Project Management Institute

Collaborative, cohesive team--do you have one!


As a project manager, many times we don’t have the luxury of hand-picking our team. Many times we are told “What you see is what you get.” Teams can be made of many stakeholders, both internal and external to the project and the organisation. Many times our teams are disjointed, different cultures, roles, and those that don’t reside in the same building, yet alone in the same city or country.

In order for teamwork to succeed one must be a team player. A team player is one who subordinates personal aspirations and works in a coordinated effort with all members of a team in striving for a common goal/objective.

The effectiveness of a project team depends on the quality of its relationships. It relies on the success or failure of the project!

We will look at different tools and techniques to identify team dynamics. We will look at the motivation behind behaviours and how to identify them, and also how to mould your team. One tool we will explore is the Strength Deployment Inventory (SDI®) that incorporates the Motivational Value System™ (MVS), which are excellent ways of understanding what motivates us as well as what motivates others. Unlike other “personality trait” tools, the SDI® goes beyond behavior and into our core values. It is a suite of tools based on relationship awareness—a learning model for effectively and accurately understanding the motive behind behavior. When people recognize the unique motivation of themselves and others, they greatly enhance their ability to communicate more effectively and handle conflict more productively.


Human beings are fiercely independent and we will always have our own opinions and independent methods of doing something. This is the way our minds are hardwired by nature. Except for a very small percentage of us, sharing and collaboration with others is not exactly programmed inside each and every one of us. This is because each person is mainly concerned about his or her own rewards, appreciation, need for power over others, and so on. But teamwork is a concept that aligns mindsets in a cooperative, and usually selfless, manner toward a specific business purpose. It involves sacrifices, sharing of rewards, sharing the blame and punishments, true uniformity, suppression of personal opinions, etc., which is not very palatable to many. It is always, “What is in it for me?” rather than “What is in it for us?”.

As project managers, we hear that the main skill and experience must be communication, but to communicate it must be by sending and receiving information; otherwise, we are talking to ourselves.

Many studies have been undertaken to look at project failures and successes. As part of these studies, the three top reasons for project failures evolve around the human side of project management: poor communications, not understanding or ignoring the impacts of change, and lack of leadership. We will look deeper into our motivational values using SDI® and our individual portrait of strengths.

The SDI® is based on four key concepts:

  • We all do what we do because we want to feel good about ourselves.
  • We tend to take two different approaches to life:
    • When we feel that things are going well
    • When we feel that we are faced with opposition or conflict.
  • A “personal weakness” is no more or no less than the overdoing or misapplying of a personal strength.
  • We naturally tend to perceive the behaviors of others through our own filter, our MVS.

By understanding our strengths and those of our team members, we will be able to:

  • Deepen the understanding and practice of effectively communicating with other team members in a manner that increases collaborative communication and understanding
  • Learn to speak clearly through the filters of different personality types and value systems
  • Communicate so that others can effectively hear, truly understand, and eagerly participate
  • Understand your own motivational values and those of the other team members
  • Learn and integrate effective conflict management and resolution tools
  • Deepen the understanding of warranted and unwarranted conflict
  • Come away with a team that understands each other, has greater respect for each other, knows how to communicate with each other, is adept at avoiding unwarranted conflict, and more effectively manages conflict that does arise.

Communications Management

Communications management, as stated in A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide) 4th edition (2008), is about the timely generation, collection, distribution, storage, retrieval, and ultimate disposition of project information. Yet, to communicate we ultimately need an array of resources, whether it is reference material, historical data, discussions, or meetings. It is stated that project managers spend the majority of their time communicating with team members and stakeholders. The communications model is always between two parties, the sender and the receiver; however, what and how we send a message can be interpreted into many different messages with positive or negative outcomes.

Truly effective communication requires an understanding of other peoples’ styles as well as our own. Individuals have various preferences for both communicating with others and interpreting different communication styles. This begins with understanding one’s own communication style and how selecting and emphasizing certain behaviors that fit within and resonate with other people will make other people more comfortable in general and can advance one’s relationship with others. As a project manager we need to be aware of our own communication style and behaviours and a good understanding of our team members communication styles and behaviours. This will assist in communicating more effectively with all your stakeholders.

Human Resource Management

As a project manager, the majority of the time we don’t have the luxury of hand-picking the selection of our team. We are told “What you see is what you get.” And then we have to deliver, in scope, on time, within budget, and as well as with quality.

