Thursday, December 20, 2007

A Round of Applause, Please - by Sara R. Sandock

Remember to reward your team for a job well done-especially when your organization may not.

by Sara R. Sandock

-- This article available in

No matter how hectic a project may get, when the dust finally settles, project leaders should always praise their teams. And since many leaders don’t have the budgets or authority to reward team members with promotions or vacations, the art of the thank you must often take on a creative twist.

There are several unique and cost-effective ways to say ‘thanks’ and make colleagues feel appreciated, says Kevin Aguanno, MAPM PMP, executive project manager with IBM in Toronto, Canada. Whether it’s giving small gifts or kind gestures, Mr. Aguanno says it’s all about adding a personal touch.

“You need to show that you took the time to understand and know the person, and that you care,” Mr. Aguanno says. “That is what really matters most these days, when everyone is just a number or resource, it’s nice to actually take the time to know someone’s personal likes and dislikes—and their value as a person outside of what they contribute to your project.”

One of the most treasured gifts Mr. Aguanno ever saw someone give cost 10 cents. A senior executive overheard an employee talking about fixing up an old car. The executive found a used repair manual—for that exact car—and gave it to the employee, who was flattered and truly cherished the gift, despite its small monetary value.

Although it can be especially difficult with large teams, project leaders should also attempt to take beliefs and personal tastes into account when choosing a reward. Mr. Aguanno recalls a time when an on-site director for a major project in Russia bought traditional Russian mink hats for everyone on the team. The gift, however, upset one team member who belonged to an animal rights group. “It was offensive to her and her personal beliefs,” he says.

And since different organizations have varying policies, the reward process needs to be open, transparent, and avoid any kind of favoritism, he says.

Where It’s Due

Giving credit to the wrong people, or not giving the right individuals enough credit, are two mistakes leaders can make when dispersing recognition. Furrukh Sohail, PMP, manager of software development at Techlogix, Lahore, Pakistan, believes that appreciation should continue “with each milestone achieved collectively for a whole team and individually, depending on experience.”

Mr. Sohail adds that, aside from recognizing team members’ efforts, rewarding individuals brings about a healthy form of competition within the work environment. When giving individual recognition, Mr. Sohail says you should, “find out what are the key performance indicators and establish formulas to weigh people on discrete numbers. In addition, form a committee from within your own team to help you make this decision.”

An effective reward is not only beneficial to the recipient, but also to the entire organization. “Rewards are important, as they will improve team morale, communication and productivity. … They are a good way to retain competent workers and reduce the staff turnover rate,” says Anthony Yeong, PMP, a project manager with IWL Pty Ltd., a wealth management technology and operation solutions provider in Perth, Australia.

And when the celebration does happen, remember to bring management along and allow them to issue rewards to the team members in person. By getting the executives involved and allowing them to sign certificates, hand out awards and partake in the reward festivities, Mr. Yeong says, they are able to see a reward system’s positive outcome—one they might implement throughout the company.

Simple Thanks

Saying thanks doesn’t have to be a big deal. Anthony Yeong, PMP, with IWL Pty Ltd., sends an appreciative e-mail to all team members following the completion of a project. After the performance of team members is assessed, rewards are then disbursed in the form of gift vouchers, extra days off or an organized party for the entire project team.

“There are always other means of rewarding team members, including tangible or intangible rewards,” Mr. Yeong says.

Sara R. Sandock is a research editor with the Chicago, Illinois, USA-based Imagination Publishing.