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The Project Manager’s Motivational Sundae

Published: March 18, 2016

Author: Soula Yannaras

I’m not going to tell you that food is the best motivator…but food definitely is one of the best team motivators here at 3Q Digital. Effective motivation from the project manager will boost morale and lead to a more productive workplace with greater overall project success.
Looking for a few examples to effectively motivate your team? Without further ado, I present to you The Project Manager’s Motivational Sundae (you had to know I was going to use a food metaphor).

The Waffle Cone Foundation

The foundation of a traditional ice cream sundae is the waffle cone. In the realm of team motivation, good old fashioned motivational speeches, emails, and talks are the most widely used and accepted examples. Verbal motivation is the waffle cone of your motivational arsenal. A weekly email or in-person check-in will provide a basis for the working relationship with your team and it will establish a regular workplace culture of motivation and leadership.
There is something to be said about a motivational speech from the team leader to kick-off a project or to boost morale when needed. An email check-in and virtual motivational message are convenient, but a face-to-face talk will allow for direct contact with the team and provide you the ability to gauge your motivational effectiveness. If you cannot communicate with and motivate your team effectively, then the success of the project is potentially at risk.

Delicious Double-Scoop Ice Cream

Choosing the right mixture of ice cream is crucial to building the best sundae. Cookies & Cream and chocolate chip cookie dough are a sublime combination, whereas eggnog and lemon would not be the most appetizing. Finding the correct balance of team empowerment and acknowledgement is as crucial to your motivational role as the ice cream is to an ice cream sundae. Empowerment is providing your team the tools needed in order for them to hit the ground running. Providing words of confidence and expressing your belief in their skills will go a long way in the eyes of your team members. Giving them the freedom to make decisions regarding their work will convey your confidence in their abilities and motivate them effectively. Hand-holding and micro managing will often discourage the team and hinder productive teamwork. If you provide the right direction, your team will know how to proceed.
In addition to empowerment, acknowledgment is a key motivational tool. If your project is ahead of schedule thanks to the dedication and tireless effort of the team, then be sure to acknowledge the success! Take time out of the day to reach out to the team members who have gone above and beyond their call of duty. They may not be doing it for the praise, but it certainly won’t hurt for you to thank them and show your appreciation as team leader.

The Perfect Dose of Chocolate Fudge

Chocolate fudge has the ability to make or break an ice cream sundae. If the fudge is too scarce, then the sundae could be disappointing. If the fudge is too overpowering, then it is possible to miss the fine balance of flavors from the other ingredients. In the realm of motivation, setting achievable team goals can either make or break the success of your project. If your team goals are too lofty or unattainable, the team will be discouraged if they are not able to meet them. If you do not set team goals, the team will have no way to gauge their progress and will have nothing to works towards. Setting realistic project milestones and achievable team goals will give you and the rest of the team tangible markers of success. The more goals achieved, the greater the success, and the more motivated the team will be to continue their streak of accomplishment. Results-based motivation is highly effective and allows the team to work together to see success.

Peanuts? Use at Your Discretion

Peanuts are a controversial sundae topping. Sundae purists will argue that this legume should always be added in order to preserve the quality of the sundae. Others will agree that nuts are purely optional and should be added on a case-by-case basis. Friendly workplace competition is an optional and highly-contested method of team motivation. Competition can bring out the best in your team members and the worst in your team members. Some may seek potentially destructive shortcuts in order to win the competition or purposefully slow the progress of another team member in order to move ahead. Other team members may relish in the competition and work harder and more effectively than they would have without it. Competition and rewards-based motivation could be a motivational tool to utilize, but it is important to keep a close eye on the team if you do.  It is crucial that you know your team so that you can determine if this course of action will be constructive as opposed to destructive. Just like peanut allergies, workplace competition could cause unintended negative side effects, so use with caution!

Save the Cherry for the Top

The satisfying finish to a nonpareil ice cream sundae is the quintessential cherry on top. It is not only visually appealing, but also it signifies the sweet treat waiting at the finish. Perks and rewards at the completion of a project are the cherry on the top of your motivational sundae. A team activity such as an office happy hour, group sporting event outing, or movie day is a great way to celebrate the success and completion as a project. Reward items such as spa certificates, tech gadgets, and company swag are other examples of perks items that can be given for a particularly outstanding project.
This form of motivation should be used sparingly. Adding handfuls of cherries to a sundae would throw off the balance, just as showering gifts and activities on the team without reason may unintentionally sway the effectiveness of the motivation. Rewards of this nature are meant to be viewed as treats and are not as effective when it is assumed that they will be given always and without reason. They are the pièce de résistance of your motivational stockpile, and they will be a powerful tool.
Whether you now feel hungry for a sweet treat or hungry for the success of a project you are managing, a quality sundae—ice cream or motivational—will be your greatest ally.

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