Project Management Institute

Boost your team's energy


by PAULA K. MARTIN AND KAREN TATE, PMP, Contributing Editors

For many people, projects end up feeling like just one more chore to squeeze into an already overcrowded day. But then, everything that's new or improved happens through a project. So why aren't people more excited about their projects?

Well, my friend, you're partly to blame. I‘m talking to you, the project leader! Leading isn't just slugging it out until you get to the goal line; it's about creating an environment in which people want to meet goals and are motivated to perform. You're accountable for the project outcome, and while you may achieve your goals with a team that you have to drag to the finish line, your probability of success is higher if your team is motivated and bursting through the end zone with you.

In addition, if you create an environment that's fun and energized, not only will you enjoy your job more, you'll also have people standing in line begging to be on your next team. Well, maybe not exactly begging, but significantly predisposed to your request.

Here are some simple things you can do to increase your team's motivation and make your job more fun:

Motivate your team by making sure they have the resources and support they need to do their jobs. You should be a buffer that keeps out unnecessary distractions from bosses and other stakeholders and protects the team so they can perform. Be an advocate. Say “no” when a request is not possible, and say “yes” only when the resources are available to finish the job.

Pay attention to the team process—the steps you must take to lead them through the stages of team development. These include forming, storming, norming, performing and, if you're lucky, mourning—people don't mourn when they're happy to leave a team. Make sure you've got a plan for developing your team and that you've got the tools and skills to implement that plan.

Involve the team in the project management process. When they participate in creating the plan, they'll be much more motivated to make sure it works.

Set milestones for the project, and spread them out over the execution phase. These reflection points create opportunities for recognition and celebration. Without milestones, you may be motivated at the beginning of a large project, but your energy will begin to run down. Why? Milestones break the larger goal into smaller, more manageable deliverables. Try looking at your project as a series of mini-projects, each of which ends at a milestone. When you reach each point, pause and recognize your accomplishments. Thank people for their contributions and have a small celebration to help people gear up for the next accomplishment.

Use strong, visual signs of progress. In the United States, the not-for-profit organization United Way uses a large picture of a thermometer to indicate progress in its fundraising. As staffers raise money, they increase the red “mercury” level until it reaches the 100 percent mark. Try creating a similar tool that represents the overall progress on your project. People will understand how the project is progressing and that will help motivate them to keep going.

Now get back to your team and start pumping them up! PM

Paula Martin and Karen Tate, PMP, are co-founders of MartinTate, a Cincinnati, Ohio, USA-based project management training and consulting firm and co-authors of a new book, Getting Started in Project Management [John Wiley & Sons, 2001]. They can be reached at +513-563-3010 or +877-563-3010.

This material has been reproduced with the permission of the copyright owner. Unauthorized reproduction of this material is strictly prohibited. For permission to reproduce this material, please contact PMI.

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