Unmotivated employee

Managing multiple projects, budgets, and tasks is essential for a manager to be effective, but these responsibilities shouldn’t overshadow the importance of team morale and engagement. Research notes that only 20 percent of workforce members feel motivated—and that’s a problem.

If you’re having trouble creating a team culture of productivity and engagement, CMOE has you covered. This post will explore the essence of team drive and how to motivate your team as a project manager.

Why Is Team Motivation Important to a Project Manager?

Team motivation is important for the following reasons:

  • Decreases turnover. Highly engaged and motivated team members are 87 percent less likely to leave the organization.
  • Reduces absenteeism. Motivation inspires team members to show up and stay committed to their work. Motivation decreases absenteeism by 41 percent.
  • Fosters a positive work environment. Motivated team members are happier and more satisfied with their role and workplace. Motivation creates a healthy and positive team environment where people contribute their best and support each other.

What Are the Repercussions of an Unmotivated Team?

Project managers who fail to invest time and effort in boosting motivation may set these repercussions in motion:

  • Lack of productivity. Unmotivated people do the bare minimum to get through the workday. As a result, this puts more stress on other team members, harming productivity, morale, and cooperation.
  • Lack of growth. Due to the apathy that a lack of motivation triggers, people will avoid challenges and run the other way to find an easier alternative rather than capitalizing on these opportunities to grow and expand their capabilities.
  • Profit loss. Team members may not fulfill their responsibilities, which can negatively impact your team, project budget, and customer relationships. The lack of productivity and growth can cost businesses as much as $550 billion each year.

5 Tips on How to Motivate Your Team as a Project Manager

Take a look at the following three motivation tactics that you can begin employing today:

  • Make a Commitment to Happiness

Research reveals that when team members work in a welcoming atmosphere that meets their needs, their productivity increases by 12 to 20 percent. In short, a happy workforce is a motivated workforce.

Here are a few tangible ways to prioritize your team members’ happiness:

    • Understand what happiness means to them. During your 1:1 discussions, ask each team member what types of roles, tasks, and environment they find most fulfilling. After your conversations, analyze your team’s responses. Are there any similarities and/or patterns? Identify key themes and find ways to implement them into your team culture.
    • Offer flexibility. People’s preferences differ according to their needs and lifestyle. Consider offering flexible scheduling, a hybrid working environment (e.g., work from home and in the office), and opportunities to unwind (e.g., team retreats, yoga sessions, gym passes, etc.). Be open to your team members’ needs as long as they promote higher motivation and productivity.
  • Connect Everyday Tasks to Larger Goals

Purpose in one’s job matters: 70 percent of employees report that they lean on work to define their purpose. Notably, 52 percent of purpose-driven companies saw more than 10 percent growth compared to their counterparts.

Each person on your team likely has a unique role that connects to a larger company-wide goal. Make sure your team members understand this link.

Every project, task, and decision should come with verbal or written context explaining:

How their tasks play a vital role in company initiatives

How providing quality work impacts organizational performance

A productive way to track your team’s tasks to larger goals is by setting up objectives and key results (OKRs):


  • Objectives: The organization’s key strategy and goals
  • Key results: Measurable actions your team works toward each day

Upon discussing these two areas, you can establish a comprehensive team goal. This team goal should help close the gap between objectives and key results. We dive deeper into this in the next section.

  • Ensure Your Team Goals Are Clear and Realistic

As a project manager, establishing clear and realistic goals is crucial in setting up your team for success. Though this advice might seem obvious, 90 percent of business leaders fail to achieve their goals due to poor execution.

How are you carrying out your team goals? Are there areas that you could refine? To ensure you’re on track, stay centered on the SMART goal theory that goals should be specific, measurable, aligned, realistic, and time-bound. Here are a few examples of SMART goals:

    • Onboard 5,000 new online customers in the upcoming quarter.
    • Reduce customer complaints/issues by 10 percent in the next month.
    • Complete one training course every two months.


Project managers should define the goal clearly and concisely for team members. The narrower it is, the better your team can effectively plan and execute on the objective.


The goal should include specific milestones that measure how successfully the team fulfills the objective. For example, if your goal is to reduce customer complaints, you might measure this by the number of complaint tickets that come in.


The goal must align with the team, department, and organizational objectives. Project managers should communicate with other managers to stay current on business objectives and identify potential areas of overlap or opportunities to collaborate. Collaborating with other teams may help team members achieve their goal more efficiently and effectively.


The goal must be challenging but realistic for it to be achieved. Look at your current resources. Do you need to take any preliminary steps before spearheading the goal? Make sure your team is ready to tackle the objective.


The goal should have a clear time frame or deadline to help motivate your team and help you prioritize tasks. Make sure the deadline is realistic by building in extra time for feedback and anticipating potential errors and roadblocks (especially if you’re diving into a new area of work).

