Motivation can inspire, encourage, and stimulate individuals and project teams to achieve great accomplishments. Motivation can also create an environment that fosters teamwork and collective initiatives to reach common goals or objectives. The level of motivation an individual and/or team applies to project efforts can affect all aspects of project results, including a direct impact to the triple constraint project success factors (i.e. on time, within budget, high quality, met scope / customer expectations). Knowing this, it is in the project manager’s best interest to understand the demotivation cause in order to drive toward project success through the creation and maintenance of a motivating environment for all members of the team.
The book, Essentials of Supervision, defines management as “achieving results through others” (Simpson, Gould, Hardy & Lindahl, 1991, p. 5). Stimulating team member performance requires a project manager to harness many different interpersonal skills, including good communication, the ability to train others, make decisions, lead by example, and create a positive, motivational environment by understanding and associating with the key components of motivation. Unlike most tangible project management functions, motivation is not designated by the project manager to a team member, instead motivation is internal to each team member and derived from a team member’s desire to achieve a goal, accomplish a task, or work toward expectations. Motivation can be considered the conduit of ambition applied to the desired accomplishment.
Just as some teams are stimulated to achieve great success throughout all project efforts and assignments, other project teams may remain uninspired and shuffle meekly, quietly, unpretentious toward project completion. With this in mind, there are two opposing questions that have often been raised when reviewing drivers and motivators of individual and team performance. These resounding questions are “Can a project manager motivate others to perform?” or is it more accurate to ask “How does the project manager create an environment conducive to outstanding team synergy and peak individual performance?” (Scholtes, 1998). The subsequent research provides the answer to these questions as well as a further exploration of motivational approaches a project manager can apply to the project team environment.
McGregor’s Theory X and Theory Y
McGregor’s Theory X and Theory Y motivational approach identifies polar differences in subordinates. Theory X team members are classified as individuals who require constant attention, do not want to work, need punishment to achieve desired effort, and avoid added responsibilities. In contrast, Theory Y individuals are classified as team members who want to work, find the job satisfying, are willing to participate, do not require a controlling environment, and seek constant improvement or opportunity (Kerzner, 2003, p. 194 – 195). An additional suggestion for managers who implement the use of Theory X and Theory Y must apply flexibility when assigning an individual to one of these two categories as each person has the potential to change mannerisms, work habits, and enthusiasm toward work throughout years of service, within each project, and for various positions, assignments, or responsibilities.
Roles and responsibilities
A project manager using a Theory X motivational approach will naturally create an authoritative and controlling work environment. Within the project manager role of a Theory X environment, the project manager will dictate decisions. The role assumed by the project team members within a Theory X environment is to evade added responsibility and do as minimal amount of work as possible to achieve the project goals without punishment On the other hand, Theory Y motivation naturally creates a participative environment with strong manager-employee relations. Within the project manager role of a Theory Y environment, the project manager will seek input and assistance from the project team to obtain the best possible alterative for project implementation. The camaraderie exhibited between the project manager and the project team is one of teamwork, agreed upon separation of duties and responsibilities that will collectively be achieved through the competence of the individual team members involved as well as the desire for the team to ultimately obtain project success (Kerzner, 2003, p. 194 - 195).
Theory X and Y identifies a gap commonly found between different types of individuals within the workplace. Based on the differences, a distinctive motivational approach may be applied to achieve the desired results. For example, a new employee with minimal exposure may commonly fall within the Theory X category as the team member may not initially understand project tasks, may feel overwhelmed with current efforts (thereby avoiding further responsibility), and may need guidance throughout assigned work efforts. These new employees may also require clear forms of punishment for non-performance. Having the project manager provide individualized attention to the Theory X team member will ensure the team member stays “on-task” and is progressing according to plan. On the other hand, an experienced individual may naturally fit into the Theory Y category as the team member may understand both expectations and consequences, has a desire to learn and grown, and generally finds work fascinating and enjoyable. Having the project manager provide an environment that allows the Theory Y team member to be challenged, grow, participate, and take ownership for project responsibilities will allow the project team member to stay motivated and achieve project goals or objectives.
