Monday 11 April 2016

Project Managers: 3 Ways to Motivate your Project Team

So, you're a Project Manager. You deal with deadlines, teams, sometimes difficult team members, budgets, planning, execution, checking!
Firstly, this is not some how-to or technique'd approach to Project Management. I am not interested in the tools that Project Managers use or the techniques to systematise project management outcomes. This is a look at the soft skills necessary to get people on your side of the table. Same side of the table = project success.
How do you get the most out of your project team with the least resistance? You obviously want the most streamlined approach to successfully completing your project to your (and your clients) satisfaction.
Managing a project can be taxing at times. Especially when you look at that giant Gantt chart looming over your desk or board room table. Let's chat about how to move into a place where you smoothly get results.
  1. 80-20 Rule for Getting Results
At university I had a friend who never studied, he partied hard and always seemed relaxed about classes and semester tests. Even though his marks were always in the top 15% of the class (in the sciences). His motto was "Minimum input - Maximum Output". We all envied him for his natural ability to get things done well with minimal effort. He seemed to operate on about 10% of his available brain power, but get the best results every time!
Years later, I now understand what he was doing! He applied the Pareto Principle to everything he did.  Now, you might be thinking, "oh, another article about the 80-20 rule - BORING". Well, not actually. I think this might surprise you...
How does the Pareto Principle (80-20 rule) apply to motivating your team to get into action?  I'll tell you how.
Now, don't take my word for it... try this out for yourself. I'm all about experiential learning.
Anyway, here's how it works. You just need to simplify your approach. Think about the actions you can take to wittle away the 80% of what you are doing with your team that are not working. You can apply the "Stop.Start.Continue" assessment to your project management inputs. This way your most valuable and important inputs will maximise your output. This is how you apply the assessment to your work:
Ask yourself what you should stop doing with your team. Like, stop sending daily follow up emails. These may distract and stress team members. Then ask yourself what you should start doing? Possibly, start asking for public (witnessed by other team members) commitments by team members to desired outcomes. To create accountability. And lastly, what should you continue to do? This might be to continue to check on progress and provide praise or support where needed. In this way, you can cut away unnecessary inputs and maximise the outputs.
2. Communicate in Terms of the Highest Values of your Team Members
Even though your job is to manage a project, it's important to remember that you are not a task master, dishing out tasks and demanding results. To be truly effective, you should be there to influence the decisions and behaviour of your team relative to the project at hand. It's about influence, not dictatorship.
People respond positively to positive reinforcement. Now, I'm not telling you to be a People Pleaser, Mr Nice PM. No. You just need to tailor your message to your audience. Meaning, if you're dealing with an architect who is responsible for the next as-built drawing for the project to move forward OR a data manager  finalising a CRM tool, make sure that your message to them speaks to what they value most.
In the case of the architect, try to find out what it is that they are doing. Ask them about their process and what they think is their most valuable input. Find out what other projects they are working on that excites or inspires them. You might find that the as-built for your project is delayed because they are more enthused about a social architecture project that helps disadvantaged communities. Once you have this information, find the links between your project and the one they find most inspiring.
3. Create Accountability in Your Project Team
Studies have shown that the delineation of responsibilities is more effective when the person delegating tasks gets buy-in from the person responsible for that task, even in the smallest form. The buy-in usually creates a sense of accountability, as team members confirm their involvement, instead of being directed to carry out a task. How do you do this?
You can do this by asking questions. Questions are the best way to get anything moving forward. In my mind, there are primary questions to get real buy-in and then secondary questions to confirm a request. A primary questions allows for the other person to demonstrate authority in their chosen field, to provide a professional opinion or to feel as though they are being consulted with on an important matter. It shows them that you take them seriously as a part of the team. Secondary questions confirm your trust in their opinion and their ability to see a task through. You are allowing them to give their thoughts on the matter and then to confirm accountability for their authority on the subject. Let's try them together...
Primary Question: " Do you agree that this is our number one priority?" "How do you think we can tackle this from your perspective?" Secondary Question: "Can you give us an outcome by next week Tuesday based on what we have just discussed?"
Do you see how, we first acknowledged their authority, thereby imposing accountability on their answers and then confirmed their competence to achieve the desired outcome. They feel valued as professionals and feel as though they are being given a voice, but because of this, they are more accountable to the team because you've linked their ability to perform to their authority in their field of specialisation. It's a win-win. Your influence is driven by their buy-in to what you need for the project.
I'm sure that what I have described does sound like a very tedious thing to have to do for most of you. But if you want to influence with power and poise, you will have to slow it down and manage your team by enhancing your soft skills. Anyway, there can be no team without co-operation.
Please note that I am speaking from experience, everything I say is based on what has worked for me. I like to think of myself as astutely tuned into how people respond within a team environment and how to maximise their contribution to a team. But I don't claim to know everything, either. So, if something else works for you, I'd be very happy to hear about it in the comments. We're all here to learn.

Article by Janavi Da Silva (Msc)
Associate Partner