So why do project managers insist on trying to program their teams to do exactly as they say and expect consistently high performance? According to David Shailer's book, The Project Manager's Toolkit, managers are prone to this behaviour as people are regarded as the most adaptable resource in a project, therefore any kind of treatment should be acceptable. More often than not, however, this mindset results in the haphazard selection (and performance) of project teams.
Teams assembled with little attention paid to selection will comprise mostly of demotivated individuals with the wrong skill set. They'll go on to produce a lower quality product (if any) and the project is more likely to overrun in terms of time and cost.
To help you avoid project failures and get the most out your project teams, here are five guaranteed strategies:
1) Set mini-targetsThe first step towards successfully completing a project is breaking it down into smaller, short-term goals. Setting these mini-targets will reduce the perceived workload, and as these smaller tasks are completed, the team can see the results of their efforts and thus stay motivated.
2) Trust your teamThe amount of trust that exists between team members and project managers is a major part of project success. On the one hand, it allows you to relinquish all control in the spirit of completely trusting your team members. However, you'll soon find that this tactic leads the project into chaos. Alternatively, you can create an overly bureaucratic project environment but your micro-management will only stifle the team's performance.
Find the middle ground that shows you have confidence in the team, while still retaining some control. Do this by allowing team members to have the freedom to make decisions, use their own judgement, and speak their minds. Your team members are capable professionals, and should be given the space (and support) required to perform at their peak levels.
3) Choose the right people for your teamIt is important to assign the right jobs to the right people if you hope to get your projects completed on time and on spec. Always take the time to think about the needs of your project and find team members who can best fulfil them. By matching the required skill set to the task, you'll ensure that the team members will get the job done and actually enjoy doing it, as they aren't perceived as stressful.
4) Don't underestimate the power of motivationMost projects kick off with team members on an engagement and motivation high, but somewhere along the line, both of them start to taper off. A Gallup report on the state of the global workplace reported that only 13% of employees consider themselves engaged!
One way to get around disengagement is to closely match the skill set required to the task that needs to be done. Another way is to give your team members more autonomy, which is a major driver of motivation. You'll soon find that motivated people are more passionate and enthusiastic about their work and will work better, harder and smarter.
5) Create an enjoyable workspaceDon't be the project leader from hell. There is no harm in acknowledging the efforts of your team members and thanking them for a job well done. Even a few encouraging words or a simple pat on the back will make them feel appreciated. Other ways to create a high-performing team include:
- Allowing them take long lunch breaks if they worked overtime the previous day.
- Consider scheduling team building days or activities, which can double as a reward for hitting project milestones.
- Say thank you! It may sound simple, but it goes a long way.
It's also important to remember that your actions as a leader set the tone for the whole team. Showing an enthusiasm and deep commitment to the project will motivate your team members to follow your example.
ConclusionPeople are not machines; they need to feel appreciated, or else their motivation wanes. If you are a manager who believes everyone should just do their job, how engaged are your team members? Getting the most from your project team doesn't mean forcing them to slave away or encouraging them to slack off either.
Managers can't magically motivate people; it must come from within. Your people are the organisation’s most valuable asset – so keep them engaged and motivated, and you'll find that they consistently perform at a high level and achieve organisational objectives.
What are your strategies for creating an awesome work environment? Let us know in the comments below.