For many years the term “‘team”’ has been used in organisations to describe a variety of ways in which groups of people work together: management teams, work teams, quality teams, and project teams can be found across all types of organisations. However, many organisations recognise that the power and potential of teams are not always fully realised. In order to maximise the benefits of teamwork both to organisations and individuals, organisations must find ways of harnessing, energising, and developing this potential.

According to CIO Magazine’s ( 2008) “The 14 Most Common Mistakes IT Departments Make” the top two are as follows:

Staffing Mistakes

  1. Projects lack the right resources with the right skills.
  2. Projects lack experienced project managers.

Communication Problems

The project manager does not communicate well with project sponsors and stakeholders.

The success or failure of a project is almost entirely dependent upon the people involved and how they run it. As the project leader or manager, if you have a team that does not work together in harmony, your project is fraught with danger.

I initially believed that my experience, plus the existing body of research knowledge, PMBOK® Guide, would give me all the answers to all the people problems I was encountering from one project to the next. I have a library full of project management books from dynamics of project teams to managing the project team. All books have given me that bit more knowledge and skill, but I have found as a project leader/manager we need a number of traits to successfully deliver projects. We need to understand our own motivational values and those of our team members, and then we need to borrow styles for different team members and different situations.

Project Leaders

Leaders are always looking for specific things to do “next Monday,” to make things happen. Leadership depends on having a unique vision, making strategic choices, finding the right tools and people to do the job, and designing and enabling an organization to get it done.

Leadership is about understanding people, and about getting people pointing and acting in the same direction. The unique role of a leader is then to provide the energy and commitment to see the job through, and ensuring execution is perfect. Leadership is about listening, and making a real “connect” with others. It is a process.

The process—the framework 4 E’s of Envision, Enable, Empower, and Energize—has been developed by studying historical leaders (refer to Exhibit 1) (live ones are notoriously difficult to summarize in a complete fashion, as things change so quickly), the current literature, and from personal experience of leading multinational and multicultural organizations across the world.

“Historical Examples” Summarizes How the First 4 E’s Apply to Two Very Different Leaders—Mohandas Gandhi and Genghis Khan

Exhibit 1: “Historical Examples” Summarizes How the First 4 E’s Apply to Two Very Different Leaders—Mohandas Gandhi and Genghis Khan

The 4 E’s framework applies equally to leadership in different cultural backgrounds—important to leader’s of today’s’ multicultural enterprises. There is a simple set of fundamental truths about all leaders to review:

  • Leaders always create (and need) change.
  • Leaders always create (and need) followers.
  • Leaders have a rock-solid value system, which is congruent with their followers.


Successful organizations understand that effective relationships are important. In fact, the success of an organization is determined by the quality of its relationships. Relationship awareness gives organizations and individuals the tools they need to build more effective relationships. It helps them sustain those relationships—not just when things are going well, but also when managing conflict.

Relationship awareness is nonjudgmental. It emphasizes a person’s strengths in relating to others, and suggests how those strengths may be used to improve relationships. Relationship awareness provides powerful insights into the motivation behind behavior. This is self-discovery that fosters more rewarding relationships in organizations, at home and in society.

What Is Relationship Awareness?

Relationship awareness is founded on four simple, yet profound, truths:

  1. We all do what we do because we want to feel good about ourselves.
  2. We tend to take two different approaches to life:
  3. A “personal weakness” is no more or no less than the overdoing or misapplying of a personal strength.
    • When we feel that things are going well.
    • When we feel that we are faced with opposition or conflict.
  4. We naturally tend to perceive the behaviors of others through our own filter (our MVS).

The tools of relationship awareness have been used successfully in such diverse settings as corporate headquarters, welfare-to-work programs, and adventure-based learning.

Most organisational problems, if we dig deep enough, are related to the performance of people in business. By working effectively together, people deliver results. But when communications break down or conflict occurs this inevitably leads to poor business results.

SDI® helps us to overcome interpersonal and communication issues because it provides a framework and a common language for being able to see each other as we really are and to build more positive and powerful working relationships.

SDI® is quick and easy to complete and is based around three key colours—red, green, and blue—that when blended represent seven key motivational value systems. This colour theme provides a helpful language in which to describe motivations that crosses many cultures and breaks down barriers.

