How to motivate project teams

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:

Categories: Human Resources, Leadership, Motivation

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