives them, both positively and negatively. Our driving forces, or our motivational buttons, are so different from one individual to the next and one department to the next. Money, lifestyle, fun, challenges and growth opportunities are just some of the drivers that we will come across. You need to assess each unit that will require a unique motivational effort.
  2. Define your motivational strategies appropriate for each target. Without the previous step, this is just a shot in the dark.  Hopefully, with a fairly good understanding of the audience, you can develop a strategy for the whole group, sub groups and individuals. Preparation is critical here.
  3. Don’t forget to communicate your expectations to the audience. We are motivating others to achieve some level of performance or desired outcome. These outcomes need to be clearly defined and communicated to our audience. With a very clear set of expectations, our motivational plans become easier to achieve.
  4. Establish a feedback loop. It is very difficult to stay motivated when the expectations were clearly set, but there was never any follow-up. We need to set up a system to provide feedback regarding progress, or lack thereof, towards the desired outcomes.
  5. Provide coaching, mentoring and training to avoid any obstacles that are limiting success. This will help to ensure motivated resources, regardless of the outcomes of past projects.
  6. Motivation requires some kind of recognition or reward afterwards. A simple “thank you that was an awesome job” can be motivation enough for some but not others. By circling back to your assessment of the audience at the beginning, you should be able to develop an environment of recognition that suits your audience from one side to the other.
  7. Motivating also requires a set of consequences for continued underperformance. People need to see that there is a cost to non-performance.

Many of us leave the motivation to others or believe that it’s just something that happens organically.  This is not the case and not good leadership behaviour.

As we see, there is a process here with elements that we should consider at all times.

Motivation builds strong teams and strong project managers.

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