SDI® is an inventory questionnaire aimed at helping us understand what motivates us to behave the way we do in normal day-to-day situations when everything is going well and also in conflict situations by asking questions such as:

  • What motivates me?
  • How can I increase my value to the team and organisation?
  • How can I become more confident and self-assured?
  • How can I adapt my behaviour to bring about the best in others?
  • How can I improve my performance in terms of achieving business goals and objectives?


We all know that a motivated team will achieve more than an unmotivated team. The difficulty is creating a motivated team. Motivation is a blend of technique, understanding, and creativity. If it were a science, there would be a formula we could all use but like most endeavours requiring human interaction, but it is more art than science.

The Building Blocks of Motivation

I have often heard project managers—and line managers for that matter—say they cannot get an individual motivated. One line I heard that stuck with me was when a project manager told me:

“I have goals that I strive to achieve but I set her goals and she just ignores them.”

Well, maybe the person is not motivated by goals. Not everyone is goal-oriented. To many people, goals are the end deliverable and to others it is small steps to achieve the end deliverable. A useful way to understand motivation is to look at where somebody sits on a diagram such as the one in Exhibit 2.

Three Basic Orientations that People Have

Exhibit 2: Three Basic Orientations that People Have


These types of people are motivated by the relationship between themselves and the people they come into contact with. How everyone gets along is important. Teams and interaction are critical to their achievement. They tend to not like working alone, and are most productive in a group environment. A stereotype is the sales person who has the ability to make everyone feel comfortable. Typically, but not always, they are extroverted and have a wide circle of friends.


Influence-oriented people are concerned with their status in the organisation. They look on each task as an opportunity to display to the world their own skills, ability, and to be recognized for doing so. How the world perceives them is important. They form links to people who have a level of influence in the organisation, and often get things done through these affiliations. They are usually willing to compromise to get something done if the alternative is that it is not done at all.


Goal-oriented people are motivated by achieving things. They are focused on targets and will move Heaven and Earth to achieve their target. They like nothing better than the challenge of setting and reaching a goal. They also tend to be very focused—often to the detriment of their relationship with the people around them. They can sometimes be very dogmatic and unbending in their desire to achieve. If you want a person to walk to the North Pole on their own, this is the sort of person to do it.

Mixing Motivations

People’s base motivation exists somewhere on the arc in Exhibit 2. Initially you might think they have a base motivation that spans all areas. On closer examination however, this is not true. People’s orientation may change over the years, or more likely decades; however, they will always be one of the following:

  • People-oriented
  • People/influence-oriented
  • Influence-oriented
  • Influence/goal-oriented
  • Goal-oriented.

You will see from this mix, that people/goal-oriented is not mentioned. The motivations are actually contradictory. Whilst the people-oriented person is motivated by the friendships and associations with people, the goal-oriented person is motivated by driving forward toward a goal, and people are a secondary issue.

That is not to say a goal-oriented person cannot be good with people. The difference is that it is a learned skill and has a degree of “unnatural” feeling. It is something the person will have had to work on to develop or a borrowed trait.

No chit chat, no time wasting, a clear goal of the meeting, and a clear timeframe—these are what appeals to a goal-oriented person.

Another dimension is the level of motivation. Some people are highly motivated, and some are…well, less than highly motivated. If you look at the two people in Exhibit 3, person 1 is off the scale but person 2 is just off brain dead.

Person 1 Is Highly Motivated While Person 2 Lacks Motivation

Exhibit 3: Person 1 Is Highly Motivated While Person 2 Lacks Motivation

How To Tell the Type of Motivation

It takes a little practice but you can tell the type of motivation by watching and listening to people.

  • People-oriented people tend to use the words “we” and “us.” They have good relationships, or would like to have good relationships, with people on a personal as well as business level. They are the ones likely to organise staff social events. They hate doing tasks where they are on their own.
  • Influence-oriented people use what might sound like “wishy washy” terms but in fact are leaving their options open for a change of direction. They sound like they are qualifying their position. You hear responses peppered with phrases like “One option is…,” “What do you think about…,” and “There are several solutions including…” They will often want to know what other people (particularly superiors) think before taking a stance. A task that will require interaction with influential people is one they will put their hand up for.
  • Goal-oriented people are probably the easiest to spot. They are definite. They use words like “We must…,” “Failure is not an option,” and “Whatever it takes we will achieve….” They want decisions made now, and consultative decision-making is something you do only if you must. Often they are perceived as poor communicators but people who get things done at all costs.

Why Is Motivation Important?