For additional guidance, be sure to read about setting goals for higher performance

  • Create a Healthy Feedback LoopGetting employee feedback in a meeting

Although it’s your job to provide each team members with feedback as they navigate through their goals, you should also allow them to voice their concerns or ideas. Team communication should always be a two-way street. open dialogue fosters trust and camaraderie between you and your team members.

There are four main types of feedback you and your team can utilize:

360-Degree Feedback

360-degree feedback gathers feedback from several sources, such as direct reports, peers on the same and/or different teams, and clients. The goal is to help employees acquire a holistic view of performance and behaviors and identify areas for improvement.

According to Richard Lepsinger and Anntoinette D. Lucia, the authors of The Art and Science of 360 Degree Feedback, this type of feedback is beneficial for those wanting to

    • Improve individual and team effectiveness.
    • Achieve a specific business strategy.

360-degree feedback can help your team members gain better self-awareness, guiding them towards more desirable attitudes and behaviors and becoming better teammates.

When creating your 360-degree survey, it’s essential to align your questions with the team values you’d like to promote. For example, if you want to promote adaptability, you may want to ask questions like, “How well does this person adapt to changing priorities?”

Real-Time Feedback

Real-time feedback is a performance-management method that keeps team members updated on their performance. Instead of waiting for annual reviews to discuss issues, it offers on-the-spot feedback. As a result, team members can save time and reduce mistakes.

For example, when a project manager addresses issues on a report with a team member, that would be considered real-time feedback. It focuses on action and performance and allows both individuals to clarify expectations and offer or seek guidance.

Here are a few ways to approach real-time feedback the right way:

    • Directly ask team members what help they need. That way, you can become an advocate of their learning journey rather than veering into micromanagement.
    • Be specific by using the SBI (Situation, Behavior, and Impact) Model. When using this framework, project managers should describe the following:
      • The situation (e.g., “When you took on the research project, …”)
      • The behavior (e.g., “I didn’t receive your outline by the deadline we agreed to.”)
      • The impact one’s behavior had on the team (e.g., “When you don’t meet deadlines, the team cannot move forward.”)
    • Give team members time to learn and grow from the feedback. Real-time feedback is prompt, but you can’t expect team members to change overnight. Be patient and give them the time to learn and grow from your feedback. Check in regularly to see if they need help or clarification on anything you’ve discussed.

CoachingCoaching employees

Less than three in ten employees strongly agree that they are managed in a way that motivates them to put their best foot forward.

To increase the odds, employers must shift their performance-management strategy by training managers to be coaches. And millennials—the demographic that dominates the workforce today—agree; seventy-nine percent of them would like their managers to be coaches or mentors.

Project managers can work on their coaching skills by strategizing ways to

    • Ask for and offer constructive feedback.
    • Identify a team member’s strengths and weaknesses.
    • Proactively solve problems and handle difficult conversations.
    • Initiate productive performance and compensation conversations.

CMOE’s Coaching Skills Assessment can help you analyze your skills as a coach. This assessment allows you to gain awareness of your personal opportunities for improvement and become a better coach to your team members. You may also consider looking into coaching training programs led by industry experts who set up a roadmap aligned with those critical areas above.


Evaluation involves using a numerical scoring system to rate performance.

For example, when evaluating team members, you would rate them and they would rate themselves. Then, you both compare and discuss the scores together. This enables your team to measure its performance and openly discuss it.

Remember that as the team project manager, it’s your responsibility to set an example that’s worth following. Be sure to be candid but caring as you provide feedback during your evaluation discussion. Otherwise, the scoring system can backfire and create hostility and resentment.

Stay centered on providing feedback to nurture your team’s development. Remember that this is a vital area encompassing over 90 percent of a person’s decision to stay or leave their job.

  • Celebrate the Small Wins

As a manager, it’s vital to notice the significant achievements as well as the smaller, more progressive ones. According to Harvard Business Review, this can affect how team members feel and perform. Celebrating small wins can also help nurture purpose in one’s work.

Look back at your SMART goals and note the milestones you’ve listed. When a team member reaches a milestone, recognize them for their achievement. Consider personalizing this recognition based on their preferences. In other words, do they like public recognition or prefer a quieter context such as a hand-written note?

Learn and Grow More with CMOE’s Teamwork Solutions

At CMOE, we aim to help teams like yours achieve their full potential. If you’d like to learn more about bolstering motivation in project management, look into our Teamwork and Team Development trainings. The programs can help you overcome team challenges and offer ideas on unleashing your team’s potential.

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About the Author
CMOE’s Design Team is comprised of individuals with diverse and complementary strengths, talents, education, and experience who have come together to bring a unique service to CMOE’s clients. Our team has a rich depth of knowledge, holding advanced degrees in areas such as business management, psychology, communication, human resource management, organizational development, and sociology.

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