by Nell Gelhaus
Plenty of material is available for learning and development professionals who are looking for ways to increase their employees’ desire to learn. In fact, we’ve even written about it.
But what about your team? It can be exhausting for training developers to juggle projects, collaborate with subject matter experts, and manage stakeholder demands. How do we keep L&D professionals motivated to perform their best day after day, year after year?
Turns out, we can apply many of the same principles that we use to encourage learners in understanding how to motivate project team members. Applying these principles to your project management style will motivate your team to produce their best work.
FOCUS ON INTRINSIC VS. EXTRINSIC MOTIVATION
When motivating adult learners, intrinsic motivation beats extrinsic motivation every time, and the same applies to your training team. Because adults naturally seek meaning in their lives, intrinsic motivators include autonomy, mastery, and purpose. People want to be free to map their own course. They strive for perfection in pursuit of their interests. And they desire to be relevant.
DEFINE GOALS & EXPECTATIONS
It’s hard to get motivated when you’re unclear on what to do. Your first project kickoff meeting is your best chance to set and communicate clear and realistic project goals, for your team as a whole and each individual member. Each team member should walk away from your kickoff meeting with a complete understanding of the project expectations, priorities, and their unique role. Without clear expectations and priorities, you risk team members focusing on unnecessary work that could derail your project timeline.
PROVIDE A BIG PICTURE VIEW
Don’t forget to convey the big picture when communicating team goals and expectations. Team members are more likely to connect to the project on an emotional level when they understand the intentions of the project, where they fit in, and why their work is important. Remember intrinsic motivation? Now’s your chance to affirm their value and provide purpose. An appreciated team member is a motivated team member.
REMEMBER THAT IT STARTS WITH YOU
Ever get the feeling someone’s watching you? That’s not paranoia; it’s your project team looking to you as the model for motivation. If you aren’t excited about the project, how can you expect your team to be? There’s something to be said for rolling up your sleeves and jumping in to help during challenges. Specifically: Roll up your sleeves and jump in to help during challenges! By advocating for your team members when problems arise, whether it be unreliable SMEs or meddling management, you’ll gain trust and encourage productivity. If a de-motivating crisis is at hand, such as a project delay or cost-overrun, your positivity can carry the team through.
KNOW YOUR TEAM
No one wants to be an ant — an anonymous member of a vast army. Understanding the personalities of each person under your management not only assures your team members that you value them individually but brings insight into their strengths, which ensures that each team member is playing the proper part. Knowing each person also allows you to manage more efficiently as you begin to discover which team members work best when given complete autonomy, or which need more support.
CULTIVATE A HEALTHY TEAM RELATIONSHIP
Many of us see our coworkers just as often as we see our family. Maybe more. Tragic, isn’t it? Perhaps not. With effective leadership, coworkers can feel like an extension of your family. Fostering a solid team dynamic by using team-building exercises makes project work personal, as each person wants the other to succeed. To some, a trusted team and positive work environment are more valuable than compensation.
You can’t climb a mountain without ropes, a harness, carabiners, and whatever else they use for mountain climbing. Point is, your team won’t get where they’re going without the proper resources. Resources could be training on an unfamiliar tool, the correct software, a capable computer, or maybe just coffee. Providing for their needs allows them to work with confidence, yielding trust and motivation.
PROVIDE OPPORTUNITIES FOR DEVELOPMENT
Along with necessary provisions, opportunities for development and growth can be motivating rewards, in the intrinsic sense. Knowing that their hard work may lead to new skills learned, mastery of those they know, or leadership opportunities will encourage your team members to boost productivity. If possible, challenge your team with tasks they’ve never done to break up the monotony of performing the same function on every project. Empower them by encouraging creativity and supporting their ideas. Not only will your team members themselves reap the resulting rewards of new knowledge and skills, but your company will benefit from a more valuable employee.
What’s that saying? “If you love them, let them go”? Maybe it should be, “If you want productivity, get the heck out of the way”! If you don’t work well with someone breathing down your neck, chances are your team doesn’t either. You’ve set expectations, now set them free. Here’s where autonomy comes into play. Let your team members each chart their course to their deadlines. While nagging is a no-no, feedback should be provided directly throughout the project, along with proper metrics to track time.
…OR WASTE THEIR TIME
Remember getting out of their way? How many meetings do you participate in every day? How many are 100 percent productive. Maybe 50 percent? If you’re going to meet, be sure you send an agenda in advance, invite only the necessary participants, stay on track, and make it quick. Your team needs that time for project work.
CELEBRATE SUCCESS, BIG AND SMALL
Just as you’ll find roadblocks along the way, you’ll achieve victories, large and small. Celebrate key team milestones and individual accomplishments immediately when they occur. Not every achievement merits a party, but a public pat on the back can go a long way. So can treats, lunch, or happy hour.
CONDUCT A POST PROJECT DEBRIEF
Finally, the project’s complete, there are no more motivating opportunities, and everyone can go home! Scratch that. Let’s rewind: the project’s complete, there are still opportunities to motivate your team, so let’s have a [structured] meeting! Every project should be followed with a debrief to discover opportunities for improvement. What went well? What went poorly? Did everything that was supposed to happen, happen? Why not? How can we do better? By asking the right questions, acknowledging team responses, and making necessary changes, your team will be motivated for future projects, knowing their input was helpful.
Implementing a few of the above tips is sure to have an impact on your team members’ motivation levels. And a motivated team is a productive team, ready to handle any project that comes their way.