Category Archives: Project Success

Guide to Motivation, Part 1: How to Motivate Your Team

People Deliver Projects

It is easy to think of the role of a project manager in terms of tasks, schedule, budget, resources, deliverables and risk. These are the things that many project management books and courses focus on. But it would be wrong: people deliver projects. Your role, as a project manager, is to enable them to do so. Perhaps we might characterize this part of your role as Project Leadership.

A big part of the leadership role is to enthuse and motivate your team. The problem we have is that there are as many motivational factors as there are people; more, in fact. I doubt there is just one thing that motivates you. So if you look at motivational theory, you’ll find many different models and theories, all emphasizing different aspects that contribute to a complex whole.

So, I want to look instead at four general principles that will help you figure out the best way to keep your project team motivated, day after day, in the good times, and the tough.

Principle 1: People are Individuals

Without banging on about the obvious truth that we are all the same, yet we are all different, it is vital to emphasise that there is no one-size-fits-all solution to motivation.

The cultural, social and personality differences among your team are its greatest asset, so why would you try to treat everybody the same, in motivating them? Some people need endorsement, others want rewards. Some need to feel they have power over other, while some just want to work together in harmony.

Get to Know your People

The solution is therefore obvious and, I hope, not onerous: you need to get to know everybody in your team. Find out about what they like and don’t like, how they tick, and what gets them excited. The more you can get to know each person, the better able you will be to allocate them roles that interest them to start with. And, when you need them to do something less enticing to them, or when their morale has dipped, you will have deeper insights and a stronger relationship from which to motivate them.

Motivational Rule No. 1:
It’s easy to motivate someone to something they already want to do.

Treat People Well

The more you get to know me; the more I get to know you. If you treat me with respect and act generously towards me, then I will feel grateful and will like and respect you. The urge to reciprocate loyalty is a powerful motivator for most people. Loo for ways you can do small favours for team members and find ways you can accede to reasonable requests. If you make their lives easy, morale, and motivation will stay at a higher level all round. The alternative, a Martinet attitude to following the rules slavishly, will often breed resentment, distrust, and a feeling that strict compliance is all that your team owe you.

Principle 2: People need Purpose

Small children spend a lot of time asking the question ‘why?’ And so do adults… it is just that we have learned not to constantly do it out loud. But that does not negate the fact that if we don’t get a good answer, then we want to rebel. We certainly are not motivated.

The Power of Because

At the simplest level – tactical, if you like – is the power of the word ‘because’. If I don’t know why you are asking me to do something and cannot see the point, then I may comply, but only because I believe I should. I won’t be motivated: at best, I’ll be frustrated with you. But, if you give me a simple reason why you want me to do this, then you will neutralize all of that demotivation and replace it with a sense of purpose. This is especially to if that purpose links to a higher meaning.

The Need for Meaning

People have a real drive to find meaning and purpose in our lives. We have values and a sense of what is most important to us. If you are able to link your project, or the work packages you are assigning, to a team member’s sense of purpose or their values, then they will be hugely motivated to deliver something that, to them, is important.

Motivational Rule No. 2:
Give people a compelling reason to do what you are asking of them.

 


There is an old story of three workmen by the side of the road. A traveller stops by the first, who looks grumpy. ‘What are you doing?’ the stranger asks. ‘I’m cutting up rocks to make these blocks’ the worker replies in a surly way, and sits down.

The next worker seems a little less grumpy, and is steadily working with a determined expression. The traveller asks him the same question. ‘I’m creating blocks so we can build a wall’ he says with a resigned air, before returning to work.

The traveller stops by the third man, who is smiling as he works, and puts her question again. The man replies cheerfully: ‘The blocks I’m making will form the first wall of the finest library the world has ever seen – a home for the greatest wisdom and most moving literature.’ He smiles with a sense of pride, and happily resumes chiseling.


 

Principle 3: People want Success

Some people see failure as a spur to greater efforts, while others take it as a cue to give up. But we all find success motivating.

Motivational Rule No. 3:
Set people up to succeed, rather than to fail. Amplify their success by making tasks hard but possible.

