Engagement and Motivation in Project Management

Engagement and Motivation in Project Management

Managing is not so simple…

  • As a manager you are measured by the work of other people (output, quality, compliance with schedule etc.)
  • Your objective as a manager is the ability to motivate, that is, get others to work to promote the goals of the organization you represent, the project, and your own goals (vis-a-vis your clients and managers)
  • Management becomes more complex in light of the fact that we are required to manage employees in fields of business we are not familiar with, such as technical people, financiers, etc., who, to a certain extent, also determine the content of the activity and the means to control it..
  • In hierarchical management, managers receive formal tools that help them to motivate others, such as various financial benefits, annual feedback, bonuses, status, and of course the ability to promote someone, or in extreme cases, to dismiss someone.  In hierarchical management, managers recruit and train employees, enabling them to filter and define rules and boundaries in advance.
  • Formal tools are not sufficient on their own to successfully motivate, so it is desirable for managers to acquire additional tools based on leadership (beyond authority) as detailed below.
  • Matrix management is more complex in the absence of formal tools, because the employee has another manager to whom he is directly subordinate (occasionally causing a conflict of interest or a clash), and because it is usually a shorter time contract, it is more difficult to build a relationship of “carrot and stick” (trust and boundaries).

Your objective as a manager is:  

  1. To cause other people to act to further your goals
  2. on their own initiative
  3. in your absence
  • Effective management is management that moves others to be committed to you as a project manager, to the organization, to a business goal, to the content, the budget, and the project team – not just a commitment to the one specific task they are required to perform.
  • Commitment is expressed in a number of ways, such as cooperation with the rest of the team, appropriate reporting, having the proper level of initiation, anticipating risks in time, be committed to quick and high-quality solutions to problems and at times engaging other parties accordingly, prioritizing project tasks, and being flexible in handling changes that arise.
  • Your goal is also to create a personal commitment and loyalty towards you from the rest of your team, customers, supply managers, and other involved parties.
  • Being committed means working to promote the project even in things that can not be measured (eg dedication, caring, initiative, etc.) or in things that were not mentioned in advance

How do you do it? How do you motivate people to act without formal authority?

Food for thought: Think about people who get more cooperation from others. How do they act? What do they give? What do you get from them? What happens in the relationship?

  •  Stephen Covey, in his book “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People,” talks about the basic psychological needs that every person has and must satisfy.
  • In order to motivate people, it is necessary to satisfy their needs and therefore to create a bond with the one providing this satisfaction (you). This bond leads to people being committed on their own initiative.  Managers and leaders such as Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, Nelson Mandela, Steve Jobs (Apple), Bill Gates, and others are very skilled in these tools, and thus receive support and cooperation which is greater by hundreds of percent compared to other people
  • Stephen Covey talks about “a bank of emotions” that is full. You have credit in the bank and only then can you “withdraw” which means to demand, ask or receive from people what you need.  The model talks about the way to make deposits in the Emotions Bank so that they can be withdrawn.

Needs Model – What do people need in order to be motivated and cooperative on their own initiative?

