The Secret to Motivating Your Team: Stop Trying

A project manager asked: I’m constantly finding myself seeking ways to improve team work and need some ideas on how to motivate my project team and also how to celebrate project successes?

Here is my advise to this project manager:

People don’t need to be motivated. So you can stop trying.

What you need to focus on instead are “motivation killers”. Understand the creative process of your type of project and exterminate all demotivators from it.

What is the creative process? How does a team in your industry/field come together to collaborate to define a problem, evaluate solutions, pick the appropriate or best one, design it, develop it, and deploy it? You need to master this process because therein lies the source of demotivation for your team.

If it is IT project for examples and your team is tasked with creating a software system, then the creative process are the steps that a team needs to follow for creating software? What kind of roles and responsibilities are needed in a team for it to be effective? And what typically slows down or blocks progress for such process?

As a project manager, you need to be intimate with this process. You don’t need to have the technical skills to actually do the work but you need to have been an individual contributor on a number of similar projects to the one you are managing. This way, you better than anyone on your project understands at a deepest level the ins and outs/nuts and bolts of the creative process.

You need this knowledge so you know when the creative process is broken, how, and why. Because most often when you fix what is broken with the creative process, everything else takes care of itself. And what breaks the creative process are the motivation killers.

So what are these “Motivation Killers”?

First, to prove to you that you don’t need to motivate anyone, here is a question for you: do you need anyone to motivate you? What actually motivates?

If you really look deeper, you will find that you don’t really derive your motivation from a person. You are most likely motivated by you own intrinsic drives and the main drive is the need to be of service and make an impact or at least a difference. What kills your motivation? This is the most important questions.  Probably a lack of respect for your work, your intelligence, or your contributions. When you feel you are not heard, your opinion does not matter, or you feel disconnected from your team, or when you are treated unfairly.  Probably because you don’t feel you are given the resources or most importantly the creative freedom to do your magic. Focus on what is demotivating people on your project and what is blocking the creative process and creative freedom and the rest will take care of itself. There is really no secret formula or special sauce.

Effective project management is about achieving and sustaining the delicate balance between “management rigor” and “creative freedom”, i.e., money and magic. Focus on one without the other at your own peril.

As for how to celebrate success, free food (pizza or whatever is equivalent in your culture) works every time.

What is your take on this questions? I would love to hear your thoughts.

Be sure to leave your email here so I notify you when the next article in this series is posted.

To learn more about balancing “management rigor” and “creative freedom”, see my interview with Lina Echeverria: How to lead highly creative professionals.

9 Responses to The Secret to Motivating Your Team: Stop Trying
  1. Bert Heymans
    April 28, 2013 | 3:39 am

    I think you pretty much nailed it in this post Samad! I’ve never hear anyone put it this way but it makes total sense to me.

    When I was reading the article I thought of how putting the right people together can make a difference. Given a positive spirit, a team of people who like to work with each other is much more resilient when times get hard. Motivation just happens as they keep each other going. Trying to intervene in the way they work together as a project manager, is something to be careful with (even if everybody knows your full intentions are good).

    Thanks for the insightful article!

    • samad_aidane
      April 28, 2013 | 7:42 pm

      Bert,

      Awesome comment and I totally agree with you. Often we think we need to do some extraordinary things to motivate people, when in actuality we just need to pay attention and remove obstacles blocking our team’s progress. You are so right: most of the time, we we can help so much by getting out of the way and letting the team do its magic. Thank you again for the awesome comment.

  2. Mark Moore
    April 29, 2013 | 11:16 am

    As I commented where you first responded to the question, I had also not thought of it this way. My time would be better spent rooting out the demotivating factors and then appropriately awarding the team for success. That in itself would provide “motivation” in a far more genuine way.

    • samad_aidane
      April 29, 2013 | 11:38 am

      Mark,

      Yes, there is no better motivator to your team than when they see you fight the “right” battle on their behalf. This is a great example for when action speaks far better than words. Thank you for your insights.

  3. […] where you can read Samad Aidane‘s interesting take on how to motivate your project team in The Secret to Motivating Your Team: Stop Trying.  Happy reading. Cancel […]

  4. Ian Smith
    May 22, 2013 | 2:48 am

    Good thinking and advice here Samad! It meshes with an insight which I’ve had recently – after moving into a role as manager of an established team of quite self-sufficient people. The realisation that I had is that the best way to manage here is with a light touch – a focus on faciliating and enabling what the team does, not trying to manage what they do. The motivation and commitment flows – when, to use your example, I fight the “right” fights on their behalf to enable them to do what they need to do.

    • samad_aidane
      May 22, 2013 | 12:24 pm

      Ian, so true. When your team sees that you focus in the right place, being of service to them vs. “managing them”, they do the impossible for you. I think so much of the literature in project management is based on old outdated concepts of people management. Your approach of managing with a “light touch” is a great concept that we need to bring awareness to. I like this idea of managing with a light touch. Thank you for sharing these insights.