Knowing that a manager may have a collection of both Theory X and Theory Y individuals on the project team, leadership and decision making efforts may become more difficult. For instance, Theory X team members require more of an authoritative environment neatly controlled by the project manager. However, an authoritative environment will be de-motivating to the Theory Y team members as there is minimal need for such a degree of control. For Theory Y team members, a participative environment is more conducive for motivation thereby requiring a project manager to implement a balanced leadership style to accommodate all types of team members (Kerzner, 2003, p. 195).
Herzberg’s KITA Motivation
Herzberg’s KITA motivation or “kick-in-the-pants” approach is based on the idea that both positive and negative external motivators exist. KITA is built on the idea that the manager requires the use of “carrots” (positive KITA) or “sticks” (negative KITA) to drive task completion. Often, the positive KITA inspires a competitive work environment that creates both winners and losers (Scholtes, 1998, p. 38 – 39). An alterative suggestion to KITA implementation may be to create a collective competition where the teamwork drives the achievement of project goals, objectives, and team success.
Roles and responsibilities
As mentioned, KITA motivation naturally creates a parent-child relationship between the manager and team members (respectively). Within the parent role, the manager applies both the responsibilities of encouragement and regulation. At times, the manager will personally assist with the team member’s success to support the project efforts. While at other times, the manager will consider the need to control the situation as the team members are viewed as undependable and inept. For the role of the team member, KITA motivation stirs both productive and malevolent attitudes. The team member may exhibit constructive tendencies while competing for the “carrots”. In some situations, team member’s may lean toward spiteful acts as a result of a low trust, low respect environment (Scholtes, 1998, p. 41).
The KITA motivational approach allows the project manager to define the degree of control implemented within the project for adherence to project requirements and consistency with project methodology and efforts (negative KITA). The manager is also given flexibility to be the team champion. The team members are given the opportunity to obtain special recognition for personal goals and project achievement (positive KITA). The drive toward goal achievement produces important project or task completion.
The atmosphere that is created through this parent-child environment clearly aligns with an “I’m OK, you’re not OK” relationship position (Scholtes, 1998, p. 42). In other words, I (the manager) am competent and you (the subordinate) are not. Low trust quickly ensues. The subordinates believe the manager does not care about the team members as individuals. The distrust inspires the team members to focus on themselves, rather than supporting each other, due to a lack of reassurances for the collective importance of each individual within the team based on the negative KITA. The competition made available through the positive KITA can dissolve a team or collective approach to accomplishing project objectives.
McClelland Achievement, Affiliation, & Power Motivation
McClelland’s Achievement motivation is driven by a need to succeed (Rad & Levin, 2003, p. 80 – 81). Accomplishment, personal ambition, and a need to be good at what they do, are additional attributes that are common among achievement orientated individuals. Individuals who are driven by achievement are more likely to define clear goals as well as a course to goal attainment.
Roles and responsibilities
Because an individual who is motivated by achievement is self-driven, these individuals are able to perform and function well both alone and within a team. The reason for this ability, they are able to identify a clear objective and develop a “line of sight” to get there. In order for an “achievement” individual to flourish, provide an environment that will give them the ability to be creative, an opportunity that will expand beyond their current position or role, and tasks that are challenging; all components that provide an prospect of growth, success, and enhancement.
Similar to “power” driven individuals, “achievement” individuals appreciate a challenge and are self-sufficient (Rad & Levin, 2003, p. 80 – 81). To an achievement motivated individual, life is about a personal challenge rather than a challenge with others.
On the flip side, individuals who have a tendency to be achievement oriented may not know when to stop, quit, or accept failings. This constant battle to go beyond personal boundaries and extend individual abilities does have a price. The costs may result in signs of mental stress or physical fatigue.
McClelland’s Affiliation motivation is driven by relationships and a need to work well with others. Individuals who are motivated through affiliation are drawn toward a friendly work atmosphere and will strive for team unity, team success, and commonality of team norms. Motivation through affiliation will steer an individual to assist others while promoting a collective team effort (Rad & Levin, 2003, p. 81 – 82). At a quick glance, a person motivated by affiliation tends to be a “people” person, or an individual who would rather be with others than be alone.
