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Be a Project Motivator

written by Adrienne Keane 17 June 2019

Adrienne Keane, MAPP '09, PMP, believes in the power of positive project teams. Combining the practices of traditional and agile project management with the science of positive psychology, she coaches individuals, leaders and teams to define and achieve strategic goals while maximizing teamwork and creating a positive workplace. Adrienne's articles can be found here.

“As any good carpenter will tell you, the best tools do not build the house.”

Project work is done by people, and influencing without authority presents one of the biggest challenges project managers and team leaders face. In her book, Be a Project Motivator: Unlock the Secrets of Strengths-Based Project Management, Ruth Pearce shares practical, scientifically-bounded approaches to revealing the greatest potential of the project manager, project team, and stakeholders.

Looking up at strength

Pearce masterfully illustrates her building blocks of strengths-based project management through the journey of Maggie, a project manager who has been assigned to lead a troubled project team that has been working together for some time.

The story illustrates how Maggie introduces and uses character strengths to get to know the team, build team trust and psychological safety, and co-create a vision with the team. Using techniques such as the VIA strengths assessment, strengths-spotting, and team profiling, Maggie weaves the language of appreciation and character strengths into day-to-day practices and problem solving of the team. Team members use the strengths language to help each other grow. Over time, these new ways of working lead to better communication, higher engagement, and greater job satisfaction.

I’ve sometimes struggled with how to introduce and apply character strengths in a corporate setting. This book makes the case for why this is important and provides a practical approach illustrated with real-life stories. Pearce shows how to overcome objections and engage the team, first in understanding strengths in themselves, then seeing strengths in others, then in building strengths together. In addition to the happy path, she addresses where strengths can go wrong through underuse and overuse.

Story AND Reference Guide

Ruth Pearce, PMP

The book is structured in a way that makes it useful as a reference guide. Ruth provides strategies and questions for reflection at the beginning of each chapter to help make the concepts stick. The book culminates with a customizable day-by-day implementation plan that ties everything together to put your strengths-based project management learnings into practice.

As an agile coach, I will use this book as a go-to reference for working with my teams. I found so many practical strategies and useful techniques, as well as questions for self-reflection to build my own self-confidence and effectiveness as a coach. I highly recommend this book to project managers, agile practitioners, team leaders, business leaders, and anyone that wants to learn how to pull greatness from themselves and their teams. Maggie’s story is full of real-life situations with practical interventions to help resolve issues and grow the team. Each chapter provides strategies and questions for reflection that help make the concepts stick. Her sample implementation plan provides a roadmap of hope to help readers, “Be hopeful, be strong, be brave, be curious, and motivate!”



Pearce, R. (2018). Be a Project Motivator: Unlock the Secrets of Strengths-Based Project Management. San Francisco: Berrett Kohler.

Image Credits
Redwoods Photo by Mick Haupt on Unsplash

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