Personal Success

We become demotivated very quickly when we do not feel in control of our lives and our work. So giving your team members control and a level of autonomy in the work you assign them will be motivating for most, as long as the challenge you set them is not so great that the fear of failure takes over. This means you need to fully understand their level of ability and readiness for a challenge. However, it is only when working at the edge of our capabilities that we can achieve flow states of deep, contented concentration.

Getting Better

Another highly motivating feeling for most people is the sense that they are growing, developing and learning. So be sure to deliver a programme of work for each team member that takes them forward in their skills and knowledge. Amplify this effect with positive feedback that emphasizes what they are learning and how they are developing. This will give them two things. First, they will see endorse their progress – and some people need this kind of external validation, whilst others don’t. Second, it will be a way to show you are interested in them and their progress, and that you want them to succeed.

Principle 4: People want to Share their Success

Human beings are social animals and for most of us, success on our own is cold, lonely, and demotivating. We need to share that success with others. Indeed, the need to build satisfying workplace relationships is a primary motivator for many people. Let’s not forget that, for full-time team members, they will spend more of their waking hours with their work colleagues than they will with their partners, families and others with whom they choose to spend their lives. For some, work colleagues form their primary social network.

Motivational Rule No. 4:
People need to feel embedded in a social context where both the group’s success, their part in it are recognised.

Going Up

Beyond the need to feel part of a group, some people are strongly motivated by having a clear role within that group. Feeling we are needed is a strong human motivator. In some, this appears as a need for status and recognition of their knowledge, skills and contribution. Where you can, reward people with formal badges of recognition. As a minimum, find ways to celebrate the successes of individuals (this will appeal to those with a stronger drive for status and respect) and of the team as a whole (which will appeal to those whose primary social motivator is to feel part of a group).

For the Team

When team members feel a part of a team that they value, they will also feel a sense of responsibility to their colleagues. This often takes stronger forms, for which we use words like loyalty, duty, and obligation. So, as a leader, you must work hard to create these powerful motivators, by building up a team spirit and feeling of coherence. Regular team activities, collaborative input into planning and decision-making, and some form of home base infrastructure (real or virtual) are all good ways to facilitate this.

Conclusion

There are a lot of things you can do to build motivation among team members as a group, and for each individual within the team. No one approach will work for everyone. So, as with much in project management, a portfolio approach is likely to succeed best. My strongest advice is this. Don’t leave team motivation to chance. Make time to think it through. Get to know your team and plan how you will keep them motivated. Build a strong motivational resilience in the good times, and then work hard to maintain motivation when things get tough.


This article was first published on the ProjectManager.com website on 7 October, 2015.

Dr Mike Clayton is the author of The Influence Agenda, published by Palgrave Macmillan – www.theinfluenceagenda.co.uk – on which this article is based.

The Influence Agenda by Mike Clayton
His other books include ‘How to Manage and Great Project’, ‘Brilliant Project Leader’, and Powerhouse‘.

Exceptional video training programmes, based on my best-selling live seminars.

The Effectiveness Academy
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Do you give a GRAM of Motivation?

Projects are very much a human endeavour.

People plan projects, work on projects, and deliver projects. For all of the technology and methodology, it is your team of people, and how they interact with the stakeholders around them, that are the most important contributor to the success of your project.

The big challenge that many projects face is that they represent a disruptive influence on an existing culture. And, whilst that culture may not be highly productive nor deeply enriching, it is often comfortable for the people involved. A project can shake up cultures and present people with an uncomfortable challenge.

So, for project managers, the so-called ‘hard skills’ of scoping, programming, risk management, and project control are barely the start of your skill set. These represent nothing more than the barriers to entry into the profession. The measures of your long-term success will be largely in how you handle the human factors of project management.

It is worth examining what these human factors are. The best project managers put substantial work into their projects, from day one, in creating the culture that they need; whether it is stable, innovative, supportive, or hard-driving. At the heart of a strong culture is a clear articulation of a vision and values for the project.

These PMs support this with an unremitting focus on communication; with their immediate project team, and with their wider stakeholder group. These processes establish trust and build the working relationships that foster true collaborative working. Finally (in my quick list), is committing to developing the people for whom the project manager is responsible. Good PMs use the project as a vehicle for learning, skills development, and reputation building.

A lot of this can be bundled up under the heading of ‘motivation’. Any capable PM will have a good understanding of how to get the best from their people, day-to-day, through the ups and downs of a long, complex project. And there are two levels, first articulated by Frederick Herzberg, that you need to be mindful of.

People cannot be motivated by their work when they are actively demotivated by aspects of it. As a project leader, you must prioritise taking care of what Herzberg termed the ‘Hygiene Factors’. These are the little things that bug people. Fight for the conditions and the resources that allow people to get on with their work without constantly feeling ground down by frustrating peripheral issues.

There are four big levers you can pull, to provide a GRAM of motivation

Only when you have done this can you start to really motivate people. There are four big levers you can pull, to provide a GRAM of motivation – a handy acronym for a busy PM who wants a reminder of the principal ways of motivating your team.

G is for Growth: the need we have to feel we are learning and getting better at what we do. Set people challenges that allow them to increase their skill levels and feel that your project is a step towards a higher level of responsibility, mastery, or status.

R is for Relationships. Our workplace relationships are every bit as important as those outside. Largely, this is because they occupy more of our waking hours than relationships with family, friends, and even life partners.

A is for Autonomy. When we do not feel we have sufficient control of our lives, we experience stress. By giving control and allowing people to manage a part of their own workload, we remove a potent source of stress, and therefore under-performance.

Finally, M is for Meaning. Without a clear purpose and meaning for what we are doing, we find the ‘why?’ blocks all motivation. Which brings us back full-circle to the need to create a strong vision and values that give your project a real meaning to the people involved.


This article was first published in the Summer 2015 edition of the APM (Association for Project Management) journal Project. It was later re-published on the APM website, on 11 August, 2015.

 

Exceptional video training programmes, based on my best-selling live seminars.

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Six Pieces fo Advice for Project Leaders

I was recently asked what advice I would offer to new (and experienced) project leaders.

1. Trust the process – things won’t always feel as though they are working out, but if the process is good – and the right one for the domain you are in – then remain open to adjustments, but fundamentally: ‘trust the process’.

2. Balance is everything, and in the context of project management, this is particularly so in the need to balance your attention to structure, systems, processes and control on the one hand, and getting the people side of projects right, focusing on motivation, inspiration and interpersonal relationships.  I refer to these sides as project management and project leadership but, in truth, it is all one discipline.

3. Everything you learn and do has value, so be an intellectual gannet and collect ideas and inspiration from everywhere.  Then integrate it all, to build creative solutions to the problems and challenges you encounter.

4. Hone you people skills and learn to focus on understanding people. To do this, the three greatest techniques to master are asking good questions, listening intently and becoming comfortable with silence.  Bringing these together with a voracious intellectual appetite – which I mentioned in my last answer, and that will give you the perception to recognise and understand things other people miss.

5. Harness your team.  The power of people is in their diversity, so create environments that allow different people to share ideas respectfully before leaping to solutions or decisions.

6. Things will sometimes get tough as a senior project management professional. So, my final tip is to build your personal resilience. Keep fit, eat well, enjoy a good social life, and make sure you get enough sleep.

More on all these topics in Brilliant Project Leader.

BrilliantProjectLeaderCover.jpg

Three Factors Common to All Projects

I’ve worked on projects for a diverse range of industries – including government, third sector, and global businesses, and in a recent interview, I was asked if there are any commonalities I came up against.

I think there are more things in common than not; after all, projects are a human enterprise and people are pretty much the same anywhere.  I would highlight three main themes.

The Need for Control

Wherever there are projects and project managers, the central concern is always to bring control to a complex and uncertain environment.  Project managers have found numerous ways but increasingly, I am seeing a strong desire for the organisation to improve its governance procedures to seize control at a strategic level.  This can only be right, ensuring precious and limited resources are properly deployed to build valuable assets for the future.

One of my signature phrases in keynotes, seminars and training is that what project managers crave, above all else, is control. I see the discipline of project management as being about imposing control on a large, unfamiliar, complex and novel environment. This is why all of my training and writing emphasises the need to create control – including my latest book: How to Manage a Great Project, in which I the eight simple steps to do just that.

