You know those times when the energy around projects (especially lengthy ones) drops like a stone and everyone involved feels sluggish and unenthusiastic? This is common.
At the beginning of a project people generally have a lot of enthusiasm. Perhaps something that’s been in the pipeline for a while is finally coming to fruition so those involved are excited that it’s going to happen.
Vision is becoming reality.
That momentum can last a goodly amount of time as long as people see progress and feel connected to the project . However, when the project slows (as inevitably it will) or things begin to wrong (not quite as inevitable but it’s to be expected) or it all becomes a bit tedious (definitely will happen) then momentum and motivation can vanish as well.
What often happens is that the whole reason for starting the project in the first place can get blurred or lost in the minutiae of the day today. The ‘To Do’ lists get longer and longer so getting caught up in the endless details saps enthusiasm as well.
All you need is one significant problem, one important deadline missed, one team member leaving and it begins to feel like all the effort isn’t worth it. Not only that, most people are doing lots of other stuff as well as projects so it’s sometimes easy to let that focus get transferred to tasks that don’t require so much struggle, or are accomplished in a shorter amount of time, or simply make you feel more satisfied.
The question, of course, is how do you motivate yourself and others when this slump happens?
Here are a few things you can do to get the momentum back:
Schedule an Acknowledgement Meeting where you only talk about positive things – what everyone has done well already. This is where you remind people what the original vision was and how valuable their contributions have been to date.
If you have a remote team (see last month’s blog) make sure everyone is included even if it has to be by email. It’s really important to remind everyone on the project team that they are valued and their work is essential.
Give everyone a surprise treat. This does not have to be major and it goes hand in hand with acknowledgement. Bringing in a box of chocolates (and having them sent to remote team members) is easily done and will be a little jolly gesture.
Have a moan. Although at Impact Factory we focus on the positive and know that negativity can wipe out motivation and excitement, sometimes a good moan is useful to get things off your chest. Have a good old ‘airing’ session where team members let off some steam on how it all feels stuck and uninspiring.
Get people brainstorming. When things look as though they are grinding to a halt or even going backwards, get people together to bat around some ideas. Big word of advice here – encourage people to come up with some really whacky ideas – the whackier the better. Try to avoid coming up with solutions to fix the problems right away.
When things aren’t going well it’s easy to fall into negativity and lose both a sense of perspective and a sense of humour. At Impact Factory we even encourage people to brainstorm on how to make things worse and ensure complete failure of the project. Sounds counter-intuitive, but first, it creates laughter; second, it allows people to vent some of their stronger feelings about where the log jams are and third, believe it or not, good stuff can come out of imagining making an even greater mess of things.
I’d suggest avoiding completely trying to find a reasonable solution for a few days to let the silliness percolate and see what drips out.
Bring in fresh eyes. Another thing you can do ask input from one or two people who aren’t directly involved in the project. They could very well bring a new perspective to the project and inject some energy into tired minds.
Finally, remember, you are a team. Even though you may be a remote team and therefore don’t see each other often (if at all), it’s key to keep reminding yourself that the whole is stronger than the sum of the parts. Ensure you keep communication flowing, checking in with each other and making those personal connections.
When things don’t seem to be flowing it really is easy to let the personal links slide just at the point they are most needed.
Think of all or even one or two of the above tips as ways to beat the motivation slump so your project gets re-energised and you feel re-engaged.
By Jo Ellen Grzyb, Director, Impact Factory