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Experienced project managers know that there are times when Gantt charts, waterfall diagrams, work breakdown structures, or even good old fashioned critical paths – even giant, impressive red ones — aren’t enough to help project team members advance towards the finish line. Sure, they can help. But they need a little (or, sometimes, a lot of) something else: motivation.

And so, project managers must find ways to inspire their teams to overcome obstacles and stay focused – especially when things don’t unfold exactly as planned…which, as we all know, is the norm; not the exception.

So in the spirit of helping project managers rally their teams to greatness and vanquish traditional foes (e.g. line managers who don’t like to share, bad project management software, decaffeinated coffee, and so on) here are 5 simple and effective motivational strategies:

  1. Invite feedback from day one:  Often, project managers invite feedback when things go wrong. This is remedial — not motivational. It’s wiser to ask team members to share their views throughout the project, starting on day one. They’ll feel empowered and respected, and will be motivated to give their best.
  2. Have informal review sessions: Review sessions after a project are a vital part of the lessons-learned phase. However, informal review sessions throughout a project are just as important; especially when it comes to motivating team members. Note the word “informal” here – as in these should be simple, casual, and friendly. In fact, team members should look forward to these little sessions, and see them as opportunities to learn what they’re doing well, and where they can improve.  
  3. Establish individual and team goals: Typically, project managers are good at setting team goals (and paying for drinks when they’re met). However, many overlook the value of setting individual goals as both a staff development strategy and a powerful motivational tool. Remember: there’s nothing selfish or divisive about setting individual goals. Every team member is, to some extent, intrinsically motivated. Individual goal-setting taps into that and uses it to advance a project forward.
  4. Increase compensation: While this suggestion is sure to raise the blood pressure of most project sponsors, the plain fact is that many team members respond positively to increased compensation – not just because it puts more money in their pocket, but because it’s a symbol of respect. Just keep in mind that this approach can backfire if other project team members feel left out of the compensation conversation.
  5. Use cloud-based PM software: One of the smartest, simplest and – especially welcome after the last strategy — most affordable ways to motivate project team members is to use cloud-based project management software. Why? Because it gives individuals and groups real-time overviews and updates on what the project has done, what it’s currently doing, and where it’s headed tomorrow. Ultimately, it brings everyone into the loop, and makes them feel that they’re part of something amazing and powerful — and not just one of many specialists or staff members working “in a silo.”  

So there you have it: 5 ways to motivate project team members to new heights.

True, while it’s unlikely that these strategies will inspire team members to chant “WE’RE NUMBER ONE” or sing “WE ARE THE CHAMPIONS” all day long, they’ll do the next best thing: they’ll guide them to help the project achieve its objectives, and advance towards the finish line in the best possible way. And who knows? Project managers who master the art of motivating their team could end up winning an award, getting a raise, or at the very least, getting a pat on the back and a free coffee every now and then.