Motivating Your Project Team Members

Posted on December 29, 2009 by


How does a Project Manager motivate their team to do their best, and therefore increase the likelihood of project success? The most important thing to remember is that because team members are individuals they each have a unique set of motivators. I have talked to salespeople who were rewarded by being given a vacation day if they had stellar sales. They hated it! That day off hurt their next month’s sales numbers. I have a quiet friend whose company sings “happy birthday” to employees on their birthday to motivate them. It is so embarrassing to her that she takes a vacation day on her birthday just to avoid the discomfort of being the center of attention. The movie “Baby Mama” (2008) includes an eccentric boss named Barry who is pleased with his employee, Kate, and says “Congratulations, Kate. I want to reward you with five minutes of uninterrupted eye contact.” And he proceeds with a very uncomfortable stare. In grade school I had a teacher with a collection of pets in her classroom who would reward good students by letting them play with a little live snake at their desk. Not liking snakes, I was often worried that I would be “rewarded” in class.

Some things motivate most people—such as money and a sincere word of appreciation. I personally enjoy working with team members who are highly motivated by opportunities to learn as I enjoy opportunities to teach. Some things also unmotivate most people—such as being treated with a lack of respect and appreciation. Again, there will be some differences among individuals in what hurts their personal motivation. What unique motivators have you found? What rewards gone wrong have you experienced?