Nov 15, 2010

Five Ways To Keep Your Team's Motivation Sky High

In my first job as a software engineer, for first three months I was a corner programmer - a guy who just focus on his work, don't know about rest of project, scared about his work's quality and secluded from team. But then something wonderful happened - my project manager called me in a meeting and explained project's overall goal, where project is standing at the moment, what milestones are planned, what each team member is doing, what are risks etc. and suddenly I felt like most responsible and motivated member of the team. Team interaction started, sense of ownership developed and focus was moved from 'my' work to 'our' work.
Now so many years down the line, I still use information dissemination as number one tool for motivating my team. Once you bring team on board and trust them with project information, they automatically start embracing project and feeling ownership of it - which is like putting seeds for motivation.  

Have you watched Apollo 13, the epic movie on space mission that turned into disaster and how they finally were able to bring spacecraft back to earth safely. Try to get into that perspective and put yourself in driving seat as a project manager. You have a spacecraft that has got some serious damage, you have some of your finest team members on board, you want to bring them back on earth but circumstance, technology, machines are all against you. You got to lead your team on ground to guide the other team members in spacecraft to somehow bring them back safely. 
Now tell me how much you are more aware of project's latest happenings than your team? You all are on same page, right - and that's the key. You didn't hide anything from your team since there isn't any point of secrecy, the team members exactly know where the project is standing at the moment - and this openness of yours, this awareness of circumstances and this sharing of knowledge give huge boost of confidence and ownership to team members. It happened with Apollo 13 team and it happened with thousands of other projects. When you share information on latest happenings, news and information on project with team members, they come back to you with more dedication, hard work and ownership. If something goes bad you don't have to force your team to do late-sittings, for example, because they would themselves realize they got to do it on the basis of knowledge that you shared. Therefore sharing project status with your team members all the time is very important to keep motivation high. 
[By the way, if you haven't watched Apollo 13 yet, I would strongly recommend you do and also urge your team members to watch it. It is one of those movies which teach you value of project management, leadership, motivation etc.] 

Now that you have shared project's background and routinely update your team on project status, the next step is to actually 'step back' and empower your team to make some decisions, lead activities and manage schedule. Of course you are there to guide them, train them and to check whatever decision they make or however they manage things - but this empowerment in itself is going to motivate your team in huge proportions. This has to be a gradual process - you would encourage your team members to run the show from smaller stuff to gradually larger things. This particular trait not only motivates team but it also helps in organic growth in organization.  

Feedback is one of those things in life which have negative perception tied with them, although that's not true at all. Perhaps reason of this notion is that feedbacks are usually provided annually with salary increments announcements - however the feedbacks we are talking about right now are 'project feedbacks' - which a project manager should be providing her team members casually but regularly. The trust that you have built in your team by sharing information and empowering your team will create an environment where feedback will be received positively and your team members will know that constant feedback will be helpful in improving their own performance. 

Trust between team members and leadership is of paramount importance for project success.  This is a key trait which gets developed in a team only if information is properly disseminated, team is trained to be leaders, feedback are positively received and whole team owns project. I have this separate post on trust where I have discussed in detail value of trust and how to achieve it. 

I found these five ways to keep motivation level of team members high in lot of projects. What are your experiences, please share.

No comments: