2 Ways to Build a Motivated Team (On the Cheap)


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To motivate geeks, there are really only two things you have to do and neither costs much money. Read this paper to learn how to motivate your team on the cheap from Leading Geeks author, Paul Glen.

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2 Ways to Build a Motivated Team (On the Cheap)

  1. 1. Motivating Geeks Sponsored by: Two Ways to Build a Motivated Team (On the Cheap) When the job market heats up, motivation is an important topic. Managers are interested in getting their workforces fired up to make progress and to prevent the kind of employee turnover that often comes with an employment recovery.The question for IT managers is: What can I do tomotivate my staff? Companies don’t exactly open Most geeks come tothe great money spigot unleashing torrents ofdisposable cash. Fortunately, money has never work with their ownbeen a big obstacle to motivating geeks. The classic intrinsic motivation;(and often expensive) things that managers do havenever been particularly effective anyway . Geeks your biggest job is notdon’t get fired up by inspirational speeches, to kill it.bonuses, made up awards, family picnics or eventraining on cool new technology that they maynever get to use. Leading Geeks education + consultingTo motivate geeks, there are really only two things Paul Glen is the CEO of Leading Geeks, an education andyou have to do and neither costs much money. consulting firm devoted to unlocking the value of technical people. You can contact him at paul@leadinggeeks.com. That’s right. The 1. Don’t most important thing you can do to motivate the staff is avoid demotivate demotivating them. Most geeks come to work already engaged and energized; but the source of that motivation is different for each person. your people. Some love the technology and the puzzles. Others are engaged by the opportunity for learning and advancement. Many are excited by the impact of their work on others. Some are happy with the peers with whom they get to work with.Regardless of where their motivation comes from, your biggest job is not to kill it. Demotivation anddejection usually start at the top. Internally generated motivation tends to be a relatively fragile state.While a manager may not be able to create a motivated team, he often has the power to kill whatevermotivation grows.Copyright 2011, Leading Geeks Company. All Rights Reserved | www.leadinggeeks.com | 310-694-0450 1
  2. 2. Motivating Geeks Two Ways to Build a Motivated Team (On the Cheap)What do managers do that demotivates their teams?Excluding technicians from decision-making. Technical peoples distress at being left out of majordecisions is about more than just feeling out of the loop. They often sense that their talents have beendisregarded. They have been insulted. And, since many decisions are influenced by technicalconsiderations, they also feel that the decisions themselves could be suspect, since managers technicalknowledge is rarely respected. Any of theseinterpretations would qualify as demotivating.Inconsistency. People who are drawn to careers in For geeks, being micro-technology typically have a strong need for managed is disruptiveconsistency and predictability. Early interactions withcomputers are quite comforting for them. As and profoundlyyoungsters, they draw conclusions about computers, demotivating.their parents and themselves. "If I type in thiscommand, the computer always does the samething. Thats cool. I wish my mom was thatpredictable." Leading Geeks education + consultingExcessive monitoring. In technical groups, thereare few bigger insults than to call someone amicromanager. The feeling of being micromanaged is profoundly demotivating. Monitoring someoneexcessively, intentionally or not, communicates distrust for the person being overseen. And in manykinds of technical work, it can also serve as an impediment to progress. In intellectually demanding,creative work, interruptions can disrupt thinking for long periods of time. A managers one-minute drop-by can result in hours of lost productivity, regaining the concentration lost. Let’s face it; you can’t really motivate anyone else. You can offer 2. Create an incentives and rewards, but that’s not what makes creative people environment create. They have an inner drive that makes them great. It’s called where intrinsic motivation. Your job, as a manager, is not to create intrinsic motivation motivation for them, but to create a fertile place for it to grow. thrivesCopyright 2011, Leading Geeks Company. All Rights Reserved | www.leadinggeeks.com | 310-694-0450 2
  3. 3. Motivating Geeks Two Ways to Build a Motivated Team (On the Cheap)11 things you can do to make motivation thrive1. Select Wisely. The most important thing a leader can do to encourage intrinsic motivation is to assignwork to geeks who have an interest in the work. