Top 10 Motivation Hacks Most Project Managers Ignore

In the historic district of Seattle, Washington, is an open-air fish market. The workers are called fish-mongers Рa team led by the owner, John Yokoyama – an owner/manager who inspires his team every day. Pike Place Fish Market is not a tidy, clean and neat office. It is a place where the team cleans and guts fish, puts those fish on ice, and has a wonderful time connecting with each and every customer who visits. Turnover is very low, attendance and morale are high, and the staff is motivated to do their very best to make the market the huge success that it is.

So, where does all of this motivation come from? There have been documentaries and books written about this fish market and especially about the team that sees every day as a new project to be accomplished successfully.

Tapping into Human Motivation

The “project manager ” at Pike Place has definitely tapped into what makes a team want to do its best. You can tap into these same “hacks, ” and here are 10 you can implement immediately.

1. Know the Difference Between “Like ” and “Respect “

During the interview process for teaching positions, many employers give what is called an “empathy test. ” It is a recorded question/answer session and is designed to determine if teachers can put themselves in students’ positions and see things from that perspective. One of the questions is, “Is it important for your students to like or respect you? ” When a candidate responds by saying that respect is the most important thing, that candidate fails.

What educational research has taught us is that students work hard and want to do a good job when they like their teachers. Respect comes as a secondary benefit of liking.

Project managers can take an important lesson here. Human nature is human nature, and whether the humans are students in a high school classroom or members of a team being led by a manager, there must be a personal connection that causes those being led to genuinely like their leader.

What are you doing to develop that connection? Do your project team members see you as a person who is human, a person who has a personal side, not just a “boss? ” Opening up to your team members about the personal, human you will go a long way in making them want to do a good job for you. Don’t demand respect -earn it by working on the “like ” first.

2. Provide Small Daily Motivators

When you can email your team a joke or inspirational quote each morning, they will begin to look forward to that as a great start to their days. This practice shows them that you care about them as people and that you want to share what is funny or inspirational to you.

3. Be Present in a Service Capacity

There has been a lot of research and writing about “servant leadership. ” Servant leaders make sure that their team members have the resources they need to get the job done. They do not hand out tasks and go sit in their offices. Neither do they “hover ” and engage in micro-managing. They ask what is needed; they provide help to a member who may be struggling. When subordinates understand that their project manager wants not just to see the project completed but also wants to see them meet with success as individuals, the motivation is stronger.

4. Find Time to Play

People who play together have a tough time being angry with each other. When a project manager plans regularly scheduled social activities, s/he will find that the team works more collaboratively, supporting and helping one another. The net effect, of course, is that projects are far more successfully completed.

5. People Rise to the Levels of Expectations Set for Them

This is another “truism ” that is borrowed from education. It is also known as the “Pygmalion Effect, ” after the play of the same name. There have been several research studies demonstrating that when leaders (teachers, coaches, bosses) tell their subordinates that they know they can accomplish something, there is a spark ignited within that individual to want to accomplish what they have been told they can do. When project managers assign tasks with statements like, “I know this is challenging but I also know from your past performance that you can do it, ” those individuals will want to rise to the occasion and meet those expectations.

6. Know Your People

A demographic that is fast becoming a major force in the workplace is the millennial. Millennials approach work differently. And, they are unwilling to sacrifice their personal lives for the sake of work, unlike “baby boomers, ” who elevated the work ethic to an extreme. If you have millennials on your team, keep this in mind, and show an interest in their personal lives. Give them an hour off to get to a kid’s soccer game one in a while; be supportive as they go through personal issues. When they believe that you care, they will perform for you.

7. Be a Coach Not a Mother

There is a lot of talk today about “helicopter parents. ” They hover. They hover over their children in some kind of attempt to keep the world rosy and bright. Helicoptering in the workplace means micromanaging. Just. Don’t. Do. It. When you micro-manage, you send a message that your people are not capable. Coach them, of course. Be like the football coach who gives the play and then has the team execute it. Give them independence. If they goof, address it. If they goof again, address it again. Ultimately, several goofs may mean termination, but the rest of the team will see that as fair. After all, consistent goofs on the part of one person impact them all.

8. Involve Your Team in Small Causes

Adopt a family at Thanksgiving and Christmas. Participate in a walk/run for charity. Let the team get a sense of camaraderie while doing good for others. That carries over into the workplace where they want to do good for each other and for you.

9. Celebrate Together

When a project is completed on time and within budget, it’s a win. People celebrate wins. Tickets to a concert, sporting event, or the latest movies may be in order here.

10. Listen and Validate

In the rush of project work, it is so easy to focus on the end goal, delegate responsibilities, check progress. Sometimes, we can forget to listen. Others have suggestions and ideas. You need to listen and validate all ideas whether you believe they are realistic or not. When John, the owner of Pike’s Place Fish Market, met with his employees for their thoughts and ideas, he states that one of the younger team members said, “Let’s make this place world famous. ” At first, he says, he scoffed at the idea as unrealistic. As the discussion went on, however, he and others began to warm to the idea and started talking about ways in which that could be accomplished. Today, the fish market is world famous ‚Äì all because one person on the team thought outside the box.

In the end, the project manager is only as good as his team – sort of like the old adage about the chain and its weakest link. If you want to be consistently successful, take the time to do these 10 things. You will have a team that genuinely wants to make every project a success and will do what it takes to make that happen.

Recommended Project Management Software

If you’re interested in learning more about top rated project management software, the editors at actively recommend the following:

1 Wrike

Visit website

Tackle complex projects with Wrike’s award-winning project management software. Break projects into simple steps, assign tasks to team members, and visualize progress with Gantt charts, Kanban boards, and calendars. Manage resource allocation and forecasting with software that’s easy to launch. Automation and AI features strip away time-consuming admin tasks so you can do the best work of your life. Streamline your practices, align your team, and ensure you hit deadlines and stay on budget.

Learn more about Wrike

2 Smartsheet

Visit website

Smartsheet is an online work execution platform empowering organizations of all sizes to plan, manage, automate, and report on work. Over 80,000 brands rely on Smartsheet for project and work management.

Learn more about Smartsheet

3 ClickUp

Visit website

ClickUp is one of the highest-rated project management tools today. Use Docs, Reminders, Goals, Calendars, Chat, scheduling, assigned comments, custom views, & more with this all-in-one project management tool.

Used by 800,000+ teams in companies like Airbnb, Google, and Uber, it brings all of your projects into a single app! Built for teams of all sizes and industries, Our fully customizable & proprietary features make it a must-have for anyone wanting to keep project management in one place.

Learn more about ClickUp

Share Article


Steven Mehler Avatar
Get the Free Newsletter!
Subscribe to Project Management Insider for best practices, reviews and resources.
This email address is invalid.
Get the Free Newsletter!
Subscribe to Project Management Insider for best practices, reviews and resources.
This email address is invalid.

Demos, trials & More information

Check out our library of 60+ pm books