Roles and responsibilities
An individual who is motivated by affiliation will naturally identify their role as a fellow team member willing to assist and support project efforts or decisions. Individuals drawn toward affiliation work well in roles requiring a high degree of internal or external communication, gaining team agreement, and presenting material to others. Without others to work with, communicate to or support, the affiliated individual may actually lack motivation (Rad & Levin, 2003, p. 82). When working with an individual motivated by affiliation, the project manager is responsible for assigning project work that will naturally involve contact or collaboration with others and the creation of a project environment built on team support and common goals. Other areas within the company that “affiliated” individuals may be drawn towards are company sponsored athletic teams or volunteer organizations. The project manager may also want to consider putting this individual in charge of all team lunches or other department events to further inspire the ability to associate with others.
Working with individuals who are motivated by affiliation will result in an environment built on a sense of harmony, teams driven toward common goals, and a genuine desire to help each other (Rad & Levin, 2003, p. 81 – 82). A direct result of affiliation motivation is less conflict for the project manager to resolve. The storming stage of team development may evolve quicker as individuals with an affiliation motivation want to work well with others.
On the flip side, individuals who possess a strong sense for affiliation may feel uncomfortable voicing concerns and may shy away from environments that do not allow for personal interaction with others (Rad & Levin, 2003, p. 81 – 82). A direct result of affiliation motivation may promote greater groupthink which may limit a full range of possible issues and options available for discussion. An individual motivated by affiliation may not be as concerned to focus on one-self or the opportunities that could allow for personal growth, promotions, added responsibilities, or increased authority in order to focus on the team and fellow team members. Individuals motivated through affiliation will also not flourish in an environment requiring little-to-no communication and/or individual rather than team assignments.
McClelland’s Power motivation is driven by the ability to dominate and manipulate goals, direction, or decisions. Individuals who are motivated by power are drawn toward the ability to offer input and access into a variety of situations from risk review and competition to a general need for appreciation or personal acknowledgment. Motivation through power will naturally steer an individual toward leadership opportunities (Rad & Levin, 2003, p. 82 – 83). Most individuals driven by power will gravitate toward positions that include a level of control. Common “power” roles may be management, group leader (technical, business, etc.), mentor, or even process owner.
Roles and responsibilities
As previously mentioned, an individual who is motivated by power will naturally fill a leadership role within the project team. Individuals drawn toward power, can be given ownership of broad tasks to drive toward collective team agreements, overcome inherent risks, and adhere to specific project objectives. Again, the project manager may want to place the power driven individual in a role that would capitalize on their natural motivational tendencies yet be mindful of the need to manage conflict and ensure suggestions provided comply with project needs while offering personal visibility (Rad & Levin, 2003, p. 82). After assigning efforts to “power” driven individuals, constant balance between appropriate levels of control and consistency with project direction are required to avoid re-work, added costs, and conflicts.
A project manager has the ability to rely on the natural leadership tendencies of individuals who are motivated by power. The project manager can exude confidence in and seek assistance from power driven individuals by assigning tasks to focus on reviewing alternatives, overcoming risks, and steering other team members toward common project-consistent objectives. Training of others, compliance with project objectives, and cultivating agreements are additional strengths of power driven individuals (Rad & Levin, 2003, p. 82 - 83). An individual motivated by power is self-driven and tends not to require a great deal of prodding for performance. These individuals will likely rise to challenges presented in order to apply additional control and influence in those areas surrounding them.
An alternative view of individuals who possess a strong desire for power includes the need to dominate, control, or have influence in all aspects of the project. Authority struggles may result between power driven team members and the project manager, resulting in the need for the project manager to champion the power driven team members through the assignment of specific tasks, ownership, or control. The project manager may also experience a higher degree of conflict with power driven team members based on the need for power, a desire to persuade others, a skewed interpretation of project efforts (i.e. personal agendas), and an essential need for recognition (Rad & Levin, 2003, p. 83 – 83). Knowing that “power” driven individuals tend to influence directions, it is important for the project manager to offer clear lines of control or decision making capability as well as an assurance that consistency of direction is followed. Without these key steps, the project manager may need to spend additional time to re-focus individuals on the proper inputs, alternatives, considerations, and/or decisions that are in alignment with the project direction.
