How to motivate project teams

September 26, 2010

De-motivated teams can cause serious harm to any project easily. As you are in charge for the success of the project, its your job to create an environment to meet project objectives while offering ‘what motivates’ to a diverse group of team members.  Question is to find out what motivates whom and every one is unique due to their background, expectations, goals and fears.  You know that some team members do not require external motivations whatsoever to produce quality products while some need constant dose of motivation.

We can understand the person’s behaviour if we spend enough time studying them or sometimes DiSC profile assessment can help.  Underlying object of reading behaviour patterns and using motivating factors is to build trust.  If you fail to connect and build trust, success and motivation will last for a short while.  You, yourself, should be motivated first and then motivate other.  Emotional intelligence is the key here.  If you know how to connect with the team member, its much easier to motivate. Study the team members’ behavior (its kind of becoming judgmental).  Broadly, here are high-level steps:

  1. You must be optimistic and motivated first
  2. Understand the behavior pattern
  3. Build trust
  4. Find out what motivates the individual

    IPS Worldwide®

    Image Courtesy of IPS Worldwide®

Common behavioral roles found in any team are –

  • Optimist : is always finding good in any situation; positive about success; thinks nothing is impossible; does not see risk; inspires others.
  • Pessimist : is critical of every initiative; uncertain about success; sees risk and failure everywhere; hesitant to take initiative; needs push.
  • Conformist : follows the process; agrees with group decisions; silent majority.
  • Intriguer : always hungry for more info; not satisfied with current process; expresses opinions to higher up is high on agenda.
  • Socialite : focused on networking; first on taking responsibilities of arranging party or potluck; interaction is high on agenda.
  • Commentator : has expert comments on each and every aspect of project life cycle and might have ‘predicted’ the outcome long ago.
  • Activist : tries to represent the organization values and mission; takes stand for human rights; mobilizing team for any cause is high on agenda.
  • Orphan : sympathy seeker; feels neglected by team members and management; stays isolated; complains about loneliness.
  • Subject Matter Expert : presents as knowledgeable about everything and anything organization does; does not share knowledge; only shares high-level information.
  • Irritated One : is easily irritated by any change or management action ; develops conflict easily; uses irritatedness to keep people at bay.
  • Celebrity : presents that everyone knows him/her; does very little activity and behaves like big influencer; technically challenged in many areas.
  • Leader : is not a leader but assumes of taking over this position; shares achievement stories; complains about lack of recognition.
  • Worker Bee : works a lot; believes if he/she does not take additional responsibility project will fail; always worried; takes on many tasks; delivers but with issues
  • Combination of two or more stated above.

These behavioral patterns gives a lens through which motivation needs can be seen.  Do not be a manipulator; your objective is to motivate the team members to work for success of the project while giving opportunities to team members’ to meet their personal goals and needs. This is key to maximize the team performance.

Several motivation theories are referenced by managers to understand what motivates teams, these are Maslow’s Hierarchy, Herzberg’s Motivation-Hygiene Factors, McGregor’s Theory X and Theory Y, and William Ouchi’s Theory Z.

Motivational Theories

1. Maslow’s Hierarchy – We have a large number of needs and we are motivated to work accordingly to fulfill these needs.  Maslow groups these needs into 5 broad categories. He said that the lower-level needs must be satisfied in order for the upper level needs to emerge.

  1. Physiological – Food, water, warmth, shelter
  2. Safety – Physical safety and economic security
  3. Social – Acceptance in group, love, affection, association with team, affiliation
  4. Esteem or Recognition –  Position, status, prestige, importance/significance
  5. Self Actualization – Challenging projects, opportunities to work on innovative and creative assignments, self-mastery

Lower three levels of hierarchy are basic maintenance needs. The individual must have these needs met in order to experience well-being. Self-Actualization is growth need.  Once a particular need is satisfied, it no longer serves as a motivator.

2. McGregor’s Theory X (Authoritarian Management Style) This theory is kind of cynical theory in which management completely distrusts the employees.  This theory assumes that

  • workers (or employees or people) are lazy
  • avoid work if possible
  • managers must use coercion, close supervision, tight control and threats  to have workers perform
  • employee needs money and security &  no ambitions to grow
  • employees are self-centered and do no care about organization goals

Theory X will result in resentment, low productivity, disloyal employees, and high turnover rate in employees.

3. McGregor’s Theory Y (Participative Management Style)This is opposite of theory X. This theory assumes that

  • workers do not inherently dislike work
  • workers will be self-directed to meet their work objectives if they are committed to them
  • workers will be committed to their objectives if rewards are in place that address higher needs such as self-fulfillment
  • under these conditions, workers will seek responsibility
  • most employees or people can handle responsibility because creativity and ingenuity are common in the population

If theory Y is implemented properly, better productivity, satisfied employees and good work environment can be achieved.

