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How to Motivate Your Team

Hey gang! This post is part of a series related to project management, created in partnership with the Project Management Institute (PMI) Michigan Huron Valley Chapter (HVC) in the Coaching Corner Forum. While the questions submitted often apply to project management specifically, the concepts discussed are applicable to anyone in a management or team leadership role.


Coaching Corner Question: How do I keep my project team motivated?

Team of people sitting and standing at table, smiling at person on other side of table who is talking

Motivation is a tricky business. Why? Because each of your team members is an individual, and each individual has his or her own set of motivators. A few people are driven entirely by financial compensation. Others want to feel connected to their coworkers. And some need autonomy and impact to truly feel motivated and engaged.

In a corporate environment, the company covers some basic motivators (financial compensation, benefits, etc.) that encourage attendance and a minimal level of performance. It's up to the leaders of each team, however, to tap into the individual motivators that drive each person to give his or her best to a particular project or effort.

So what can you do?

First, if at all possible, get to know each member of your team. If you have a large team, at least get to know the people with whom you communicate frequently and depend on for making the project progress adequately. If you're brand new to the organization or don't know your team members, a great first step is to ask each person to meet with you 1-on-1, either in person or virtually, for a quick introduction chat.

Man and woman sitting at a desk, talking 1-on-1

During the introduction meeting, you can talk about your background, family situation, hobbies, etc. The more you share with your team member, the more they'll feel like they can share non-work information with you, which can start you towards establishing a baseline of trust. Around work topics, let her know your vision for the project and what it means to you to be leading it. What are you trying to accomplish? How will you feel when the team is successful? What are you most concerned about?

But above all, make sure you take plenty of time to ASK your team member about her vision for the project. What does she enjoy working on? How would she most like to contribute? What would a successful outcome look like for her? And does she have any suggestions for how best to work with her? Feel free to add other questions that you think will help you get to know her motivators.

Once you're done with the introductions, you'll have a better idea of what makes each team member tick. That knowledge will help guide you when you need to ask team members for a favor or to put forth extra effort. It's also just a good relationship-building exercise and really helps you in your day-to-day communications with your team!

Another tip: always draw the line connecting your team members' individual contributions, the success of the project, and the overall vision and purpose of the organization. The more meaning you assign to someone's work, the more they know their efforts have impact - and that's what we all want, right? To know our time isn't wasted and that we're contributing in a positive way.

Want even more info on how to motivate your team members? Harvard Business Review has some advice. First, here's what NOT to do when you're trying to motivate your team. And when people seem to be losing motivation, turn things around by focusing on self expression, experimentation, and purpose.

Questions? Feel free to comment or reply in the Coaching Corner forum entry that posed the original question. If you would like to investigate coaching around these topics, feel free to contact me or schedule a free sample coaching session!


Lisa Ingall is an Executive, Leadership and Team Coach whose passion is supporting great leaders and their teams as they innovate to tackle any challenge while making work better for all of us. At Couragecopia, she offers personal, team and group coaching services to help people and organizations reach their full potential. She was a global project and program manager at IBM and Siemens in a former life, has been a PMP for what seems like forever, and is a member and former board member of PMI HVC.

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