Project Management Institute

Get up and go

what motivates your team?

Inspiration can be hard to find—and keep. From completing the smallest daily task to achieving project milestones and overarching goals, project managers and their teams need to care about the job at hand. We asked practitioners: What motivates you and your team?


Real-World Applications

“For me, project management is a mindset; it's not just a profession or skill. It is the process of thinking that, given any problem, I can apply a structured approach to solve it, whether it's an IT project or a life problem. I can impose a framework around the problem, control it and apply a process (traditional or agile) to solve it. That motivates me.

So does the fact that project management transcends the workplace and has applications in our everyday lives. Whether it's the project of very carefully planning a road trip to take a 95-year-old relative to see her 93-year-old sister, or a project of personal financial family planning, the thought process is very similar.

Finally, I've learned a great deal about human nature (and myself) by managing projects. Project management provides us with the opportunity to observe human behavior.”

—Sizwe Dumisani, PMP, deputy program manager, DKW Communications, Washington, D.C., USA

Making Moves

Share your motivation tactics on the PMI Project, Program and Portfolio Management LinkedIn Group.

Good Leadership

“Real motivation comes from the project manager who possesses the necessary skills to develop productive behavior in any situation—especially when things change. As the team faces uncertainty and risk, motivation becomes dynamic.

I am motivated by constructive criticism. Adequate feedback about performance boosts my ego. I thrive when I am not micromanaged and maintain my independence within a collaborative environment. A leader who knows how to leverage that properly will create an open, trusting and engaging team. In my experience, that fuels a constant effort to improve, and the team will strive to solve lingering project issues.

Change can be difficult and very frustrating for a team without motivation. A leader who can manage change well goes a long way in motivating a team.”

—Michael Areola, PMI-ACP, agile system manager, TransCore Link Logistics, Houston, Texas, USA


“I feel the most motivated when I'm given full responsibility for performing tasks. To me, if a manager grants partial or full responsibility in order to implement a certain task, it shows me that I'm a trusted employee. It also means that he or she is giving me an opportunity to grow.

When I was working in the Ministry of Defense's international cooperation department, my manager gave me the opportunity to fully implement several projects, which involved organizing international conferences and industry events and even preparing high-level speeches and articles for renowned defense publications. Most of the time, he told me to send the documents to relevant people myself, which showed me he trusted me. I was highly motivated by this. It affected my level of confidence, even encouraged me to read more and deliver better quality work. I truly enjoyed what I was doing and wanted to do more.

If you do not give responsibility to people, they do not own the job. When they do not own the job, quality is affected, most of the time in a negative way. Responsibility makes people feel confident. It motivates people to be better, to take risks. Plus, there is an element of proving yourself to your boss that you are capable.”

—Nil Talu Conlan, project officer, Aircraft Programmes Department, Undersecretariat for Defense Industries, Turkish Ministry of Defense, Ankara, Turkey

“Responsibility makes people feel confident. It motivates people to be better, to take risks. Plus, there is an element of proving yourself to your boss that you are capable.”

—Nil Talu Conlan


Play to Win

“I like to use gamification—the application of elements of a game, like points, or rules of play—to create intrinsic motivation in project teams. This is not a reward system. Rather, it fosters sources of performance and satisfaction.

The game logic is as follows: The team reframes the project as a problem to solve with one goal and then defines milestones according to the project plan. Whenever we take a meaningful step forward or achieve a milestone, the progress is recognized with points. The more we plan and achieve on time, the higher the cumulative points.

During the ‘game,’ everyone sticks close together. I've noticed that each team member shares a common feeling: ‘I cannot let the group down. I must honor my engagements, actions and responsibilities.’ And as each individual works to help the group, the group in return offers help to the individual to deliver maximum output.

Using this simple game-like mechanic has a strong impact on behavior. I am much more motivated because I get relevant feedback for every step forward. Team members help each other more because that is what maximizes the feedback value and, in turn, tells the team they are achieving progress together.”

—Bart Vanderhaegen, managing director and founder of Pactify Software, Antwerp, Belgium

Rewards Program

“You may define a project in a zillion different ways, but the reality is that it's all about people. Since people are at the heart of any project, I believe that whatever legitimately motivates people in life outside of work will work for project team members as well.

I have a 13-month-old toddler. Whatever I do to motivate him for years to come, I feel can work for my team members too (though the communication style will vary, of course). Every time he finishes his meal without throwing tantrums or lets us give him a shower without much trouble, we reward him. The reward could be in the form of a kiss or a hug or his favorite food, cereal puffs.

In the same way, appreciating or rewarding people for their efforts and accomplishments at the end of an assigned task or at a project's conclusion confirms to them that they did a good job. It also reassures them that their hard work did not go unnoticed. This recognition, in turn, will encourage them to do even better in the future and perhaps go above and beyond the call of duty.

Motivation techniques should also be customized for different people and situations. But if there's anything we all have in common, it's the need to feel respected and appreciated. Just take care of that and the rest will fall in its place.”

—Vishal Kapoor, PMP, director of client relations, Stratitude Inc., San Francisco, California, USA


Remote Motivation

One of the advantages of technology is more powerful telecommuting. But virtual project managers still need help to maintain their influence and motivate team members when working remotely. Here are three ways organizations can do it:

1 Budget for face time during the planning phase of any project.

2 Establish credibility by highlighting the project manager's qualifications from the start.

3 Outfit them with tech for the most effective real-time collaboration and communication.

For more on team management, visit PMI's Career Central at

Sources: 2013 Challenger, Gray & Christmas survey; 2014 survey by office-supply retailer Staples

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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