4. Ouchi’s Theory Z – This theory by William Ouchi  is based on the Japanese approach to motivate workers, emphasizes trust, quality, collective decision-making , and cultural values. This theory recommends job rotation, broadening of skills, generalization versus specialization, and the need for continuous training of workers.

Reference material:


11 Principles of Leadership

August 20, 2009

 I came across 11 leadership principles of Marine Corps in Guide Book for Marines on the Internet and here is my interpretation of 11 principles.  I am interested in hearing from Marines about their leadership experience. 

  1. Take responsibility – we need to seek and take responsibilities if we need to grow; never shy away, whatever seems challenging will help you expand your perspective.
  2. Know yourself – reflect upon your strengths and weaknesses; seek improvement and understand that you can achieve only those goals that you set.
  3. Set an example– conduct your business in a professional manner; do not loose temper – small minds are bothered by small problems; not only work in your job but also work on your job as well.  Be a brand that people want to associate with.
  4. Develop your subordinates– consider this as part of your job; learn to delegate; as Zig Ziglar said “You can have everything in life that you want if you will just help enough other people get what they want“; give them opportunities to learn & grow;  guide them if they fit somewhere else.
  5. Be available – in every respect; be available to listen to problems and challenges people are facing; to motivate, to lead and to show right direction; to hear criticism; to take decisions and to act on time.
  6. Look after the welfare of your employees – the way you want your boss to look after your welfare; develop emotional intelligence; connect with people and find out what motivates them; do something that touches their lives; help them when they are in need.  Arrogance and ignorance will not take you to the top or won’t keep you there for long.
  7. Keep everyone well informed  – right communication is the key; make sure that the tasks are understood, supervised and accomplished on time and tell why you need all this done; do no assume –  aks and tell.
  8. Set goals that are achievable – always set the goals – people need to know what they are expected to deliver and by when; let people figure out how;  goals should motivate teams to act; measure the results and reward people.
  9. Make sound and timely decisions– that are aligned with the core principles of your organization and with your job descriptions; there will always be more than one right answer – choose the one that benefits the most and not only you; take decisions like a servant leader.
  10. Know your job – be technically and tactically proficient in your job; know your people; know the processes and challenges; know how can you add value to the organization or your department.
  11. Build teamwork– not all people can perform equally but they should complement each other while working towards a common goal; promote team work and diversity; shield your team from external pressure; be flexible with team.

“Leadership is intangible, hard to measure, and difficult to describe. It’s quality would seem to stem from many factors. But certainly they must include a measure of inherent ability to control and direct, self-confidence based on expert knowledge, initiative, loyalty, pride and sense of responsibility. Inherent ability cannot be instilled, but that which is latent or dormant can be developed. Other ingredients can be acquired. They are not easily learned. But leaders can be and are made.” – General C. B. Cates, 19th Commandant of the Marine Corps

Thanks for reading and welcome your input.  Have a great day.


Life is bigger than that!

December 19, 2008

2008 is nearing the completion of business work days and it was one of the eventful year.  We have seen all from US election to Canadian elections, Wall-street meltdown to Automotive bailout, Saturday Night Live comedy to economic worries.  All the stuff, never thought of. 

But when it comes to our professional life, one needs to make sure there are no unexpected surprises.  I have mentored and provided guidance to few people over the year and have also asked for advice from my peers.  Some people either make small issues into big problems or do not even have clue what is wrong.  Here are some of the points to consider-

  1. Get feedback from your boss; have 1 on 1 regularly (weekly or monthly) to align objectives.
  2. Grow your professional network by volunteering at work, in community or join any organization.
  3. Understand that everyone is different; workplaces are diverse.
  4. Totally messed up? If you are honest, you’ll get another chance.   Life is bigger than that!
  5. Do not just focus on getting credit of everything you do or say.  Give credit where deserved.
  6. Be careful about sarcastic sense of humor.  It may be wise to stay quiet.
  7. If you do extraordinary job you get promotion as a result. Its not the other way.
  8. Help others grow and learn.  Don’t be afraid that someone will steal your idea.
  9. Take vacation or take time out.  Its must to revitalize your energies and focus.
  10. Try to listen.  Pay attention to your superiors and peers.
  11. Dress according to your job profile, at least.
  12. Do not make ‘difference of opinions’ at work your personal issue.

I firmly believe if we are serious to improve ourselves, we can start afresh anytime.  Its never too late and Life is bigger than that! 

Thanks for reading and let me know what you think.


DiSC model – Management Styles

June 30, 2008

I completed DiSC (stands for Dominance, influence, Steadiness, and Conscientiousness) training last week and fount it interesting.   DiSC confirms one thing, different strokes for different folks.

DiSC is a system to help you find out similar and unique characteristics among people.  It also shows person’s behavioural preferences and helps to identify different management styles that can lead to obtain better results through interaction. 

According to the DiSC model, there are four management styles – by Dominance, by influence, by Steadiness, and by Conscientiousness.

