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Managing projects with 'true' motivators the APM way

One of things that makes APM stand out as a study route for project managers is its focus on ‘soft skills’. After all, a project is fundamentally run by its people, so the communication and behavioural choices our PM makes, can be fundamental to project success.

A project team can be a myriad of different interwoven relationships that deal with different levels of challenge and responsibility. It is the job of the project manager to ensure that team members feel that their position within the team is a worthy one and that they feel motivated and valued. This way, our PM can be sure that they are getting the best from their team ‘at all times’, not just when the project is going well.

One of the many responsibilities of a project manager is to lead and motivate so that they can get the best results from the project team members ‘at all times’. Projects take people out of their comfort zones and mean that people ‘have’ to complete challenging and difficult tasks in short timescales. Is it enough for the project team members to not just want to complete the tasks assigned to them? Possibly not. They must also ‘feel good’ about having done them, and as a result, want to be involved with similar tasks in the future, otherwise they will lose motivation.

Is money motivation enough?..

In some instances, financial payment can be the responsibility or influence of the project manager, so they can consider using this as a motivational tool for their project team members. But the question is… What about the ‘other stuff?’ Is the ‘lining of palms’ really the only motivator for those in the team. Is it not also important that team members want to carry out the tasks assigned to them and gain satisfaction from completing the tasks?

What are the real sucess factors?

But really would this be the only success factor within our projects? Will it be enough to maintain motivation throughout the life of the project? Not really. In addition to this, projects themselves are constrained by budgets so even if this was the answer, we certainly wouldn’t have an infinite supply of money to throw at people whenever we need to get things done! Many people argue that money is a primary motivator. Of course, this is true to a degree. We all have bills to pay!

However, for most people money is NOT a ‘true’ motivator - despite what they might think or say. Money is certainly important and lack of it is certainly a key motivator if you lack enough of it to sustain a reasonable level of living… or you have a project of your own to fulfil, such as a new house or a holiday. But beyond this, money is not, in isolation, a sustainable motivator. For the ‘vast majority’ of people there are much bigger more sustaining motivators than money.

The evidence around true motivation

There is a world of evidence which repeatedly shows that other factors are far more important than this. The APM syllabus covers some of the work of the well-known clinical psychologist and pioneer of job enrichment, Frederick Herzberg. His work states that factors such as ‘personal recognition’ and ‘sense of achievement’ are true motivators, not money! There are also other true motivators according to Herzberg, such as ‘the work itself’, ‘being given responsibility’ and ‘career advancement’.

So how does this integrate with projects and project management? The ability to motivate people on an individual and team basis is a fundamental attribute required of any project manager as part of the ‘softer’ side of project management. Projects are task-driven, objectives-focused and often high pressured. For projects to succeed in this environment, true motivators should be high on the project manager’s agenda and continuously at the forefront of their mind. If the right motivational factors are applied to the right people, in the right way, at the right time and for the right reasons (for example, assigning the right people to the right tasks and giving ‘personal recognition’ on completion of a job well done) then those people are more likely to be motivated. What this means for the project is simple, it is more likely to succeed and achieve its objectives.

The softer side of project management

After all, it’s the people we rely on to make the things the project manager has planned actually happen and people are far more likely to help deliver a project successfully if they are truly motivated.

When project team members are motivated, they are happier and more driven and the bi-product of this is a greater determination to make the project succeed. Everybody wins!

Motivation is consequently a fundamental ‘soft’-skill required of any project manager. Project managers need to control projects, and the one aspect of a project that can be quite difficult to control is its ‘people’, particularly when they are demotivated, as they are far less likely to be focussed on completing, or even starting their assigned tasks.

You can learn more about project management ‘soft’-skills, including motivational theories such as Herzberg’s ‘hygiene-factor’ and Maslow’s ‘hierarchy of needs’ motivational theories on SPOCE’s APM courses.

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