When you’ve got a deadline coming up for a project, it can be difficult to avoid nagging your team. But, as you probably realize, nagging is rarely a good way to make sure something important gets done. In fact, it can have the opposite effect and instead ensure that your team members will be resentful, and it could even slow them down.

Instead of bugging your team members to get cracking, use these tips to motivate your team before your deadline hits:

Work in milestones

When possible, break up the larger project into several smaller pieces, and set deadlines for each milestone. Sometimes, a team can get bogged down because a project seems overwhelming. Setting deadlines for smaller milestones helps alleviate this problem. It also helps you use some of the following motivational tactics, which are better used throughout the course of a project instead of just at the end.

Give immediate recognition

Each time a team or team member meets a milestone on deadline – or, better yet, does so ahead of the deadline – implement a recognition program. Recognizing employees for their hard work through monetary or non-monetary rewards – even just an appreciative “thank you” – will motivate them to continue meeting milestone deadlines.

Provide early completion incentives

completion incentives

One article from the San Francisco Chronicle notes the benefits of early completion incentives as motivation for employees to meet deadlines or finish work early. If every person on the team is integral to a project, you can scale this for the entire team. For instance, if the project is completed early, everyone gets a bonus. If not, no one gets it. This can help motivate individual team members and give them a reason to motivate one another.

Give over ownership

Most workers are motivated, on some level, by having ownership of a project. For this to happen, you need to give your team members all the information you have on a project. Give them the ability to choose who will tackle what role, and, if they can be trusted, leave your team to accomplish its tasks without being overbearing.

If possible, allow your team members the latitude to make key decisions about the project. You could consider delegating purchasing decisions to key team members, by trusting them with a business credit card instead of asking workers to pay out of their own pocket and wait for reimbursement. Of course, you'll have to consider some sort of control or oversight process to minimize the risk.

Refuse to nag

Sometimes motivating a team is a little like motivating a child, and you have to let natural consequences play out for mistakes. Simply expect your team members to work to a deadline, and refuse to nag them to get the project completed.

If the work doesn’t get done on time, allow natural consequences to carry through, whether that’s loss of a bonus, problems to deal with down the road, or disciplinary action. Of course, this laissez-faire tactic can cause problems for you, other team members, and your business as well, so use it wisely.

Be motivated yourself

The number one way to motivate your team is to show your team what motivation looks like. You don’t have to be the first to get to work and the last to leave every single day. After all, showing the work-life balance is important, too. But when do have a deadline coming up and there’s pressure to get the work done, be sure to show your enthusiasm. Maintaining a great work ethic and a positive attitude will do worlds of good towards motivating your team members to meet their deadlines.

The real key, in all of this, is to get to know your team as much as possible. Some team members will be more motivated if they can safely vent frustrations to you, while others will work harder if they have authority and autonomy in a project. It takes time to get to know your team members, but understanding the personalities of your team members is essential to becoming an effective motivator – not a nagger.