Sep 17, 2015

Why people leave: 7 most common PM & Employee Motivation don’ts (part I)

A short intro into teams and happy employees, from an Agile-Certified Technical PM’s point of view

Author: Mihai Mlesnita

…And above all, you need character to do this job!” – This is what my boss (also my mentor and friend) told me while guiding me through a difficult phase of the project – and a lot of employers need to understand one thing very clearly:

People leave bosses, not jobs. Most of us have experienced this feeling more than once throughout our careers. Regardless of how satisfied we are with our salary, in the long run, it’s not going to be enough to spark performance – if we’re not happy with what we do and/or who we do it with, we’re not going to stay. So what motivates people? How do you manage a group of individuals with different personalities and visions into working as a team towards a single goal? How do you make them feel that the team’s goal is their own? Let’s look at some of the most critical and frequent mistakes to consider.

1. You’re not getting to know your team – Everyone’s ‘carrot on a stick’ is different

Wanting to believe in what you do isn’t strictly related to actors and spiritual leaders, but a fundamental need we all share, whether our job satisfies it or not. If it doesn’t, this is going to impact performance. A paycheck will get you out of bed, and into the office, but is that enough? If people don’t feel passionate and engaged, why would they do their best?

Awkward in-meeting one-minute speeches about loving one’s job aren’t going to do much when it comes to driving engagement. The people on your team are complex individuals, with individual drives. Every employee should be motivated on their own terms, and the great leaders I’ve met during my career all had in common an ability to ‘sense’ what gets people going. Some of us are driven by technical achievements (the solution to a complex problem always brings a lot of joy to the problem-solver). Others want to feel that they’re recognized (a simple “Thank you for that extra mile on this project! We couldn’t have done it without you!” goes a long way). But most of all, people buy into a vision. A vision to land on the moon – or to launch a smartphone app. This will foster “the magic 3”: a proof of progress, a human touch, and a sense of ownership (of the achievements and failures). It’s critical that a manager gets to know his people. If you are able to adapt to what best gets each of them into a driven, high-performance mindset, you will be on your way to leading an ideal team (cheat code: if you don’t know who’s who, don’t worry! Just make sure they all get all of “the magic 3s” above, and I promise you, results will be almost instant!).

2. You’re holding information hostage – People commit to the bigger picture

Remember, as a child, how much you hated hearing ‘Because I said so!’ as argument from your parents when told to do something you didn’t agree with? It infuriated you because, instead of using logic to explain a line of reasoning you could follow, your tired parents resorted to authority and withheld background information that might have sparked your cooperation. Well, that’s how much people hate it when they’re led while being kept in the dark, especially since they’re all adults, some of which have children of their own.

People don’t usually commit to a single task, dismantled from any context, which they will carry out to the very best of their abilities simply because ‘the boss said so’. People feel driven by understanding the bigger picture, and wanting to do their part in bringing it to life. The only way to get away with “Do this NOW, because I say so!”, is if the team respects you (do not mistake respect for fear) and trusts you will come back later with an explanation.

Remember that, as a leader, your progress is only visible though your team’s progress, and while few people help strangers, everybody helps a person they trust.

We’re obviously just getting into this topic, so stay in touch with us and find out about 3 more common mistakes, in the upcoming issue.

In the meantime, share some stories with me: have you meat any inspiring leaders throughout your career?

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