Series of questions lead to a specific DiSC profile, that tells you what is your score and what is you dominant style of management and what are your supportive styles. 

D – Dominant : these people are active and questioning; these are direct and competitive in nature.  These people want to ‘get it done’.

i – Influence : these people are active and accepting; motivated, enthusiastic, sociable and lively. 

S – Steadiness : these people are thoughtful and accepting; patient and even tempered, accommodating. 

C– Conscientiousness : these people are thoughtful and questioning; kind of private with analytical abilities and task oriented.  Main objective is to ‘get it right’.

As we know everyone is unique and all have different ways of interacting.  Imagine, I interact with a person who has dominant  style of ‘Conscientiousness‘ (private and task oriented).  I pretend to be of ‘influence‘ (sociable and enthusiastic) dominant style; my interaction with that person can not be productive as I may not be providing the specific instructions that other person needs. 

Why is that?  Because people with dominant ‘infulence’ style mix personal talk with business discussions, becoming informal and emotionally expressive leaving the ‘Conscientiousness’ style person unclear or confuse as Max requires specific task oriented info and does not express himself emotionally.

How it will help me?  It lists what are key strengths, what things are overused, what could be the limitations and what changes should be made in management style that make one more effective.

Have you ever taken DiSC and Meyers-Briggs assessment?  What are your thoughts? Did you benefit from it?  Please share your thoughts.  Thank you for reading. 

More info –

  1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DISC_assessment 
  2. One of the best books on the application of DiSC is by Keith Ayers titled “Engagement is Not Enough.

Cheese Moved? Doesn’t Matter.

March 5, 2008

We, as a professional, are hired by organizations to deliver results and perform. As time passes, our daily job becomes our universe.  We spend our energies resolving problems, improving processes, saving money and many other good things.  Sometimes we are ignorant and sometimes we are so busy handling all the situations at the job, we do not realize that whole world has changed and we are still there.  We find that new technologies, processes, ideologies, concepts and trends have taken over what we used to do.  And when we realize, then blame our employer for not guiding us, showing us the right path, etc.  Remember, we are professionals and professionals know all about their field of expertise.

 When I see clueless people in the situations when their cheese (i.e. work) is moved (or gone), I tell them to stop complaining but learn the lesson from it and take action. 

Here are 11 points I tell (and remind) people to avoid becoming obsolete

  1. Subscribe to professional/trade  magazines and journals and read ( or go to library, but stay up-to-date on what is happening).
  2. Bookmark and frequently checkout websites dealing with news & views related to your field of expertise.
  3. Read some good books on the subject.  Check Amazon.com’s ratings and views before buying. 
  4. Become member & get involved in professional organizations in your chosen field.
  5. Volunteer your time & services in your chosen field or for any good cause.
  6. Mentor and guide other people, help people grow, offer help selflessly.
  7. Attend seminars or conferences; it does not matter if you got to spend few hundreds from your own pocket and on yourself.
  8. Read some good self-help books on personal development and personal finance.
  9. Grow your network, if good people can not find you; you go out and find for your networking.  Interaction is the key.
  10. Always keep learning new things in your chosen field, and
  11. Change with time.

You will find out many successful people are already doing these above mentioned things to grow their professional network and knowledge base. 

I am certainly interested in what you got to say on this subject.  Everyone has unique experience and lets share our thoughts and learn from each other.

 Thank you for visiting and reading the post.  I appreciate it.  Have a good time.


Leading Creative Employees

February 1, 2008

There are always some special people in teams who are very much techie, creative and loaded with specific knowledge.  Lets call these employees creative people in this post.

These creative people provide tremendous value to organization through application of their knowledge and expertise.  These really smart and creative people need nurturing environment and motivation. When leading these creative people, keep in mind that they may

  1. think they know more than anyone (or know everything);
  2. do not want to be led (know what, how and why);
  3. do not want to follow the process (think its bureaucracy);
  4. want to discuss the solution with higher authority (by-pass chain of command);
  5. expect people to come and ask for help (until then they keep quiet);
  6. show their exceptional knowledge in group meetings;
  7. become poor listeners and jump to solution (feel they know problem already);
  8. dislike to say thank you for any assistance;
  9. feel attached to the solution they offered (won’t accept alternate);
  10. stop contributing if ignored;
  11. want praise and recognition (not always care about position);
  12. want challenges and new things to work on.

Leading creative people require smart leadership.  Smart leaders will help these creative employee contribute by creating environment where they feel valuable while making sure that other employees also flourish. 

Smart leaders demonstrate their expertise and authority over creative employees quietly by not pushing them or by not showing them who is the boss.  Smart leader also makes sure that they know what organization’s strategic goals and objectives are; but does not dictate how to achieve.  These creative people can contribute beyond expectations when their leader becomes their coach-cum-mentor-cum-guardian.

Not all the points may apply in any given situation and there might be other examples as well.  I am interested to hear your thoughts on this.  Please leave comments.  Thank you for reading and have a wonderful day!


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