MindGenius Logo and Strapline
4 people working with cogs in different colors

How to Reward Exceptional Project Team Efforts

I recently read about one software vendors opinion that you should reward exceptional project team and team member efforts – around Valentine’s Day, for example – with Valentine’s cards. What? You’ve got to be kidding. This is not the 2nd grade where we all make our Valentine’s Day mailboxes for our desks out of shoe boxes decorated in red, pink and white. I couldn’t believe what I was reading. It probably came from the same person who dreamed up giving participation ribbons or trophies to everyone.

Rewards are good. I’ve been a manager or project manager leading teams for 20+ years and it’s never been my strong point… nor has it ever been a big deal to me. But I do feel strongly about letting the word get out about a job or deliverable or milestone well-done by an individual or team effort on one of my projects. If you do like to give out special prizes or gift cards or Valentine’s Day cards to your team…more power to you.  It’s just not for me and I’d like to discuss alternative types of recognition options as they seem to be lacking in the project management community.

I’m not big on making any reward too personal in nature. People today are too litigious. I’m not saying your team or anyone on it is going to sue you, but people can do unexpected odd things so to remain completely above reproach, never get personal. Consider these four…

Send out a company wide email. If you team put forth a great effort and met a critical deadline or milestone or just completed a very successful project, don’t wait for or expect reward or notice to come from the top of the organization. Send out your own congratulatory email to the entire company or at least to key individuals and call out everyone by name. If possible, give a brief mention of everyone’s project role and how they contributed to the success.

Take the team out to dinner. It never hurts to take the team out for pizza or a nice dinner once you hit that critical milestone or final project roll out. You can all breathe a sigh of relief and get together when it isn’t about another project meeting or some sort of crisis to deal with in a war room setting. Today’s projects with geographically dispersed teams makes something like this difficult or even impossible, so you likely won’t get to use this option on many of your projects. If you all gather at the client’s site for a major deliverable handoff, lessons learned meeting, quarterly review meeting or project roll out, use that time to get away one evening to do this. I’ve done that many times and it works great.

Gift cards for extraordinary individual efforts. When it was more of an individual effort like powering through a project issue crisis or key deliverable, you can still do the company wide email distribution. But this may also be a situation where a nice gift card would be in order.

Days off. Finally, you can always fall back on the option to give a couple of days off to a project team member for extraordinary effort – if you have the authority or you can work it out with the team member’s direct manager…and if you can spare the time off in the project schedule for the individual. No one will mind a day or two off of work…this option almost always will be well received.


I think most project team pros would appreciate recognition like what I’ve listed here more than a Valentine’s Day card…these have worked well for me on my teams and direct reports anyway. But I do realize everyone is different.

Readers – what is your take on my list? What have you tried that has worked well…or hasn’t gone over so well? Please share and discuss.