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

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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:

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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.


Quotes for Managers

June 24, 2008

Quotes are powerful words to stir thinking process, give new perspective on things, motivate to take action.  Here are some quotes on planning and strategy that I collected from book Strategic Management by Fred David.

  1. Like a product or service, the planning process itself must be managed and shaped, if it is to serve executives as a vehicle for strategic decision making. – Robert Lenz
  2. Strategies for taking the hill won’t necessarily hold it. – Amar Bhide
  3. Great spirits have always encountered vioulent opposition from mediocre minds. – Albert Einstein
  4. A firm that continues to employ a previously successful strategy eventually and inevitably falls victim to a competitor. – Bill Cohen
  5. Planning is often doomed before it ever starts, either because too much is expected of it or because not enough is put into it. – T. J. Cartwright
  6. Planners should not plan, but serve as facilitators, catalysts, inquirers, educators, and synthesizers to guide the planning process effectively. – A. Hax and N. Majluf
  7. Don’t recommend anything you woul not be prepared to do yourself if you were in the decision maker’s shoes. – A. J. Strickland III

5 points to ponder…

November 15, 2007
  1. Judge your success by the degree that you’re enjoying peace, health, and love.
  2. Understand that happiness is not based on possessions, power, or prestige, but on relationships with people you love and respect.
  3. Live a good, honorable life.  Then when you get older and think back, you’ll get to enjoy it a second time.
  4. Be charitable in your speech, actions, and judgement.
  5. Remember that a minute of anger denies you sixty seconds of happiness.

In 2004, my sisterly friend Seema gifted me this excellent book called “The Complete Life’s Little Instruction Book”.  It has 1560 instructions in it and all are gems.  This book has helped me a lot in aligning/adjusting my thoughts and actions.  Thanks for the gift and I would like to add one point from my side –

    6.  Give the gift of positive books, you never know how it will shape someone future.

Thanks for reading and have a great day!


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