MBTI Personal Style
The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) provides an ability to identify personal style based upon responses to a series of questions that collectively determine preferences and motivation tactics of each individual (Flannes & Levin, 2005, p. 43). MBTI provides a review of four common traits: 1) need for personal contact with others, 2) application of realism, 3) ability to apply logic and 4) influences of judgment (Flannes & Levin 2005, p.43). A combination of these four attributes help to define an individual’s personality type. Knowing this information provides the project manager with the most motivating communication approach, task direction, and level of detailed project information that will stimulate each individual thereby creating a functional working relationship or environment.
A clear advantage to the MBTI is the unique guide to team member motivation and preference that is made available. As a project manager, it is far easier to shape communication and interaction with each individual based upon their known personality style than it is to guess at what approaches work best. Because there is a percentage of preference applied to each of the four common traits, there is a delineation of primary and secondary personality preferences.
On the flip side, not everyone is interested in taking an MBTI personality assessment. Without this information, the project manager would be guessing at what personality style or preference the individual would fall into. Also, because the MBTI can be environment or situational based, if the individual taking the MBTI assessment is not applying the questions to the work environment, the results may not be fruitful. Also, throughout the course of a lifetime, an individual’s MBTI tendencies can change thereby resulting in the need to change the motivation methods.
As a project manager, you are exposed to a wide variety of personalities, different levels of expertise, and ranges of positional seniority along with unique backgrounds, cultures, and personal experiences of each team member. In addition, with today’s global business environment it is extremely common for a team to be virtual. Merely beginning any project may be overwhelming to a project manager, outside of the diverse motivational needs presented by each team member involved in the project. Some project managers rely on existing work relationships that have gradually developed through hallway conversation and face-to-face contact that offers a project manager the opportunity to understand a variety of individuals drive and their reward preferences. With limited involvement and minimal personal exposure with virtual team members, a project manager may begin to generalize or make assumptions? on the needs and directions of the virtual team.
Unfortunately, a project manager may easily become trapped by introducing errors when preparing an inspiring project team environment. Too often, project managers may begin project efforts with an intent to offer a stimulating environment, however they may fall short by implementing common motivational mistakes. These common management mistakes as well as possible strategies to overcome the motivational gaps are explored below (Flannes & Levin, 2005).
- “Whatever motivates me will motivate others”
○ Impact – At times, a project manager’s initial perception may be that everyone would be motivated just like they are. A common result of this mistake is a disappointment in team members who do not react to the stimulation provided.
○ Resolution – Begin to identify the differences in others by initially providing a more personalized approach to motivation.
- “People are motivated primarily by money”
○ Impact – Often, project managers have a limited input on and availability to monetary rewards. Unfortunately, project managers often feel restrictive by this limitation.
○ Resolution – Begin by focusing motivational tactics beyond monetary rewards. Consider offering input into team member performance for those individuals who do control monetary rewards for your project team members.
- “Team members love to receive formal awards”
○ Impact – Though “praise in public, punish in private” is a common phrase within the management arena, a project manager must be very mindful of the fact that not everyone will desire a formal reward for completed efforts. The main concern is to avoid any negative response from the recognition offered either by the individual receiving the recognition, fellow team members, or other project teams.
○ Resolution – If an individual formal award is deserved, be sure the team member would accept this form of recognition in advance. A wider acceptance of public awards may be gained through an entire “team” recognition for celebrations or accomplishments reached together, thereby avoiding the display of high-regard for one team member. Influence a broader application of public recognition that could be applied or expressed by fellow project managers for their project team efforts.
- “Give them a rally slogan”
○ Impact – The main premise of using a slogan is to provide a common theme the entire team can support to create some level of unity, resulting in greater motivation. However, the use of a slogan may provide only marginal benefit.
