October 2, 2014

How to Motivate Yourself, Your Team, and Others

For all the technological advances that propelled testing as a legitimate profession alongside other IT roles, it is still thanks to the efforts of the people operating the tools we have available that the field has progressed so much.

Knowing how to motivate yourself and others throughout a project is an important skill to learn, as mastering the ability to push yourself onwards in the face of hard work is key to ensure that work gets done in a timely manner.

In this article I share five ways how you can successfully motivate yourself and others even during the toughest of situations.

#1 – Define the task properly

The first rule of motivation is that the every action requires a target.

Defining clearly the task that you or your team will be working upon focuses your energies onto the work ahead and stimulates the mind to start thinking up ways to deal with it straight away. Use the SMART strategy to write goals in an actionable fashion.

On the other hand, vaguely defined tasks do not engage people in the same way. In the face of ambiguity or uncertainty, most people in a team will prefer to delegate the job of defining the task properly to the leader and plod along aimlessly until somebody bothers to point out the way.


Of course, not everyone responds in this manner. Some people thrive in situations of ambiguity, but in the context of a busy and established company, it is important to maintain high productivity levels by motivating individuals with well-delineated tasks that prompt them into action.

#2 – Set clear deadlines

Now that you have a properly defined goal, the next step is set a deadline that keeps everything and everyone moving along at a steady pace.

But the power of deadline goes beyond simply instigating people to work faster. Deadlines also help make comparisons possible, allowing individuals or a team to juxtapose the progress made on the current task with the project schedule.

This creates a sense of competition, a literal race against time, which motivates people into keeping up their efforts at work for the sake of proving their own competence and ability at the task at hand.

Moreover, tight deadlines push people into thinking more creatively by focusing on the essentials and using more efficient ways to deal with challenges. Naturally, when successful this instils a sense of satisfaction that helps a great deal in maintaining motivation levels throughout the project.

#3 – Make progress measurable and visible

Measuring your own or your team’s progress is a crucial factor in the psychology of motivation. However, figures alone will soon lose their appeal and team members will need something a bit more tangible to sustain their motivation levels.

At the early stages of software testing or development, it may be difficult to get a sense of how the task is progressing, although as the final product starts taking shape the results of the team’s efforts should be more than evident.

In this case, a good idea would be to enhance performance metrics with visuals like charts that depict the team’s progress at a glance and make it easier to compare fluctuations in productivity levels.

Burn-down charts are one type of chart that convey this gradual winding down of a project and triggers the desire of the team member’s to strive harder and see the project completed.

#4 – Maintain a confident and calm attitude

It’s useless to talk about the psychology of motivation without making reference to the emotional aspect of working alone or in a team on a project.

The previous three points of this article were suggestions that appealed directly to the cognitive aspect of the mind. Equally important to sustain high levels of motivation is the attitude you have when dealing with a project.

Maintaining a confident and calm attitude, even in the face of challenging situations, will help you avoid feelings of hopelessness of inadequacy that are often responsible for decreased motivation.

On a team level, especially if you’re in a leader position, keeping this kind of attitude will inspire others to the same and this social imitation effect will help keep the whole team operating in a level-headed and focused manner.

#5 – Have a reward to look forward to

Yes, one of the most effective methods to motivate oneself or others is by using ‘bribes’ which can be systematically delivered at regular intervals throughout the project with the team’s consent or occur randomly at the behest of a team leader.

A night out with the team (the team leader pays a round!), pizza delivery in two hours’ time, a brief break in half an hour, or anything that excites you or the rest of the team will serve to keep motivation levels up by having something pleasurable to look forward to.

This positive reinforcement is particularly effective when it happens at random intervals and as a surprise to the team members, who will then be even keener to give their utmost in hopeful expectation of the next reward!


As mechanical work is delegated to machines and humans engage in more knowledge-based activities, mastering the psychological skills that keep us going through difficult situations that involve abstract and intangible products or services will be a critical factor in our success as professionals.

Being able to harness age-old instincts for clarity and reward-seeking for the purpose of working on highly intellectual work is key to keep us and the people we work with motivated to pursue our goals till the very end.

Over to you. What tricks and techniques do you or your team use to motivate yourselves when working on a project? Let us know in the comments below.

Share article