Risks and Mistakes

I also see similar risks and the same mistakes being made across all sectors. The biggest difference here is the lesser ability of the statutory and regulated sectors to hide their mistakes under the carpet.   Good example is the sunk cost trap – the implicit political (with a small p) decision to keep going with projects that are no longer viable or just no longer valuable.  The fear of losing face dominates the waste of future resources.  The private sector can more effectively hide the unwanted assets in the back of a cupboard, and lose the wasted expenditure in large, amorphous budget headings.  For all the right reasons, the public sector’s mistakes are subject to greater scrutiny.

Blogger and project manager, Glen Alleman, describes risk management as the way grown-ups manage projects and I agree. Risk management needs to be far more clearly recognised in the project management community as a sophisticated and valuable discipline. This is why I wrote Risk Happens!– to provide a resource for everyday project managers (not just those managing the mega projects that can afford a risk specialist) to learn more about practical day-to-day project risk management tools and techniques.

The Importance of Stakeholders

In all sectors it is stakeholders and stakeholder engagement that need to take centre stage, along with risk management, in a mature project management culture. Too often, project managers are still over-immersed in the technical and programmatic details of their project and then wonder why users, bystanders and even customers don’t like the outcomes.

I am committed to seeing this change, which is why my next book, The Influence Agenda (Palgrave Macmillan, April 2014, will be about project stakeholder engagement. In this, I include sections on creating a stakeholder engagement culture and on ethical stakeholder engagement.   At its heart, however, just like in Risk Happens!, I have tried to create a core of practical day-to-day tools and techniques to act as a resource for project managers and project team members who do not have a communications background.

How to Manage a Great Project by Mike Clayton.Risk Happens! by Mike Clayton.The Influence Agenda by Mike Clayton

The Time-Cost-Quality Triangle

A short (around three minutes) video blog, introducing the time-cost-quality triangle – a core concept in project management. It is fully described in my new book, How to Manage a Great Project.

How to Manage a Great Project

Go to the How to Manage a Great Project website

Buy from Amazon UK Buy from Amazon.com

How to Manage a Great Project by Mike Clayton

Negotiating Estimates

There are going to be some people who, quite properly, take exception to the title of this blog: ‘the estimate is the estimate – it is not negotiable’.

And that would be a commendable position to defend in my view; but a defence that, in some contexts, would fail. The client has their own position, just as the project planner has theirs. One is based on estimation and the other on expectation, priorities, anticipation and hope. And don’t tell me ‘hope isn’t a strategy’ – no, it’s not. But it is a very real stance many clients take.

Part of your role as project leader is to ensure that your project estimates are robust and contain prudent levels of contingency. Part of your client’s job is to screw the cost and time budget – including contingency – as much as they can… and then expect you to deliver on budget, on target and on time.

So in the real world of managing stakeholders and clients, you need a negotiating strategy that will leave you with a budget or schedule estimate that you can feel confident about. Step one, of course, is to do a robust job of figuring out your best estimate and how much contingency is really prudent, in the light of a thorough evaluation of risks.

Planned Duration or Cost

Planned Duration or Cost

Now consider your negotiating stance and add to this estimate a ‘negotiating contingency’.

Negotiating Duration or Cost

Negotiating Duration or Cost

Now, once you have done that, start your negotiation, but do not allow your first concession to exceed one half of your negotiating contingency. Likewise, never let any subsequent concession exceed half of your remaining negotiating contingency. Simple mathematics will ensure that, at the end of the negotiation, if you follow this strategy, you will always have all of your prudent contingency.

Negotiating Contingency

Negotiating Contingency


This is one of the pragmatic small-medium-sized project tips in
How to Manage a Great Project

Go to the How to Manage a Great Project website

Buy from Amazon UK Buy from Amazon.com

How to Manage a Great Project by Mike Clayton

The Four Project Stages

A short (under three minutes) video blog, introducing the simple four stage model for a project lifecycle, fully described in my new book, How to Manage a Great Project.

How to Manage a Great Project

Go to the How to Manage a Great Project website

Buy from Amazon UK Buy from Amazon.com

How to Manage a Great Project by Mike Clayton