  1. Consideration and Listening
  • Gives the other person a feeling of “I’m seen, I exist” and  is experienced as caring without an agenda
  • Stephen Covey says first understand the other side before trying to be understood
  • Listening is when the other side is at the center of your attention (instead of what you think about it, what you would do or say in response)
  • Pay attention to all the components of what is said (content), emotion, limitations, and constraints, and also to listen while conflicted (why does he object, where is the real problem, is it a problem of time, prioritization, incompetence, knowledge, a desire to be right, etc.), to put the focus on how to deal with it or on a solution
  • Show a personal interest, such as where you live, how you spent your vacation, and then move to the context of your activity or project, such as how are you progressing?  Are there any special problems?, etc.  Be interested in coming up with questions (but not an interrogation), in a desire to know and truly understand from a sympathetic place
  • Listening is also responding to the situation – I see you are busy?  Do you have a few minutes?  Were not you at work yesterday?
  1. A sense of security (as compared to a lack of control or inconsistency that creates fear, tension, anger)
  • Encourage, calm, offer assistance
  • Transparency and information – provide any information that the other party needs or can use to the extent possible, such as professional information, information on the next stages of the project, problems that may arise, changes on the part of the customer, management, the market.  Update on future moves, provide updates on the concept beyond the specific task.
  • Boundaries – define clear and measurable objectives and tasks, such as what is required and when, present them in a clear manner, ensure that the other side understands by asking questions, clarify in which cases escalation will occur (to a senior manager), be consistent, notify any subordinates before escalation or involvement of a senior manager so there are no surprises.
  1. Approval 
  • Give personal notice or a compliment such as “You look good today, did you have a haircut?  It looks good!”,  or a professional one such as “What a great idea, you helped me very much, what a creative solution, thank you very much, thank you for getting back to me (by phone, email).”
  • Use the “art of professional courtship” in small things like a small note on the table, mail, phone, text, adding a emoticon.
  • Show personal attention about things that happen (“How is your daughter, wasn’t she sick?”, “How did you get along with X ?”)
  • Increase the effect – compliment or show appreciation in the presence other people, for example, at a team meeting or in front of the department, or by email, send a copy of the compliment to his / her manager.
  • Smile – Most people see themselves as the center of their world and therefore a smile gives them approval (you’re OK).  Remember that the opposite is also true – your sour face or tension conveys dissatisfaction to other people (even if it has nothing to do with them).
  1. A sense of discipline and values
  • We all want to have meaning, to be useful, to be successful, to play a part surrounded by success, to know that there is benefit from our work and investment, or doing our part in creating a product in our work.  Most people do not know how to contribute, and here is where a leader comes into the picture, one who knows how to reflect the activity, the achievements, the challenges, and who also offers help and support.  The ability to create a bond between an individual and a successful company, a lucrative project, a unique activity (from a technological, financial, design, or human aspect) – creates commitment and motivation.
  • In order to engage people, it is worthwhile to show the concept beyond the specific task, and how it will contribute to the project or the company.
  • If possible consult employees about alternatives, options, let them choose a method or way within the boundaries / purpose / product they are involved in.
  • Embody leadership as opposed to authority:
  • Engage others to create an environment that enables learning, development, friendship, giving, and boundaries among team members and between them and the manager.
  • Integrate individuals correctly, each one according to their strengths and ability to contribute.  Allow the team to share, take responsibility and also make mistakes… Set up control stations and boundaries together.
  • Give reasonable challenges (not too difficult) and know how to give transparent feedback on the results.

Needs Model: What to avoid?  What produces resistance instead of motivation?

  1. Rejection
  • A disrespectful, dismissive, condescending, or disinterested attitude generates resistance, especially when it is done in front of other people or authority figures of the other person.  Avoid statements such as “You don’t understand”, “You have no idea what you’re doing”, “This is unprofessional”.
  • Negative criticism or feedback should be shared one-on-one and not in public, since the hurt can be deep and create resistance that will be difficult to change.
  1. Lack of control
  •  Refusal to share information, giving wrong or partial information, various manipulations, disregard of established decisions, breach of promises and opposition.
  • Inconsistent communication – setting boundaries and not complying with them, changing rules, increasing targets without logical reason or advance coordination.
  • A lack of transparency of any kind, putting others in a position of not knowing what to expect or to be surprised, to escalate without advance notification.
  1. Blaming, criticism
  • Avoid statements such as “You’re in the wrong,”, “It’s your fault,” “You’re making a mistake,” ” You’re wrong again”.
  • It’s best to turn criticism into suggestions, requests, and questions such as “How can we proceed?”  “What do you need to move forward?” “How can I help?” “What can be done in this situation?” “I suggest that … ” “What do you think?”
  • Instead of complaining, or questioning who is right – focus on proposals for a solution and for the future.

Points to emphasize

  • Honesty can help or hinder depending on your partner’s ability to handle it
  • Take small steps – Taking into consideration the whole model, you should be cautious and take small steps, and at each step listen, learn, and decide on the next one.
  • This tool requires training and practice in order to improve skill and patience.
  • Change must be genuine.
    •  According to research studies, words make up only 7% of communication. The rest is what we feel and experience. Therefore we need to listen, to be genuinely interested, to care, to want to help, to give an honest compliment, to actually see the person facing us as a human being, not as an object.
    • A superficial change in the words spoken without sympathy or empathy may produce the opposite effect, such as resistance (for example, salespeople or politicians who do not generate trust or cooperation)

By: Betty Hanochi Zamir