Good digital project management is about more than just getting things done, it’s also about keeping all your stakeholders engaged, on the same page, and generally motivated and happy. That means not just your external stakeholders (clients), but your internal ones as well: your internal project team.
I truly believe that keeping your internal project team happy and motivated is of the highest importance. Sure, you need to make your client happy too, but you will never be able to accomplish that without your internal peeps.
They are the ones who slave away, making your project a real, living, breathing THING out there in the world. They create LIFE. Then they have to watch their meticulously crafted project baby take its first steps and walk away, out of their lives forever and into the great unknown. It’s like March of the Penguins but with less (more?) crying.
Let’s take a brief pause and applaud the creative talent in our lives.
So yes, the old expression “Happiness starts from within” — I believe this applies to agencies as well. Without happy, productive, insightful and inspired creative people, no awesome client work is going to get done. Your project team is literally your lifeline.
Now this doesn’t mean fetch them coffee every five minutes or slowly fan them and feed them grapes while they toil away designing, writing or developing your latest web project. Although, personally, I do appreciate when this happens for me. (Hint to any colleagues reading this.)
It means keep them motivated. Keep them engaged. Then client happiness will take care of itself.
But how do you keep a diverse project team motivated and engaged?
I’m so glad you asked. Let’s get started.
Firstly, I am by no means an expert in psychological triggers for motivation. But I’d like to think I’m somewhat of an expert on discovering people’s motivations, as I’ve worked in many different jobs requiring me to assess exactly that.
I began my career working for a medical non-profit, organizing and putting to work teams of volunteers. Without the reward of financial compensation, I had to assess why someone wanted to be there, and how I could best use their skills: for what jobs, at what times, and to expect what result. I didn’t know it at the time but this was my introduction to project management, which is really just people management in disguise. Woah, breaking news!
Some of my volunteers were there because they were retired and bored, looking for something to do during the day.A minority of them really did just want to stay busy, for themselves. Their motivation came from selfishness, although it did not prevent them from doing good charitable work. The majority of them missed being responsible for things like they were in their previous careers and wanted that feeling of responsibility back, along with wanting to help the community.
A minority of them really did just want to stay busy, for themselves. Their motivation came from selfishness, although it did not prevent them from doing good charitable work. The majority of them missed being responsible for things like they were in their previous careers and wanted that feeling of responsibility back, along with wanting to help the community.
Some volunteers were young and there to just complete mandatory volunteer service hours for school or probation. Others were also young, but driven to volunteer in order to polish up their university applications or because they had been personally helped by this charity, and wanted to give back.
Whatever the circumstances of my volunteers, no two had the same motivation. I became adept at reading people, getting to know them through observation and determining who was there because they wanted to be, and who was there because they were forced to be there.
Once I knew someone’s motivation, I would assign them to tasks that appealed to them whenever possible.
It’s not like they got the easy way out. The tasks I assigned were sometimes not enjoyable, nor appealing. But sometimes shit’s just gotta get done. But whenever possible, I attempted to please everyone by scheduling times, tasks and special projects according to each person’s motivation and unique interests, gleaned from learning about what they want to accomplish and how they want to grow in their role and personal lives.
If a volunteer was there because they wanted to feel responsible again, after retiring from a high-pressure career, I gave them responsibility. Either they were in charge of the latest fundraising campaign, or for setting overall goals for the month, or something else important at the time.Whatever the task, I made sure they had the tools they needed to accomplish it, then left them to it.
Of course this only works with people who are actually responsible, instead of those who just crave responsibility for the sake of it. It’s easy to tell where someone falls on this spectrum.
Allowing people to fulfill their internal motivating factors at work instills ownership which is extremely important for project-based work.
I would also argue it’s just basic human kindness and should be a goal for all people who manage other people.
When a team member is given responsibility or allowed to try new things or to grow into the areas they want to grow into, it creates a sense of ownership that’s hard to beat. That ownership shows in every aspect of the project. The attention to detail, the thoughtfulness, and ultimately the end result. It’s going to be quality work.
When you combine that level of ownership with something that fuels each team member’s personal motivation, you’ve got yourself an unstoppable project team. That’s my recipe for success in digital project management.
So actually I have a confession.
No joke, this post was actually just going to be like one paragraph about how to motivate people and then I was going to end it with
but then I wrote this long ass post instead. Oops.
What are your best tips for keeping project team members happy, motivated and engaged?
How do you foster ownership within your digital project teams? Lay your pearls of wisdom upon me in the comments below!
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