Motivated Team Members

Date: 29/03/2019

Prepared by: Majed Abdeen

One of the Agile principles is "Build projects around motivated individuals. Give them the environment and support they need, and trust them to get the job done." (PMI, 2017b, p. 9). I would argue that this principle should be a mindset for any type of development approach. In my experience, I've found that when hiring, many companies only look at the technical knowledge the candidate has. I've learned from a mistake I made before, when I hired a highly qualified technical person, but I realised later that he needed a dedicated team, specialised in motivating him to complete his job on time. Yes, we need to learn how to keep the project team motivated, but if the individual is always negative, the motivation task will be difficult. However, I believe that effective communication and "lead by example" are the best methods to inspire the team to get their job done.


Management, "achieving results through others" (Simpson et al., 1991, cited by Peterson, 2007, p. 60) requires motivation. Thus leaders require interpersonal-skills; culture, industry, age, gender, and other factors affect motivational ability, challenging both organisations & Project-Managers. They must provide reasons for their team-members to work independently (PMI, 2017a, p. 341) to achieve objectives; Motivation levels significantly affect project outcomes (Peterson, 2007, p. 60).

Selecting motivated individuals

Organisations selecting employees must search for passion for work, ethics and integrity. Resilience and positivity are also necessary (Sundheim, 2014). Selection criteria considered by organisations, including Experience, Knowledge, Skills, Attitude, and International factors (PMI, 2017a, p. 332) are insufficient to identify motivation. To identify naturally motivated individuals, organisations should consider additional attributes identified as political and general sensitivity, orientation towards problem-solving/goal-achievement, and high self-esteem (Meredith, et al., 2015, pp. 98,99). Use of motivational questionnaires is beneficial; asking "what motivates you" and "how do you motivate others" can enable organisations to select motivated individuals (Kerzner, 2017, pp. 195-201).

Maintaining motivation

Regardless of team-members’ motivation, experience, or the project stage, Project-Managers are still required to motivate. Thus Project-Managers must provide attainable goals and understand individuals’ preferences/motives, since motivation is intrinsic (Peterson, 2007, pp. 60,65).

Providing challenges/opportunities, timely feedback/support, and recognising/rewarding good performance, creates high motivation; as do use of open/effective communication, team-building, trust, collaboration in problem-solving/decision-making, and constructive conflict management (PMI, 2017a, p. 337).

Creating motivational environments involves developing team culture through Team Charter/Processes, Rewarding, Teamwork, Recognising strengths, and Developing mature teams (Peterson, 2007, p. 65). Additional benefit comes from ensuring teams feel secure, informing individuals why they were chosen, increasing loyalty, fitting task assignments, and demonstrating their contribution's value to the strategic objectives (Kerzner, 2017, p. 147). Research indicates motivation is personal; Project-Managers should maintain positive attitudes, keep promises, make time for the team, ensure clarity in performance expectations, remain honest, give both praise/criticism, and provide challenges for the team to rise to (Kerzner, 2017, pp. 147,148). These are qualities mandatory in strong leadership, thus leadership skills are essential in maintaining motivation; excellent leaders can motivate whether in person or remotely, even via email (Lee-Kelley & Sankey, 2008, p. 53).


Organisations/Project-Managers must consult motivational theories. McGregor's Theory-X/Theory-Y classifies individuals, allowing leadership style/environment to be identified for each type (Peterson, 2007, pp. 60-63). Herzberg's KITA motivation attributes positive versus negative motivators, while McLelland identifies three factors; Achievement/Affiliation/Power, and MBTI can be used to identify personal styles of team-members/leaders (Peterson, 2007, pp. 61-63). The Tuckman Ladder for team development (PMI, 2017a, p. 338) also informs motivational methods/leadership, as does Maslow's Needs Hierarchy (Lewis, 2011, p. 497).


Both organisations and Project-Managers make motivational mistakes. Organisations consider only technical skills in selection (Meredith, et al., 2015, pp. 98,99), or neglect Maslow's Hierarchy in assigning staff to unsuitable positions (Lewis, 2011, p. 499). Some may select their staff so carefully they assume they do not require motivation (Meredith, et al., 2015, p. 98), a mistake also made by Project-Managers (Peterson, 2007, pp. 63-65). Project-Managers may rely on face-to-face contact/existing relationships rather than using their skills to motivate their teams; others may not recognise the importance of individuals nor understand the motivational factors outlined above (Peterson, 2007, pp. 63-65).


The key to understanding motivation is communication; effective communication in all directions allows teams, Project-Managers, and organisations to benefit from mutual understanding, enabling organisations and Project-Managers to identify, select, and motivate staff. Both organisations and Project-Managers must also understand and implement motivational factors.


Kerzner, H., 2017. Project Management: A Systems Approach to Planning, Scheduling, and Controlling. 12 ed. Hoboken, New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Lee-Kelley, L. & Sankey, T., 2008. Global virtual teams for value creation and project success: A case study. International Journal of Project Management, 26(1), p. 51–62.

Lewis, J. P., 2011. Project Planning, Scheduling, and Control: The Ultimate Hands-On Guide to Bringing Projects in On Time and On Budget. 5th ed. USA: Probus Publishing Co.

Meredith, J. R., Samuel J. Mantel, J. & Shafer, S. M., 2015. Project Management: A Managerial Approach. 9th ed. New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Peterson, T. M., 2007. Motivation: How to Increase Project Team Performance. Project Management Journal, 38(4), p. 60–69.

PMI, 2017a. A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge. 6th ed. Pennsylvania: Project Management Institute, Inc.

PMI, 2017b. AGILE PRACTICE GUIDE. Pennsylvania: Project Management Institute, Inc.

Sundheim, K., 2014. Hiring Motivated And Engaged Employees. [Online]

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[Accessed 03 2019].