Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Want to motivate your team? Here are 20 things to start doing now

For as long as I can remember, the idea of abandoning permanent employment and striking out on one’s own has been a popular topic in water cooler conversations among the technology folks. Typically following the “they don’t get it” or “I’m working for a moron” kind of an assertion, the daydreams of not giving a proverbial rodent’s derriere (I never understood this saying… who’d want it?) and the alluring but exaggerated virtues of tax advantages have driven more than one IT staffer to salivate on the job.

Some moved past daydreaming and became contractors. These folks make a good living and are used to moving on to another gig every few months. Others have left their full-time job and built a viable business - a consultancy, a development shop or just something altogether different.

The economic tribulations and the shrinking pool of employment opportunities of the past three years have led to a couple of different phenomena. There is the forced entrepreneurship by the people who were pushed out of permanent employment and couldn’t find a job. Out comes the Nana’s recipe book and yet another cake shop on the street. Or another “social media expert.”

Then, there’s the opposite. With the economy in the shape it is today, people stay on despite being miserable in their current job; putting bread on the table usually beats “I can’t stand it” hands down. According to recently published research by Mercer: “Nearly one in three (32%) U.S. workers is seriously considering leaving his or her organization at the present time, up sharply from 23% in 2005. Meanwhile, another 21% are not looking to leave but view their employers unfavorably and have rock-bottom scores on key measures of engagement, a term that describes a combination of an employee’s loyalty, commitment and motivation.”

If you’re a leader in charge of people, project these results onto your own group, department or company, and reflect. If you haven’t cringed, you yourself have probably checked out. Clearly, it’s impossible to conduct business successfully in these circumstances.

Is there anything you could do to fix it?

It turns out that you can. I’ll show you how to create a dynamic, exciting, motivating environment in an otherwise unexciting, underperforming or stodgy organization. Think of it as of a lush oasis in the dustiest of deserts.
What motivates?

The study of the forces behind human motivation has occupied the minds of great many thinkers. From the original work of Maslow, McGregor and Herzberg to the recent not-so-original but popular interpretations, the subject hasn’t neglected.

Motivation is intrinsic. It varies from individual to individual and what motivates one person would not move another. There are some commonalities, though:

  •     Money is never a motivator. However, lack of money is a demotivator.
  •     People are motivated by applying their abilities to the fullest. Underutilization is a demotivator.
  •     Most are motivated by work that creates tangible results, especially if those results are born out of innovation, a new approach or a great idea.
  •     Being engaged in decision making, especially around the choices of how to do work, is a great motivator. Being told how to do it, which is far too common, will at best yield mere compliance.
  •     People are motivated by doing work that aligns with their values and beliefs.
  •     Too much stress petrifies. Too little stress leads to sloth, procrastination and the sense of entitlement.

Necessary conditions