How to improve Project Team Motivation using appreciation at work 10 easy, practical and cost effective ways

How to improve project team motivation -  
Ten ways to motivate your project team using appreciation at work

Sometimes the difference between project success and failure can be as simple as showing your appreciation at work. We all know we perform at our best when we feel valued, so here are 10 project team motivation tips which you can build into your everyday leadership and management.

Why showing your appreciation at work matters to project team motivation

We all like to be appreciated. Whether it’s a simple wave from a fellow driver when you give way or a ‘thanks’ when you hold open the door for somebody, little acts of appreciation go a long way to making the world a better place.

It’s no different in the working environment and especially in the stressful and fast-paced world of projects. Project team motivation brings its own set of challenges and failure in this area can even put the delivery of the project at risk.

One of the challenges faced by project managers is that we are often not the line managers of the team involved, which means we have to rely on our leadership skills rather than any positional authority we may otherwise have. 

It also means we need to build and strengthen our relationships with those working on the projects, often in a short space of time, so that when things get tough – as they inevitably do on a project – people stay with us and keep performing at their best when we need it the most.

Working under pressure, or in environments which people find stressful, increases the risk of sickness and people choosing to leave their roles – and key points in projects are particularly vulnerable. One way we can reduce the risk of this happening is by showing appreciation for those working on the project. 

Such project team motivation doesn’t have to be expensive or time-consuming; it’s something we can easily build into how we lead our teams on a day-to-day basis.

How we experience appreciation

One thing which is important to understand is that we don’t all experience appreciation in the same way; Gary Chapman and Paul White describe these differences as different languages we each speak. In their book, The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace, they explain that while we all understand all five languages, we each have a preference.

The languages are:

  1. Words of Affirmation – being praised for our accomplishments, our behaviours and our character.

  2. Quality Time – receiving focused attention, preferably one-to-one.

  3. Acts of Service – having someone volunteer to do something that helps us.

  4. Tangible Gifts – being given a thoughtful token that shows we have been appreciated.

  5. Appropriate Physical Touch – a well-timed high five or handshake.

With all of the languages, the key is to be thoughtful, intentional, personal, specific and sincere, all the time recognising people as individuals and for their particular contribution. 

Some of the things we can do to show our appreciation are specific to a certain language, while others can work for more than one language. 

For example, taking a team member out for a coffee gives them a tangible gift (the coffee), some quality time, as well as words of affirmation if you give them positive feedback or tell them how you have appreciated their input. It can also be an act of service if you know your coffee-loving colleague does not have time to make or get it for themselves at the moment!

We all know we perform at our best when we feel appreciated and valued but how can we create this culture of appreciation for those who work around us? 

Where possible, project team motivation needs to become part of everyday working life, rather than saved for major milestones. That way, you build a reserve of appreciation that can act as a boost to performance and a buffer against challenging project circumstances.

A note of caution

It's really important that when you show your appreciation work it is sincere and shows that you know the person you are appreciating.  One project manager I worked with decided to show his appreciation to the most under appreciated member of the team by buying her a bottle of wine and a big box of chocolates - because he had never had a conversation with her he didn't know she was a diabetic who didn't drink.  The result was the exact opposite of the one he intended, and the whole project team's motivation went down and he had a lot of work to do to repair it.

10 Simple and cost effective ways you can show your project team you appreciate them

  1. Take someone for a coffee.
  2. Put a note on their desk recognising an achievement or simply thanking them for their effort.
  3. Thank people – both privately and publicly in meetings. Even if you do this when the person concerned is not present, it conveys to the wider team how much you appreciate them. 
  4. Start a ‘wisdom wall’ showcasing the great and insightful things people have said on the project – this can be a physical wall in the office, or a virtual pinboard.
  5. Create a welcome pack for new project team members and add a personal note explaining why you are pleased they are joining the project.
  6. Leave a thoughtful gift on someone's desk, not necessarily work-related – but make sure it’s something you know they will like.
  7. Treat the team to a meal; breakfast rolls, lunch or even a takeaway if everyone is working late.
  8. Give some unexpected time off (when the plan allows) to enjoy doing something with their friends or family.
  9. Create a team gallery to introduce everyone – who they are, what they do, their interests and something positive about them. To inject a little humour, you could even make this into a ‘Wanted Gallery’; each person is ‘wanted’ for achieving a certain aspect of the project. Another idea is to create cards in the style of football/baseball or ‘Top Trumps’ cards, highlighting people’s key achievements and attributes. If you have a physical gallery, these could be used as thank you gifts at the end of the project.
  10. Take time just to chat with people – and not about the project. Make sure you really listen to them; learn everyone’s name and a little about them.

These are just some of the day-to-day ways you can practise project team motivation. 

Key milestones in the project are an opportunity for a whole-team celebration and another way to show your appreciation for their efforts. But occasional lavish gestures are less valued than continued appreciation at work. 

Aim to make project team motivation an everyday habit; challenge yourself to find at least one opportunity a day to show your appreciation for the people working on your project. Making this a part of how you act and who you choose to be as a leader will pay dividends.

Helping leaders and teams develop ways of showing appreciation at work is just one part of Bekka’s work with project leaders, managers and PMOs. If you are looking to increase motivation at work, or have an important project you are launching, why not book a free consultation call to discuss how Bekka’s project expertise can help you?