Your behaviour will often be variable, depending on the circumstances and what you are seeking to achieve. It’s this variability that gives us the opportunity to learn and develop more effective choices of behaviour for the future and the opportunity to change unproductive behaviour. However your underlying motivation remains constant and is therefore a more reliable reference to work with when seeking to understand intentions.

The MVS are colour-coded for ease of use and are memorable well after the actual SDI® has been administered. The visual nature of the SDI ® scores when charted on the coloured triangle included in the SDI® and the ability to chart multiple scores make this the ideal tool for use in one-to-one coaching or in a wider group setting.

You’ll find listed in Exhibit 4 the typical concerns of each MVS.

What makes the SDI so easy to complete, remember, and apply is that it uses three colours—blue, red, and green— and their blends to represent the following seven MVSs:

The Motivational Value System™ (MVS)

Exhibit 4: The Motivational Value System™ (MVS)

No MVS is better than any other. What motivates us does not limit our behaviour. In the service of our MVS we are able to draw behaviours from all colours of the triangle in order to achieve more productive outcomes. Describing each MVS by a colour provides a common language that bridges all cultural barriers. Regardless of what level or role you have in the organization, the SDI helps to facilitate conversations about interpersonal issues.

How to Manage Conflict Effectively

Frustrated customers, difficult suppliers, angry colleagues, inevitably as we relate with others, there will be potential for disagreement. When you use the SDI, it becomes much easier to resolve conflict before it becomes overwhelming or causes irretrievable damage to personal or organisational relationships.

As you use your SDI learning you will see how people change their priorities and their focus during conflict and how we each use behaviours that can be totally misread and make the situation worse. As people gain more SDI awareness, this often results in a decrease in the conflict experienced in the workplace. That’s why it’s a great resource to build and maintain individual and team performance.

In summary, understanding and using the SDI tools you will:

  • Identify what motivates every member of your team
  • Show the triggers that will get people into conflict and starts conversations about how to avoid this happening,
  • Identify the most productive response to maintain the team focus
  • Offer a non-threatening way to communicate with each other
  • Learn how to engage people through effective communication and management strategies to align individuals to the organisation’s mission, vision, and goals at a more personal level. Leaders are often most visible during times of conflict—therefore to handle it in the most effective and motivating way is crucial to retaining motivation through peaks and troughs of organisational life.
  • Manage Conflict—Avoidance is better, effective management essential. Behaviour in conflict can best be understood and managed when the purpose behind it is clear. SDI provides insight to the motives behind behaviour in conflict.
  • Recognise conflict sooner and resolve it with more acceptable outcomes—while preserving the self-worth of the people involved. People who have had training with SDI continue to use the language of the SDI to resolve their conflicts because it is simple, memorable, and it accurately describes what is happening in conflict situations.
  • SDI provides a common language so people can talk about interpersonal conflict without actually having a conflict. People have a deeper understanding and appreciation of others and with that understanding, action plans can be developed and implemented to achieve more desirable results and reduce unwarranted conflict.
  • Understand the portrait of strengths and be able to identify and borrow strengths as and when needed during different situations, with different team members.

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Johnson, Jim. (2006). My life is failure, 100 things you should know to be a successful project leader. Boston, MA: The Standish Group International, Inc.

Leader Values. (2008). 4Es Framework on Leadership, Retrieved 27 Nov 2008 from

Maxwell, John C. (1999). The 21 indispensible qualities of a leader. Lakeland, FL: Maxwell Motivation Inc.

Motivational Value System™ (MVS). (2007). United Kingdom: Personal Strengths Publishing, Inc. motivational typology developed by Dr. Elias Porter.

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Project Management Institute. (2008). A guide to the project management body of knowledge (PMBOK® guide), 4th ed. Draft. Newtown Square, PA: Project Management Institute.

Relationship Awareness ® Theory, Ninth Edition 1996, Personal Strengths Publishing, Inc. motivational typology developed by Dr. Elias Porter.

Strength Deployment Inventory (SDI®), 2007 Personal Strengths Publishing, Inc. motivational typology developed by Dr. Elias Porter.

Verma, Vijay. (1997). The human aspects of project management, Managing the project team, Vol Three (pp. 34-42). Newtown Square, PA: Project Management Institute.

This material has been reproduced with the permission of the copyright owner. Unauthorized reproduction of this material is strictly prohibited. For permission to reproduce this material, please contact PMI or any listed author.

© 2009, Brenda E. Treasure, PMP
Originally published as a part of 2009 PMI Global Congress Proceedings – Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia



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