It’s inevitable that, at some point on a project, you’ll have to motivate your team to grind away in order to get results. The projects you work on with the team members that surround you will regularly change, but the core ways of inspiring them won’t. There are tried, tested and true methods of bringing the best out of your team to maximise their potential.
1. Understand the Starting and Ending Points
The first half is really knowing who your team is: what their strengths are, what their weaknesses are, and what their potential for improvement is. Once you know that, you’ll have a clearer idea of each team member’s capabilities and how each can contribute to the project.
I once worked with someone who was originally hired on as a digital publisher. But once I got to know him better, I learned that he also had a bit of knowledge when it came to coding. This allowed me to lean on him to create fixes and make the digital aspects of the project better, as well as help speed up the overall project because he was able to contribute more.
Once you have this in place, the second step is understanding where you need to end up. If you can describe it in 300-500 words, then you really know how the project should look once complete. Another way of describing this is having a vision for the project. You should be able to articulate, in clear and definite terms, what the end goal is and how it’ll benefit the client. Otherwise, you run the double risk of:
- Not knowing when to wrap it up and put a bow on it.
- Not being able to coach your team through obstacles.
2. Regularly Check In With Your Team to Monitor Progress
At every good job I’ve ever worked, I’ve had regular review sessions with both my manager and team to mark out progress in black and white. Sure, there were weeks when I felt like I was lagging behind and didn’t look forward to those 1:1s or team sessions, but they helped keep me from missing deadlines too much. Everyone will have off days or weeks, but the crucial thing is mapping out deadlines to stay accountable — to yourself, your team and your project.
Plus, I never wanted to be ‘that person’ who rode the rest of the team’s coattails on projects and get called out publicly.
3. Small Victories Lead to Big Wins
There’s an old joke: How do you eat an elephant? – One bite at a time.
It’s the same with the project you’re managing. If you starve yourself with the aim of finishing the whole elephant in one sitting, you’ll never get through it. But if you break off bite-sized pieces and work through the project like that, the little achievements will snowball into the big one.
And don’t forget to give praise and credit to your team when they knock off small milestones, too. The bigger the project, the easier it is to feel like a hamster on a wheel — endlessly running without actually getting anywhere.
If you’ve established a clear vision for the project, then you’ll know where those milestones are and when to hand out praise once they’ve been met.
4. Lead By Example
I had one job where my team was responsible for migrating non-product content over to the new site that was being rebuilt. I’m talking hundreds and hundreds of articles that needed to be rewritten, along with new images for each one. It was a massive undertaking, and there were only four of us.
But you know who was right there alongside us in the trenches, writing those articles as well? That’s right, our project manager. He could have easily hidden behind the excuse of being in various meetings, but he didn’t. He worked with us as much as we could and I had a ton of respect for him.
Even if you can’t do the exact same work as your team, make sure they know you’re contributing the same amount as they are, in whatever form your work takes. They need to see their leader helping out instead of delegating all the dirty work.
5. Create a Team Instead of a Group of Employees
People need to feel validated and feel like they’re contributing at work. They need to feel like their team has their backs because when a relationship transcends a transactional nature, everyone gets so much more out of it.
Think about it this way: picture your best friend or closest relative and imagine they need help with something. You’d probably go to great lengths to give them a hand, right? Now picture the stranger who held open the door for you at the coffee shop yesterday. Maybe you’ll do the same for them, but you probably wouldn’t help them move homes or pick them up from the airport late at night.
That’s because you’re a lot more invested with the former and are willing to put more effort into that relationship. And if you can build the same with your team, you’re bound to get more effort and results out of them.
You don’t have to go to great lengths, either. Set team lunches or happy hours so that everyone can get to know each other outside of the office setting. Having your team know each other on a more personal level helps so much to foster strong relationships among them.
Managing a project isn’t easy, especially when one of your unofficial roles is that of providing motivation and inspiration. But the more successful you want to be, the more you have to be willing to wear that hat. As the team lead or project manager, it’s up to you to set the tone and decide how the process and destination will take shape.