Tag Archives: motivation

Guide to Motivation, Part 2: How do Project Managers Motivate Themselves?

Your team has someone else to attend to their motivation:
you have to do it yourself.

In my last blog, I talked about how you, as a project manager, can motivate your teams. But what about you? What gets you up in the mornings, with a spring in your step?

Of course, everything I wrote about motivating team members will apply equally to you: the needs for a purpose, to succeed, for relationships, and for respect. But I want to shift the focus a little bit to the way you set yourself up to be self-motivating. Because the difference between you, a good project manager, and your team is stark:

Your team has someone else to attend to their motivation:
you have to do it yourself.

To stay highly motivated you must attend to six important needs that are relevant to our work. Which of these needs are most important to you is something to think about. Most likely, the ones that come to the front of your mind will include those that you feel intuitively are not being as fully met as you would like. However, they are all important, so you should avoid attending to some at the cost of neglecting others completely.

Do Something Worthwhile

The first need we have to satisfy is to do things we believe in. Many project managers are in the happy position (compared to other workers) that we can pick and choose our assignments. It’s not just if you are a contractor; in-house project managers often have the chance to select what projects we put ourselves forward.

Even in the most commercially minded organisations, you will even have one or two credits with which you can decline an opportunity if you have good reasons to do so. As a project manager with management consultancy Deloitte, I declined two assignments (one a spectacularly good career opportunity) on the grounds of ethical preferences regarding the clients I worked with. Do it too often, and your reputation will suffer, but if you do it properly, it is better than working on something that feels wrong to you.

I’m a strong advocate that we when we do take on a project, we should make it the best we possibly can. Find the links to your own value set and look for ways that your project can contribute to what you consider important.

This will be, perhaps, the single most motivating insight. Just doing it for the money is rarely enough here. But, if the money is for something important to you, then make that link. Better still, how will your project further things you care about societally, environmentally, politically, commercially, technically, or personally?

Do Something Well

Doing something and completing it can give a sense of achievement, and we all have a need, to one degree or another, for that. But what you may find even more motivating is the pride in doing something well, or exceptionally well.

When we look at a job really well done, we feel good, and the sense of flow you get while focus every element of your being on doing that job well is immensely satisfying. For some people, the pride, and satisfaction come when others recognize their achievement. But you may not need that: you may feel good just knowing that you have done something good.

The anticipation and the immersion are key elements her and can apply to any element of the project management and leadership process, from preparing a plan, engaging stakeholders, to giving feedback to your team and reviewing a deliverable. Paying attention to the quality of everything you do is hugely exhilarating.

Feel in Control

Let’s start with the opposite end of the spectrum. When you feel out of control, it manifests as stress. Project managers are adept at exerting control over complex and uncertain environments, because this is what our discipline teaches us. But because of this, many project managers feel uncomfortable as control starts to slip.

The reality, of course, is that the project universe is vast and much of it, like stakeholder reactions, weather conditions and even technical outcomes, is out of our control. You will be at your most motivated when you turn your focus away from the things you cannot control, towards those you can.

You can control how you engage with stakeholders and how you respond to their reactions. You can control the mitigation and contingency plans you put in place to deal with adverse weather. And you can even control the scheduling, testing and contingency planning around technology development. Believe it or not, robust estimating, detailed planning, and active risk management all contribute to motivation.

One other thing that you can control is your attitude. There are three attitudes that will help you to stay positively motivated through adverse time:

  1. Gratitude for the things you have (while recognizing the challenges you face).
  2. Optimism towards the future (whilst recognizing the realities of the present).
  3. Flexibility in your thinking (which will allow you to recognise when to abandon your plans, if necessary, and find new solutions.

Feel Valued

Your project is not everything in your life. But if you let it become that, then it is easy to lose perspective and feel your motivation drain away in the face of adversity. So ensure that you remain connected to the other things you value in life; interests, people, activities.

We have a deep need to feel valued by other people. Your team has you to recognize their contributions and value their involvement. You should have your project sponsor to provide this for you… but there’s another issue. What if your project sponsor does not provide the support and endorsement you neee-d? What if they seem mysteriously hard to contact when the project hits a roadblock? (Sound familiar?)

