It has likely happened to all of us at least once during our project management careers – you are in the middle of a challenging (challenged?) project and the only light at the end of the tunnel is the oncoming train of more risks, issues and unplanned changes.
Keeping your own motivation level up can be challenging, but hey, we are project managers – this is what we are paid to do! However, you may find that your team members aren’t sharing your enthusiasm and slowly but surely, disengagement starts to spread like wildfire resulting in team morale and eventually productivity impacts.
So when closure is or feels like it is a long way off, what should you do to raise flagging spirits?
First, you need to maintain a positive outlook – they might not say it, but your team members take their cues from you, and if your own body language indicates defeat, it will be hard to motivate them to keep going.
It’s also valuable to have a team discussion about the situation – while misery loves company, the act of sharing fears or concerns is cathartic so long as you focus the discussion on moving forward.
That discussion should help you to narrow down the causes for reduced motivation which can then help you develop strategies to combat it.
Some common cures include:
- Team building activities – preferably those which can take the team outside of their normal working environments. These don’t need to be very long or cost a lot – frequent, short breaks are superior to one time “big bangs”.
- Bring in your sponsor or the actual customers to talk about the benefits they have either realized or expect to realize from the team’s efforts.
- Leverage gaming techniques to encourage healthy competition to overcome negativity – consider awarding points for being positive or for supporting one’s team members and use part of your team celebration budget to pay for small prizes which can be earned by cashing in those points.
- Conduct retrospectives regularly with the team to identify organization blockers or other types of annoying hurdles which might be sapping the team’s motivation. Work with your sponsor and other key stakeholders to try to overcome those.
- Recognize team members frequently – if you find your creativity well is running dry, read The Carrot Principle – there’s over a hundred ideas in that book.
While you are doing all of the above, make sure to continue to invest in yourself. Whether that is through regular exercise, doing something creative, professional development, meditating or playing with your kids or pets, you have to ensure that the battery boosts you are giving your team members don’t leave you empty.