      • Gabriel Hoff
        May 22, 2013 | 8:45 pm

        Totally agree Samad. And great example Ian.
        Project Managers are not chiefs of shoes or hardware factory. Talking about my area, it’s time to stop thinking in software as a manufactured product. If people are not motivated, they won’t find that kind of solution that blinks in their mind… they will burn out and go through the wrong way. Software is not just to follow a recipe.
        I’m having the opportunity to implement this model as a project manager in a consulting company. I’m more a contributor and facilitator than “the boss”.
        The team has been anticipating project milestones and I never needed to dictate anything. Of course we have checkpoint meetings, and due to some company standards we have tasks with responsible, but it’s impressive how this collaborative model is going well even with a detailed schedule in place. If someone is not on-track with the task, the team take the decision in someone else help this person, so the project stays on track (what I taught them is that doesn’t matter if just part of the tasks are on-track, we need the project in a good shape, otherwise the fail is collective).
        Best regards.

        • samad_aidane
          May 23, 2013 | 1:13 am

          Gabriel,

          That is a great insight and another example of how we need to rethink the classic and prevailing notions of what effective leaders do. It is another proof that our biggest challenge is not to learn new skills but unlearn so much of what we have been taught a project manager does. What’s so so surprising and counter-intuitive is how much “power” we gain when we let go of control. Thank you.

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Trackback URL http://www.guerrillaprojectmanagement.com/secret-motivating-your-team-stop-trying/trackback

The Secret to Motivating Your Team: Stop Trying

A project manager asked: I’m constantly finding myself seeking ways to improve team work and need some ideas on how to motivate my project team and also how to celebrate project successes?

Here is my advise to this project manager:

People don’t need to be motivated. So you can stop trying.

What you need to focus on instead are “motivation killers”. Understand the creative process of your type of project and exterminate all demotivators from it.

What is the creative process? How does a team in your industry/field come together to collaborate to define a problem, evaluate solutions, pick the appropriate or best one, design it, develop it, and deploy it? You need to master this process because therein lies the source of demotivation for your team.

If it is IT project for examples and your team is tasked with creating a software system, then the creative process are the steps that a team needs to follow for creating software? What kind of roles and responsibilities are needed in a team for it to be effective? And what typically slows down or blocks progress for such process?

As a project manager, you need to be intimate with this process. You don’t need to have the technical skills to actually do the work but you need to have been an individual contributor on a number of similar projects to the one you are managing. This way, you better than anyone on your project understands at a deepest level the ins and outs/nuts and bolts of the creative process.

You need this knowledge so you know when the creative process is broken, how, and why. Because most often when you fix what is broken with the creative process, everything else takes care of itself. And what breaks the creative process are the motivation killers.

So what are these “Motivation Killers”?

First, to prove to you that you don’t need to motivate anyone, here is a question for you: do you need anyone to motivate you? What actually motivates?

If you really look deeper, you will find that you don’t really derive your motivation from a person. You are most likely motivated by you own intrinsic drives and the main drive is the need to be of service and make an impact or at least a difference. What kills your motivation? This is the most important questions.  Probably a lack of respect for your work, your intelligence, or your contributions. When you feel you are not heard, your opinion does not matter, or you feel disconnected from your team, or when you are treated unfairly.  Probably because you don’t feel you are given the resources or most importantly the creative freedom to do your magic. Focus on what is demotivating people on your project and what is blocking the creative process and creative freedom and the rest will take care of itself. There is really no secret formula or special sauce.

Effective project management is about achieving and sustaining the delicate balance between “management rigor” and “creative freedom”, i.e., money and magic. Focus on one without the other at your own peril.

As for how to celebrate success, free food (pizza or whatever is equivalent in your culture) works every time.

What is your take on this questions? I would love to hear your thoughts.

Be sure to leave your email here so I notify you when the next article in this series is posted.

To learn more about balancing “management rigor” and “creative freedom”, see my interview with Lina Echeverria: How to lead highly creative professionals.

9 Responses to The Secret to Motivating Your Team: Stop Trying
  1. Bert Heymans
    April 28, 2013 | 3:39 am

    I think you pretty much nailed it in this post Samad! I’ve never hear anyone put it this way but it makes total sense to me.

    When I was reading the article I thought of how putting the right people together can make a difference. Given a positive spirit, a team of people who like to work with each other is much more resilient when times get hard. Motivation just happens as they keep each other going. Trying to intervene in the way they work together as a project manager, is something to be careful with (even if everybody knows your full intentions are good).

    Thanks for the insightful article!

    • samad_aidane
      April 28, 2013 | 7:42 pm

      Bert,

      Awesome comment and I totally agree with you. Often we think we need to do some extraordinary things to motivate people, when in actuality we just need to pay attention and remove obstacles blocking our team’s progress. You are so right: most of the time, we we can help so much by getting out of the way and letting the team do its magic. Thank you again for the awesome comment.

  2. Mark Moore
    April 29, 2013 | 11:16 am

    As I commented where you first responded to the question, I had also not thought of it this way. My time would be better spent rooting out the demotivating factors and then appropriately awarding the team for success. That in itself would provide “motivation” in a far more genuine way.

    • samad_aidane
      April 29, 2013 | 11:38 am

      Mark,

      Yes, there is no better motivator to your team than when they see you fight the “right” battle on their behalf. This is a great example for when action speaks far better than words. Thank you for your insights.

  3. […] where you can read Samad Aidane‘s interesting take on how to motivate your project team in The Secret to Motivating Your Team: Stop Trying.  Happy reading. Cancel […]

  4. Ian Smith
    May 22, 2013 | 2:48 am

    Good thinking and advice here Samad! It meshes with an insight which I’ve had recently – after moving into a role as manager of an established team of quite self-sufficient people. The realisation that I had is that the best way to manage here is with a light touch – a focus on faciliating and enabling what the team does, not trying to manage what they do. The motivation and commitment flows – when, to use your example, I fight the “right” fights on their behalf to enable them to do what they need to do.

    • samad_aidane
      May 22, 2013 | 12:24 pm

      Ian, so true. When your team sees that you focus in the right place, being of service to them vs. “managing them”, they do the impossible for you. I think so much of the literature in project management is based on old outdated concepts of people management. Your approach of managing with a “light touch” is a great concept that we need to bring awareness to. I like this idea of managing with a light touch. Thank you for sharing these insights.

      • Gabriel Hoff
        May 22, 2013 | 8:45 pm

        Totally agree Samad. And great example Ian.
        Project Managers are not chiefs of shoes or hardware factory. Talking about my area, it’s time to stop thinking in software as a manufactured product. If people are not motivated, they won’t find that kind of solution that blinks in their mind… they will burn out and go through the wrong way. Software is not just to follow a recipe.
        I’m having the opportunity to implement this model as a project manager in a consulting company. I’m more a contributor and facilitator than “the boss”.
        The team has been anticipating project milestones and I never needed to dictate anything. Of course we have checkpoint meetings, and due to some company standards we have tasks with responsible, but it’s impressive how this collaborative model is going well even with a detailed schedule in place. If someone is not on-track with the task, the team take the decision in someone else help this person, so the project stays on track (what I taught them is that doesn’t matter if just part of the tasks are on-track, we need the project in a good shape, otherwise the fail is collective).
        Best regards.

        • samad_aidane
          May 23, 2013 | 1:13 am

          Gabriel,

          That is a great insight and another example of how we need to rethink the classic and prevailing notions of what effective leaders do. It is another proof that our biggest challenge is not to learn new skills but unlearn so much of what we have been taught a project manager does. What’s so so surprising and counter-intuitive is how much “power” we gain when we let go of control. Thank you.

Leave a Reply

Wanting to leave an <em>phasis on your comment?

Trackback URL http://www.guerrillaprojectmanagement.com/secret-motivating-your-team-stop-trying/trackback

The Secret to Motivating Your Team: Stop Trying

A project manager asked: I’m constantly finding myself seeking ways to improve team work and need some ideas on how to motivate my project team and also how to celebrate project successes?

Here is my advise to this project manager:

People don’t need to be motivated. So you can stop trying.

What you need to focus on instead are “motivation killers”. Understand the creative process of your type of project and exterminate all demotivators from it.

What is the creative process? How does a team in your industry/field come together to collaborate to define a problem, evaluate solutions, pick the appropriate or best one, design it, develop it, and deploy it? You need to master this process because therein lies the source of demotivation for your team.

If it is IT project for examples and your team is tasked with creating a software system, then the creative process are the steps that a team needs to follow for creating software? What kind of roles and responsibilities are needed in a team for it to be effective? And what typically slows down or blocks progress for such process?

As a project manager, you need to be intimate with this process. You don’t need to have the technical skills to actually do the work but you need to have been an individual contributor on a number of similar projects to the one you are managing. This way, you better than anyone on your project understands at a deepest level the ins and outs/nuts and bolts of the creative process.

You need this knowledge so you know when the creative process is broken, how, and why. Because most often when you fix what is broken with the creative process, everything else takes care of itself. And what breaks the creative process are the motivation killers.

So what are these “Motivation Killers”?

First, to prove to you that you don’t need to motivate anyone, here is a question for you: do you need anyone to motivate you? What actually motivates?

If you really look deeper, you will find that you don’t really derive your motivation from a person. You are most likely motivated by you own intrinsic drives and the main drive is the need to be of service and make an impact or at least a difference. What kills your motivation? This is the most important questions.  Probably a lack of respect for your work, your intelligence, or your contributions. When you feel you are not heard, your opinion does not matter, or you feel disconnected from your team, or when you are treated unfairly.  Probably because you don’t feel you are given the resources or most importantly the creative freedom to do your magic. Focus on what is demotivating people on your project and what is blocking the creative process and creative freedom and the rest will take care of itself. There is really no secret formula or special sauce.

Effective project management is about achieving and sustaining the delicate balance between “management rigor” and “creative freedom”, i.e., money and magic. Focus on one without the other at your own peril.

As for how to celebrate success, free food (pizza or whatever is equivalent in your culture) works every time.

What is your take on this questions? I would love to hear your thoughts.

Be sure to leave your email here so I notify you when the next article in this series is posted.

To learn more about balancing “management rigor” and “creative freedom”, see my interview with Lina Echeverria: How to lead highly creative professionals.

9 Responses to The Secret to Motivating Your Team: Stop Trying
  1. Bert Heymans
    April 28, 2013 | 3:39 am

    I think you pretty much nailed it in this post Samad! I’ve never hear anyone put it this way but it makes total sense to me.

    When I was reading the article I thought of how putting the right people together can make a difference. Given a positive spirit, a team of people who like to work with each other is much more resilient when times get hard. Motivation just happens as they keep each other going. Trying to intervene in the way they work together as a project manager, is something to be careful with (even if everybody knows your full intentions are good).

    Thanks for the insightful article!

    • samad_aidane
      April 28, 2013 | 7:42 pm

      Bert,

      Awesome comment and I totally agree with you. Often we think we need to do some extraordinary things to motivate people, when in actuality we just need to pay attention and remove obstacles blocking our team’s progress. You are so right: most of the time, we we can help so much by getting out of the way and letting the team do its magic. Thank you again for the awesome comment.

  2. Mark Moore
    April 29, 2013 | 11:16 am

    As I commented where you first responded to the question, I had also not thought of it this way. My time would be better spent rooting out the demotivating factors and then appropriately awarding the team for success. That in itself would provide “motivation” in a far more genuine way.

    • samad_aidane
      April 29, 2013 | 11:38 am

      Mark,

      Yes, there is no better motivator to your team than when they see you fight the “right” battle on their behalf. This is a great example for when action speaks far better than words. Thank you for your insights.

  3. […] where you can read Samad Aidane‘s interesting take on how to motivate your project team in The Secret to Motivating Your Team: Stop Trying.  Happy reading. Cancel […]

  4. Ian Smith
    May 22, 2013 | 2:48 am

    Good thinking and advice here Samad! It meshes with an insight which I’ve had recently – after moving into a role as manager of an established team of quite self-sufficient people. The realisation that I had is that the best way to manage here is with a light touch – a focus on faciliating and enabling what the team does, not trying to manage what they do. The motivation and commitment flows – when, to use your example, I fight the “right” fights on their behalf to enable them to do what they need to do.

    • samad_aidane
      May 22, 2013 | 12:24 pm

      Ian, so true. When your team sees that you focus in the right place, being of service to them vs. “managing them”, they do the impossible for you. I think so much of the literature in project management is based on old outdated concepts of people management. Your approach of managing with a “light touch” is a great concept that we need to bring awareness to. I like this idea of managing with a light touch. Thank you for sharing these insights.

      • Gabriel Hoff
        May 22, 2013 | 8:45 pm

        Totally agree Samad. And great example Ian.
        Project Managers are not chiefs of shoes or hardware factory. Talking about my area, it’s time to stop thinking in software as a manufactured product. If people are not motivated, they won’t find that kind of solution that blinks in their mind… they will burn out and go through the wrong way. Software is not just to follow a recipe.
        I’m having the opportunity to implement this model as a project manager in a consulting company. I’m more a contributor and facilitator than “the boss”.
        The team has been anticipating project milestones and I never needed to dictate anything. Of course we have checkpoint meetings, and due to some company standards we have tasks with responsible, but it’s impressive how this collaborative model is going well even with a detailed schedule in place. If someone is not on-track with the task, the team take the decision in someone else help this person, so the project stays on track (what I taught them is that doesn’t matter if just part of the tasks are on-track, we need the project in a good shape, otherwise the fail is collective).
        Best regards.

        • samad_aidane
          May 23, 2013 | 1:13 am

          Gabriel,

          That is a great insight and another example of how we need to rethink the classic and prevailing notions of what effective leaders do. It is another proof that our biggest challenge is not to learn new skills but unlearn so much of what we have been taught a project manager does. What’s so so surprising and counter-intuitive is how much “power” we gain when we let go of control. Thank you.

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