When it comes to improving our project management and project success skills, often times we immediately jump right into the sea of tips, tricks, and “how to” articles out there. Yet despite arming ourselves with this new knowledge, sometimes our projects still deliver less than stellar results. Before you reassess your project management skills or strategy, you may be overlooking one of the most significant drivers of success: motivation.

“Every project manager and team leader wants to direct a team of motivated people. And many team leaders probably know that the most powerful forms of motivation — autonomy, mastery and purpose — center around self-actualization,” writes Lynda Bourne in a post off of the project management blog, the Project Management Institute. One can never underestimate the power of motivation. A motivated team can deliver results that far surpass expectations, which is why today I want talk a little bit about some ways to help managers make sure that they are doing the best job possible in maintaining a motivated team while on a project.

1. Comprehension

Make sure the person assigned to “their” task understands what is being asked of them. It’s important to communicate not only task expectations, but also how individual success will be measured. Additionally, team leaders should make an effort to be always asking their team questions, and more importantly listening to their suggestions. This helps team members develop a sense of ownership associated with autonomy as well as, helps get team member buy in for the project.

2. Acknowledgement

We all like to feel like we’ve accomplished something in our workday. According to Bourne, “Facilitating this feeling is part management — minimizing interruptions and diversions — and part communication.” It’s important for managers to acknowledge team members’ progress on a regular basis and, as Bourne points out, “accidentally” catch one doing something right. Managers typically note and correct the negative (errors, mistakes, etc…) so, it’s a good idea to try and balance this out by acknowledging some of the positives. Bourne recommends keeping this as a daily process, as a means to keep the team motivated and focused.

3. Purpose

Change is an inevitable aspect of project management, and it’s up to team leaders to maintain a sense of purpose throughout a project’s lifecycle. “The challenge usually comes when you have to move a project team member to another role or change his or her objectives,” says Bourne. As you can imagine, this can easily frustrate that team member and disrupt the group’s rhythm. This can be particularly devastating if he or she has developed a sense of purpose around the overall project. If you simply instruct people to change, you run the risk of damaging or destroying that motivation you have worked so hard to create. Instead, Bourne recommends communicating the following four points:

  1. The problem with the current situation, and the consequences of not changing.
  2. The reason the proposed change has been preferred over the other available options.
  3. The expected benefits from adopting the change.
  4. The contribution the person can make while achieving the new objective.

This doesn’t have to be a complex process. As long as you clearly communicate those four points it should ease the pain that typically accompanies change.

Making a conscious effort to maintain a motivated team is always a good call. A motivated team accomplishes more, works harder, and is viewed as a role model for the rest of the organization. I mean, who doesn’t want to be seen as a role model? So, make sure you invest in the extra time to motivating your team; it will be repaid in much more than better team performance.