When astronaut Jim Lovell was asked by a reporter in 1969 about the incredible landing on the moon by his colleagues in Apollo 11, he simply said, “It wasn’t a miracle, we just decided to go.” Accomplishing a project that seems astonishing or magnanimous requires a tremendous amount of dedication and assembly of a highly qualified and committed team all working towards the same goal. But how do you keep motivated to achieve these astonishing, almost miraculous projects? Here are a few guidelines that may help.
Why Are You Doing This Project?
Uncovering the true motivation of why you are embarking on a project will be very revealing. If the ambition isn’t something a nucleus of other people can buy into, it may be destined to fail. In his TED Talk, Simon Sinek outlines the power of starting with why. It takes a great leader to inspire that motivation, so you must have a clear goal in mind before setting off.
Assemble a Strategic Team
If you need to be the smartest person in the room, the chances are that you will be at a disadvantage from the very beginning of a project. Norman Brinker, the highly successful leader of Brinker International that owned and operated renowned restaurant chains including Chili’s, Macaroni Grill, Steak & Ale and On the Border used a simple leadership philosophy – surround yourself with people who are four times smarter than you.
Understand the different skill sets you will need for each facet and feature of the project at hand. Effective project managers, budget resources, engineers, technologists and communications people all have a key role, but no one can or should be the chief cook and bottle washer. What will your role be? Respect your own area of specialized expertise, and then lift up your team members in their respective fields. Ensure they have the resources they need to get their jobs done.
Simplify the Steps
While the overall project may be very complex, simplifying as many parts of the projects while not sacrificing quality can help you and your team not get bogged down in the minutia. If you need a few good shortcut ideas, some great road-tested management hacks can help.
Break the project up into phases to help it be a little easier to digest. While it may seem productive to worry about what color you are going to paint the house, that issue doesn’t need to be dealt with when you haven’t even decided on building one. Chunking out each phase will help make the ambitious project seem much more tangible. Your team will get a taste of how all the pieces will be designed to fit together in the end rather than getting overwhelmed with the daunting nature of the project itself.
Manage Team Conflict
Along the way, teams may experience conflict. These areas of conflict could be over personality differences or tangible differences of opinion about how the project should progress. Don’t play into any budding political conflict within your team groups. Allow each respective expert share why they feel a certain way given their vantage point and background. Usually, people who feel passionately about something have a very good reason for it. Give them an audience to share their true concerns to help you and the team understand why they feel how they feel.
Once a potential challenge is on the table for the entire team, the creative juices can start to flow to resolve it together. Maybe aluminum would work just as well as the more expensive stainless steel. You won’t know whether the differences of opinion are just personality based or truly looking out for the benefit of the project and the team unless you ask.
Fear can be paralyzing, so when it creeps its ugly head in your mind or with your team, appreciate the sober perspective then focus on gratitude. The perils of fear can be crippling to the team and stand in the way of achieving greatness. Often, fear grows to its peak when we are near the finish line.
Fighting off our own self-defeating gremlins may seem overwhelming in the face of doubt, but you must keep the faith and believe there is a way through this challenge even if in the end. You merely learned a really great way of how not to do a project. There will be lessons in every phase of an ambitious task, so take good notes, as you may need them later. Keep motivated no matter what the outcome may be.
Use Role Models
Inspirational stories can be used to keep motivated when times start to get tough. Build a library of motivating stories to keep your head in the game. Fire up your Netflix account and watch a compelling story of overcoming. These could include Men of Honor, Remember the Titans, Apollo 13 or Castaway. In any case, you might collect some good anecdotes to use with your team as you are pulling them through a tough challenge together.
Celebrate Small Victories
As you complete every phase of the project, take time to celebrate that phase to keep motivated. The two most powerful words in the English language are “Thank You.” Use them often, as your team can get very discouraged when they only see the task and the taskmasters prodding the whip to get them going.
Recognitions don’t have to be expensive or extravagant. Hold a pizza party for the team and single out the people who have made a big impact in their areas. Be sure to recognize their skills and expertise and allow them to extend their gratitude to the team members who may only have been visible to them but also made a huge contribution.