○ Resolution – Consider using slogans as part of an environmental focus rather than as a project focus. Again, individualization is the key.
- “The best project leader is a strong cheerleader”
○ Impact – Hype, positive attitude, generous support, and plenty of smiles. Though this can offer an encouraging environment, the consistent upbeat approach may not always be applicable to the project situations experienced, may become annoying to others, or may merely result in only a marginal impact.
○ Resolution – Look at project management as a mentoring opportunity. Work with team members through situations by applying clarifications and understandings to provide a good learning opportunity of what to continue to do in the future and what to change. When things go well, look for the strong foundation, steps, effort, and application of knowledge/experience that was applied and resulted in the accomplishment. When things do not go as planned, look for the components that resulted in failure to seek out the learning opportunity in a desire to improve similar situations within the future.
- “These people are professionals. They don’t need motivating”
○ Impact – Many project managers look at their team as a group of professionals who are educated and have some level of work experience. By not considering the importance of team motivation, the project manager may merely be trusting in assuming that the team requires minimal supervision or support. However, not everyone is a “self-starter” or driven, and many individuals work better when motivated to reach a goal and/or reward.
○ Resolution – Treat the project team members as professionals, yet foster a motivating environment through those tools or rewards you have within your authority as a project manager.
- “I’ll motivate them when there is a problem”
○ Impact – Waiting for a problem to arise may be too late for some team members and will likely result in the application of vast changes in order to create a motivating environment. Overall, this approach to motivation is a very detached managerial style.
○ Resolution – Knowing that project management employs leadership as a key skill and leadership requires involvement, guidance, and support, do not wait for a problem to occur prior to motivating your team. Instead, remain focused on the team and their individual motivational needs.
- “I’ll treat everyone the same. People like that, and it will be motivating for them”
○ Application – Knowing that there are differences (i.e. culture, experience, education, personal, professional, position, etc.) in each team member instills a need to motivate each team member uniquely or individually. A reward or stimulus that suits an individual may be unappreciated or discouraging to another.
○ Impact – Provide individual motivators based on unique, personal desires and drives of each team member. Again, when there are times that the team has attained key project milestones, a common team reward may be shared or celebrated.
Applying Motivation to the Team Environment
Throughout the study and application of motivation, the project manager must realize the importance of individuality. Knowing what motivates each team member will provide the project manager the ability to connect team members to environments, assignments, responsibilities, and objectives that foster personal motivation. The encouraging impact of a human needs analysis provides the project manager an ability to understand what teams and individuals desire most from their work and allows an ability to track personal work drivers to uncover the variety of basic human needs and motivators that exist within your project team.
As a project manager, the focus of motivational efforts should be applied to motivating others by ensuring a goal is attainable while breaking down any obstacles that may be preventing goal attainment. Another component of project manager focus should be the need to understand the individual motives of the project team members in order to assist in the alignment of rewards to personal preferences. Refer to Appendix A – Motivational Approaches for Project Team Members, which can be used as a tool to assist in creating a motivating environment for each individual to work in while personalizing team member rewards.
An empowered team environment can assist in fostering greater motivation within the project team, department, and organization. Empowerment provides a key ingredient to building a self-directed work team or a high-performing team. Empowerment consists of four key components, including team member authority, capable resources, accurate information, and accountability for completed work. The collection, balance, and application of the empowerment components can associate a project teams’ performance to a mixed stage of adherence within the People Capability Maturity Model (P-CMM) (Fisher, 2000). The P-CMM defines the levels of high-performing team maturity as 1) Initial, 2) Managed, 3) Defined, 4) Predictable/Empowered, and 5) Optimizing (SEI_CMU, 2007). Some of the benefits of applying a People CMM focus within an organization or a team is the ability to create consistent practices, a means to implement process improvement, promote higher quality, and provide a motivational project environment (SEI_CMU, 2007). Refer to Appendix B – People CMM Process Areas for a guide on how to assess the company, department, project team, and individual level.
