How do great project managers keep teams motivated?

Leadership, Project Services

How do great project managers keep teams motivated?

People are the common denominator in determining whether projects fail or succeed.  During those long and tough projects that can wear down even the most resilient of people, it is essential for project managers to keep their teams motivated.


At Precision Sourcing we have been recruiting technical project managers for over 13 years for some of Australia’s leading organisations.  During our competency based interview process a key questions we always ask project managers is ‘How do they keep teams motivated during those dark days?’


You know the type.  Stakeholders that you feel are literally put on the planet to make your life a living hell, sponsors who aren’t interested anymore and never were as they didn’t sign off on the project and a business that finds change vile.  Add to this aggressive time lines, a budget that’s already blown and weekend work.


Many great Project Managers will tell you that this is the norm, projects are hard but how do you keep your teams motivated?


At Precision Sourcing we canvassed some of Australia’s most highly respected Technical Project and Program Managers.


See below their tips. How does this compare to your thoughts and what advice would you give?

  1. Ensure short term goals are defined as well as the delivery plan. This will instill a sense of tangible progress.
  2. Promote empowerment and ownership of tasks & decisions with an open door for escalation of blockages and issues.
  3. Deal with conflict fairly and early to avoid the breakdown in the team dynamic.
  4. Have the team participate collaboratively in the planning process. It’s much easier to commit to a milestone that you’ve had a hand in setting or, if imposed from above, that you’ve worked through in order to come up with a viable plan.
  5. Establish meaningful metrics to track progress against actual – with a “who needs help” section in the team meeting to anticipate slippage and find ways to help each other stay on track.
  6. Re-plan and communicate upwards and downwards if necessary – don’t just keep on slogging if your original planning assumptions don’t hold up, or when all the risks turn to issues (as often happens in long projects).
  7. Celebrate every milestone!
  8. The rest comes down to the culture – my cornerstones are trust, love, respect and celebration – or, more simply, “arohanui” (Maori word meaning “big love” and more)
  9. Very clear direction on the interim objectives on a week by week basis…
  10. Realistic schedules which allow for births, deaths, marriages, and sickness and including planned breaks/ limited overtime over Christmas etc.
  11. Recognise that family comes first when there is a crisis.
  12. Positive attitude and employing people who radiate warmth.
  13. Getting rid of people who suck the life out of projects.
  14. General dark humour and camaraderie.