Seek out a small number of trusted peers who can provide support and even counsel. These should be people who are at least as experienced and accomplished as you, who have a non-judgemental attitude and will value your ideas and support as much as you value theirs. It is said (and my experience supports it) that we are all as successful as the average of the people we associate with. Find a small group of successful project managers to share your thoughts with.

Work with Great People

The need that we all have for relationships – in and out of work – can be challenging for a leader who may feel a little isolated from your team. Find a way to balance your need to remain objective about the performance of team members, with your desire to integrate at a social level with them. My experience is that project managers are more adept at this balancing act than line managers – probably due to the fluid nature of projects, the lower sense of hierarchy, and the feeling of working together under a level of adversity.

What I have found helpful is to seek out the best collaborators for my project where I can. And, where I have had to accept the resources I have been allocated, to find the passion and talent within the people I have. I recommend you adopt an attitude of curiosity about your team members that searches for anything of interest, any talent, any insights and innovations that you can find.

Create opportunities for your project team to come together and share each others company in ways that are appropriate to the project, to the people, and to the culture within which you are operating. On great projects, it is usually the people you will remember, long after any other details.

Work for Your Future

Finally, you need to be a little selfish and look to your future. Not in a tunnel-vision way that obscures the present, but so that you can put what you are doing into the wider context of your career. Think about the opportunities your project offers to learn, develop, and gain experiences that can help you in the next step of your career.

As you do this, you will see new opportunities to shift the emphasis of what you are doing to bank new professional assets. But never take your eye off doing the very best you can, in the present. Today’s success is by far the greatest asset for investing in tomorrow’s opportunity.

But to make the best of tomorrow’s opportunities you do need to understand the ‘why’ of today’s success. Without a doubt, one the distinguishing features of many of the most successful people, in all fields, is their willingness to reflect on their experiences carefully. Taking time to process and understand our experiences, and to make new connections and distinctions is the principle root to move from being simply smart, to being wise.

As project manager, you know – intellectually – the importance of lessons learned reviews for your team and your organization. But often, the last person to really think about the meaning of those lessons is you. Again, you will conduct a good performance review for your team members, I hope. But who will do this for you? If it is not your sponsor, then make it your support group of peers. Or, if you don’t have that in place, then be sure to do it for yourself. Because you’re worth it.

 


This article was first published on the ProjectManager.com website on 14 October, 2015.

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

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.

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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.

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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.

 

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Tips for Project Leaders

There is a wealth of great concepts and tools that project and change leaders can apply to your professional or personal practice.  Here are seven of them from one of my ‘Thoughtscape’ newsletter tip-sheets.

1. Get people to Honour Commitments

We all have a conscience: let’s call it Jiminy Cricket.  One of the biggest problems leaders have, at all levels, is people letting you down by not delivering on their commitments.  So let’s see how the Jiminy Cricket effect can help you.

It is Jiminy Cricket that nags us when we know we need to do something to honour a promise or commitment that we made.  So to boost the Jiminy Cricket effect, when you secure a commitment, you must ensure Jiminy is awake.  Do this by asking for the commitment directly, and doing so in a more formal setting.

2. Maintain Motivation with Milestones

Project managers think of milestones as a valuable planning and monitoring tool.  Project leaders use them also as a powerful tool to motivate too. Impending milestones give a great sense of urgency and pressure.  Missed milestones – if you are unfortunate – create an opportunity to rally to the new deadline, and milestones met offer the chance to recognise and celebrate achievement. People feel more motivated when they have a sense that they are making progress.

More milestones = more motivation

3. Communicate Setbacks Effectively

Setbacks are a part of life, and a challenge for leaders.  It is is easy to lead when everything goes well, so we measure leaders by how they handle adversity.  The first skill to learn is how to communicate the setback.

In communicating, honesty is not the best policy…

… it is the only policy.

So start by setting out clearly and objectively, how things are.  Then paint a picture of how you believe things can be.  The challenge is to bridge the gap, so lay out how you plan to do this.  Then call people to action with a clear next step, and close by making the link between their actions and the  enticing future ahead.

