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Project Manager Challenge: Rewarding Your Project Team with Meaning, Not Money - LiquidPlanner

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Project Manager Challenge: Rewarding Your Project Team with Meaning, Not Money

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Is money really a meaningful reward on a project or program?

Don’t get me wrong, I like money.  I work for a company that gives me money and every two weeks, digital dollars are deposited into my account to offset the dollars leaving the account.  If I’m lucky, I may get a larger amount deposited in the form of a bonus or salary increase.

However, the real project management challenge is: how do you reward your team members when you don’t always have HR responsibility for your team? (I’m assuming you and your company haven’t discovered a money tree growing in the backyard, so peeling off a few Ben Franklins every time an employee does something well isn’t fiscally responsible).

Below are just a few ways project managers can reward their employees, strengthen rapport and loyalty and build an effective tribe that will help you overcome project obstacles.

Give Me Some Flexibility

The concept of work-life balance is a nice organizational behavior term.  The reality is, I’ve got to take my son to his 5:30 karate class, have an hour-long commute, and the project team has scheduled an issue review at 4:00 pm.  If you trust in me enough to do my job, let me take the phone call on the road and follow up with the must-do action item after my six-year-old is done Kung Fu Fighting.  Similar scenarios can be said for juggling day drop-off or pick-up with those pesky 7:30 a.m. meetings.  Mandating an 8 to 5 work schedule isn’t realistic in a knowledge worker’s world.

There will be times when new windows need to be installed, a child has an afternoon school play, or day care just doesn’t work out as planned.  Providing flexibility to leave early or work from home in these situations is beneficial.  Work still needs to be done, but it is a huge reward to me when you trust in me enough to have a life while working for one.

Help Me Build My Network

Yes, I understand my career development is my responsibility.  It is a significant reward when someone higher on the organizational chain takes an interest in helping me make connections and highlight some of the good work and best practices that can be applied on other projects.  Team members are busy delivering on their projects and don’t always think about on-going career development.  Investing some time in employees, their career goals, and helping them make connections go a long way in forming a rewarding relationship.

Provide Comp Time

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Remember when I worked 60 hours during our project launch week and came in last Saturday to prepare for user acceptance testing?  Give your team members a comp day if they have earned it.  HR may only allocate two weeks vacation for a new employee, but if employees are working long hours delivering for the project, let them take a comp day.  You don’t always have to be a “company man.”  Your team will be rewarded and recognize your investment in them.

Provide Flexibility to Pursue Creativity

Allocate time on a periodic basis to let team members work on side projects or tasks that they want to work on or are passionate about rather than mandating the schedule.  Employees always feel valued when they are encouraged to pursue their own ideas and interests on how a problem can be solved within the organization.  Team members can become enthusiastic and creative when they are allowed the freedom to work in ideas that are interesting to them and can benefit the project or organization.

One of my side projects is working on an easier way to create earned value graphs for project teams that don’t understand earned value.  Sure I still have to deliver my project, but being encouraged to pursue ideas that will help my project and other teams is appreciated.

Say Thank You In Person

With text, instant messaging, and email, we’ve underestimated the power a sincere “thank you” can provide to each other.  If you’ve appreciated something your team member has done, don’t send an email or an instant message.  Get up from your desk, leave your office, buy the team member a soda and sincerely tell them thank you for their specific contribution.

Relationships Can’t Be Bought

Projects are delivered via relationships, and meaningful relationships are forged through personal interaction, commitment of time, and a demonstration of flexibility and trust.  No money tree can provide these rewards and thankfully it doesn’t take a wad of Ben Franklins to generate these awards.

Do you have other ideas on how to reward your team?

About the Author

Dr. Andrew Makar is an IT manager, author, instructor, and lecturer on a range of project management topics including PMO management, ERP implementation, application portfolio management, and infrastructure management.


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