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Motivate Stakeholders on the Project Team

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When it comes to stakeholder management, many project managers forget to consider the project team members.

Every project manager and team leader wants to direct a team of motivated people. And many team leaders probably know that the most powerful forms of motivation -- autonomy, mastery and purpose -- center around self-actualization.

So as a project manager or team leader, it's up to you to facilitate these circumstances for each member of your project team. To do this, you need effective communication in three key areas:

1. Comprehension. Make sure the person assigned to a task understands the work and measures of success, and agrees he or she can achieve the desired outcome.

Asking the team member questions and listening to his or her suggestions on how to best accomplish the work helps develop the team member's sense of ownership associated with autonomy.

2. Acknowledgement. Everyone likes to feel they have accomplished something in their workday. Facilitating this feeling is part management -- minimizing interruptions and diversions -- and part communication.

Make sure a team member's progress is acknowledged on a regular basis and "accidentally" catch the person doing something right. You have to notice and rectify errors in performance. Balance this negativity by acknowledging positives. This is a daily process to keep the team motivated and focused.

3. Purpose. Change is inevitable in project management, and it's up to you to maintain a sense of purpose throughout a project's lifecycle. The challenge usually comes when you have to move a project team member to another role or change his or her objectives. This can be especially frustrating if the team member has developed a sense of purpose around his or her overall project objectives and work.

If you simply instruct people to change, you risk damaging or destroying motivation. Instead, communicate these four points:

  1. The problem with the current situation, and the consequences of not changing.
  2. The reason the proposed change has been preferred over the other available options.
  3.  The expected benefits from adopting the change.
  4. The contribution the person can make while achieving the new objective.
This approach doesn't have to be complex. For example, let's assume you need to move John from development to testing:

  1. John, we need your help in testing. Mary is out sick and the schedule is weeks behind. If we don't catch up, the whole project will be delayed.
  2. I'm asking you to help because you have more experience in testing than anyone else.
  3. With your skills in testing and your knowledge of the development, I'm sure we will be able to recover the lost time in testing with minimal disruption to the development effort.
  4. With good management all around, I'm hoping this change will prevent a delayed completion, but we need you to make this possible. Are you willing to help?
If John says yes, you have turned a motivated developer into a motivated tester.

Above all, communicating to motivate has to be authentic to be effective, and it need not require too much time and effort. Plus, the extra time spent motivating will be more than repaid in better team performance.

How do you keep stakeholders happy on your project team?

 

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3 Comments

Great article. I agree with your take on motivation and explaining the reasons and purpose for the change. This is part of the buy-in process and once that can be achieved you have taken a big step towards ensuring success. Thanks for the tips!

Lynda,

The 3 points of communication are spot on. I rank acknowledgement very high on the list of motivators but it always needs to be genuine.

After completing a stressful project I often send a note of praise to an outstanding team member's functional manager. These notes are often shared across the department and are extremely effective motivators for future projects.

Thanks,

Mike

Managing all stakeholders is more than simply removing impediments or driving tasks to completion, but rather managing and embracing the tension of simultaneously being a leader and servant, task master and coach, and mentor and mentee depending on the situation.

It is up to the project leader to balance the paradox of avoiding too much control or too little autonomy. It also corresponds to what we have been talking about with respect to how you manage and lead overall stakeholder expectations to better consider how teams, companies, organizations, and systems all work together. It is after all people who deliver projects, not technology. The better we understand, empathize, and motivate people correctly, the better our products and services will be.

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