4. Get Comfortable with Resistance

Mike’s first rule of change:

“Resistance is inevitable”

So why is it that so many leaders fear resistance and look upon it as destructive?  In truth, it is simply a part of the process – and understanding it will make it easier and more comfortable to deal with.

My “Onion Model” sets out six levels of resistance: you can read more about how I created it on my main blog and, of course, it is summarised in Brilliant Project Leader. It is fully described in my little book, The Handling Resistance Pocketbook.

5. Understand Patterns of Conflict

Conflict and psychological game-playing are a constant part of our lives and a wise leader needs to be able to be able to analyse the patterns and break the cycle.

Brilliant Project Leader and The Handling Resistance Pocketbook cover this in some detail and discusses one of my favourite tools for analysing unhelpful interactions between people: “the Drama Triangle“.

Use the Drama Triangle to recognise three roles that habitually recur in conflict and manipulation situations: “the persecutor“, who feels good by making you feel bad; “the victim“, who feels good by loading the responsibility for their troubles on you; and “the rescuer“, who feels good by offering you  way out of your discomfort.

6. Teams Need a Name

Part of giving a team a sense of identity is giving it a name.  A well-chosen name can confer purpose, identity, mystery, style, and clarity. Examples of good and bad choices (you decide which) come from the team names chosen by candidates in the UK and US series of The Apprentice.  You can see the list here, and try to guess which were used in the US and which in the UK… and which were chosen by men and which by women.  I think some will surprise you.

7. When things go Wrong:
. . . SCOPE the Problem 

Knee-jerk reactions are rarely resourceful. But you don’t have time for unfocused thinking.  So use the SCOPE process to handle a tricky situation:

  • Stop: Take a deep breath and a mental pause.  Maybe stop for longer if you need to.
  • Clarify: What do you really know about the situation?  What do you need to know? Gather data.
  • Options: More options = more choice = more control.  But having generated options, assess them and make a decision.
  • Proceed: With a decision made; proceed with determination and vigour.  Commit as though no alternative exists.
  • Evaluate: Continually evaluate progress – if you aren’t getting the results you need, then Stop, Clarify and look at new Options.

If you enjoyed this, why not subscribe to my ‘Thoughtscape’ newsletter.

Brilliant Project Leader

What the best project leaders know, do and say to get results, every time.

Brilliant Project Leader by Mike Clayton

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Charles Vivian
Head of Programme and Project Leadership
North Highland, UK

McClelland and Me

Authority without Power

I spent many happy years as a project manager.  And like most project managers, I could often be heard complaining about the whole “authority without power” thing.

My friend and colleague, Ron Rosenhead, and I spoke this morning – we’d both heard it very recently from audiences and trainees.  In fact, I heard it yesterday, and Ron was discussing it with a client just last week.  It set me thinking …

Why do we do it?

Why do project managers thrive, when we often do not have the organisational horsepower to command, despite our love of control?

I don’t mean “How do we thrive?” which was a large part of yesterday’s course.  That’s about the techniques we use and I’ll be writing more about that in the future, I am sure.  In the meantime, check out this earlier blog if you’ve not seen it: “No Authority.”

I mean “Why do we thrive?”

McClelland2 I think the answer lies in the work of David McClelland.

McClelland suggested we all have three needs, and their relative strengths determines a large element of our motivation.  Consequently, they help to explain why some of us are successful in our work roles and others are not.

We need to look, briefly, at these three needs:

The Need for Power
Our drive to take charge, be in command and acquire prestige.

The Need for Affiliation
Our deep desire to live sociable, friendly and harmonious lives.

The Need for Achievement
Our drive to succeed, excel and overcome problems

For more detail, check out The Management Models Pocketbook.

Spotted it?

My theory is that, for most project managers, our need for achievement outweighs our need for power.  We are motivated by challenges and problems so, whilst we may complain about authority without power – or even no authority at all, really and truly, we see it as a challenge.

Is my theory correct?  You’ll tell me if it chimes with you (I hope – contribute below, please).  All I can say is: “ask my wife.”


The “so what?”

Read more about McClelland – and any theories about motivation; one of your jobs as a change manager, project manager, leader, whatever, is to motivate; answer my poll; learn more about influence.