What is the main motivation driver

I have this feeling from a long time but I have never been able to make up my mind and to really understand it clearly. Then I read this HBR article on how to “Increase your team motivation” and everything seems so clear now.

When we manage a team of people we always think about what is the main driver to improve team performances, to increase reliability, to make people feel more satisfied about their own work,  how to reach objectives in the most effective way (effective for the people and for the objective). And we always think about the balance of the two “classical methods” the stick and the carrot. At the end of the day they are just two metaphors for two different approaches to the management of people – Push or Pull.

Push is much more “pushing” people when they need to be guided trough a new project, when they need assistance. An example of this is the fixing of milestones, scheduled meetings, planning of step by step targets, checking progress day by day and so on.

A pull strategy is much more leaving the people reach the target without interfering too much, giving them the picture of the objective and trusting on their own experience and skills in order to reach the target, checking only the final result.

Of course both approaches are useful and they have to be used very carefully and in the appropriate moment (Situational Leadership II model).

To these two basic approaches I would like to add a third one, maybe is just an extension of the Pull strategy, but I prefer to think of it as a separate approach. And this sounds like “let the people decide for themselves”. As the HBR article says when we choose for ourselves we are more committed to the outcome by a factor of 5 to 1.

This is a very important factor that a lot of managers forget. If the people is involved in the decisions or better is making their decisions according to the picture given, then the result is five times more efficient than without this self choice. Of course this approach is not easy at all because it means to share more information, to discuss more the projects before starting them and also to receive a lot of feedback on what’s going on (and feedback sometimes is not easy to be managed, especially for “Push” manager). But nevertheless this is the most effective approach and it is clearly demonstrated by results.

In nowadays competitive society, being able to leverage on people skills and let them be part of the decision process, to let them find the time to be part of decision itself is not an easy task at all but if managed in a good way could be the thing which makes the difference between an average organization and an outstanding one.

The most critical moment of a project: the release

Creating something is an emotional thing. And as all the emotional things your feeling changes according to the outcome of what you are doing.

When you are involved in a project your personal feelings and emotions will follow always the same pattern.

  • The project definition phase: At the beginning, when you don’t know exactly what the project will be, there is excitement, happiness, good expectations and so on. But unfortunately all this positive emotions are there because you have not yet a clear idea of what the difficulties will be during the project and normally at the beginning you look mainly at positive things with positive expectations.
  • The project development: Then during the evolution of the project you will start facing the problems and you will realize that nothing is really easy. But because you are a professional, you have all the necessary tools to find the solution. Or at least you are suppose to have them. So all the hard work starts and small piece by small piece you continue with the project, sometimes at fast speed (and so you are happy), sometimes at low speed or very very low speed (and your mood is going down and down). Anyway, first or later you will fix all the issues that you find during the way and you are ready to approach to the deadline.
  • The project release: And here starts the most critical phase of the project: the release. The release is something that everybody tries to avoid. You start thinking back and you start feeling that your skills haven’t been good enough. You start realizing how many expectations are involved in the project. You feel also the pressure of the managers and even worst of the customers. And you don’t want to be blamed for something that is not working as expected. If you could only have more time. And because you are a professional, you see also a lot of potential improvements. So why not improve the product? Why don’t try to increase the performances now, before releasing the project? Why don’t gain more time?

If you have enough experience on what the release of a product or a project feeling is, then you can keep it as short as possible, or at least at the limits of the acceptable. If not, then a good manager could help you trough the process. As I said at the beginning is an emotional process. You need to don’t fall in love with your “creature” (the project) and you need to be guided to the release phase (to let him go). But in order to do that in the best possible way it is important that the people that is putting some pressure on you is aware of it and is able to understand you and help you in this process. If the pressure is a pure pressure from the customer and so on, then the result will be that you will feel even more uncomfortable and the release of your product will be arranged at the last minute leaving for sure some issues. But on the other side your supervisor should be able to understand when the deadline is over and force you to “let the project go”.

During all the project is important to stress the importance of the deadline (project release) and use it as a way to force you to take it seriously, to face all the problems in the best possible and professional way. But when the main problems are fixed then the project have to be released, all the documents completed and the production should start.

When you think back on what you have done and on the fact that a lot of your customers are buying the product that you have created, then you will feel satisfied because you have really been part of a creation process.

The signature that you put in the things that you make

I have the opportunity to work for a company which develops products. Developing or making products have a great impact on the feeling that you have when the product is available – you can touch it with your hands. It is not the same when you work in a company which is more focused in the services or in commerce.

Anyway despite the sector, business or industry, there is always something that you developed and that have involved you in the business of your company. Sometimes is something really tangible (an object) sometimes is something very creative (a design or a project) and sometimes is something very difficult to observe (your management style).

In any case, in all this processes you are involved in the creation of something, in the participation of  a project, in giving your contribution to a final result or simply in being involved in the decisions, strategies, supporting ideas or proposing new ones and so on. But all in all this is a kind of “creation process”.

The creation process is something that gives you the most satisfaction in your life – you have the feeling of being useful. And the most important thing that happens in this process is the fact that anything that you do has a kind of “signature” inside. It is the signature of your experience, the signature of your creativity, the signature of yourself.

Speaking about myself, I have worked with a lot of electronic designers, some of them are my colleagues, some of them are not colleagues anymore, some others are competitors (or I am the competitor). But if it happens to me to see a product designed by one of my colleagues, I’m immediately able to recognize the signature and contribution of all of them to the project. And this happens also for my designs. For example, recently I have been involved in a very brief analysis of a product of one of our competitors. And at the first glance I’ve been able to see my signature inside the device. Parts of the circuit were my ideas, my contributions and my efforts – they copied me.

In theory I should have been upset, but to be honest my first feeling was to be pleased. Or better, I was proud. I was proud to have inspired someone else. I was happy because my signature was inside this product too. If someone is copying you is because they believe that your work is good.

Sometimes we don’t realize how much we can influence the world around us and we forget the importance of our unique contribution to the projects where we are involved. We do things and we do not realize how much we are involved and how much we leave a signature in all of them.

My object for my future career is to be paid for the signature that I will be able to put on the things that I will do and for the signature that I will be able to leave in the people around me – my unique contribution to their professional and personal life project.