Rolling out a new project with clearly defined expectations and required processes for the project team to adhere to promotes a consistent knowledge of performance objectives and project goals. The project team plays an important role in planning the project efforts from requirements, risk review, and quality plans to tasks, estimates, and order of task completion. The involvement of the project team within these critical project planning efforts provides two obvious benefits to the project manager; 1) the project manager with gain insights into the components, arrangement, and complexities of the project efforts for a more accurate overall project plan, and 2) project team members will feel greater ownership and acceptance of the project efforts. The result of the team’s involvement with the staged approach to project planning efforts provides a more realistic plan that the entire project team could agree to support (SEI_CMU, 2007).
Even with all the needed planning, well-defined processes and clear, known expectations, employee performance problems may still occur. To overcome potential performance problems, the project manager must continue to work with the team leads to monitor and measure employee performance according to defined expectations. When variance occurs, the project manager and/or team lead should mentor the employee by providing details regarding the agreed upon expectations and performance exhibited to identify where performance or knowledge gaps exist and what changes need to be implemented to achieve performance objectives. This cycle of performance measurement, as referenced in Exhibit 1 below, includes variance identification, mentoring, and monitoring to continue to improve operations and eliminate performance problems.
Developing Team Culture
There a variety of components that will help foster a positive team culture resulting in high team performance and team success. The implementation of the following directives will assist with overcoming the barriers to establishing a high-performance team.
- Team Charter – The preparation of a team charter will assist in defining individual and stakeholder roles. This document will clear up any ambiguity existing with the project needs, focus, objectives, common procedures, deliverables, and success criteria, allowing the project team to understand the common goals, objectives, and division of responsibilities (Rad & Levin, 2003). Refer to Appendix C – Team Charter, for an example template available for team use.
- Team Processes – Define common team processes that will be used to accomplish project requirements, define standards, and clarify performance expectations. Ensure process documentation is available for all relevant identified processes within the organization, department, and project team. Provide identification of how performance will be validated and tracked for performance measurement / metrics purposes. Offer mentoring between project team members to allow all to be knowledgeable of the process (SEI_CMU, 2007).
- Develop a Motivational Environment built upon the unique Team Member needs – As the project manager, take the time to understand the differences and uniqueness with each team member. Personalize motivational strategies according to individual needs, desires, and goals.
- Reward the Team and the Team Members – Personalize rewards according to individual motivators and accomplishments achieved while celebrating team success. A good source of reward options can be found within 1001 Ways to Reward Employees (Nelson, 1994).
- Foster Trust, Teamwork, and Open Communication – Promote open communication and dialogue standards among team members through team meetings and general project communication. Allow all to provide input into project conversations. Require the team to respect each other. Accept all constructive comments made. Promote a participative leadership style that provides greater ownership of project tasks and decision making authority (within defined guidelines). Engage in team building and team celebration activities.
- Recognize Team Member Strengths – Assign project tasks and roles according to individual strengths, knowledge, motivation, and development strategies. These approaches can assist in individual and/or team empowerment.
- Develop a Mature Team – After obtaining high team performance through the implementation of clearly defined standards, consistent, well understood processes, team involvement from initial project planning efforts, and a motivational environment, the project team will have the possibility to focus on implementing process improvements to streamline, expand, and/or simplify tasks, responsibilities, processes, and/or project approach (Caltech, 2007).
- Promote Project Success – Continue to identify successes the team has accomplished (no matter the size). Be consistent with this team recognition to help the team feel accomplished and experience achievement no matter what stage the project life cycle development (Flannes & Levin, 2005).
Throughout the study and application of motivation, the project manager must understand the importance of individuality. To foster motivation within each team member on a project, the project manager must take the time to understand how every individual is motivated. Knowing what motivates each team member will provide the project manager the ability to connect team members to environments, assignments, responsibilities, and objectives that foster personal motivation. In other words, the project manager should avoid applying a broad application of motivation to all team members based solely on the manager’s perception. Taking the time to work with each team member to understand personal work drivers will allow the project manager to uncover basic human needs and individual motivators. Refer to Appendix D – Motivation Checklist, for a guide to assist with this key interpersonal project management skill.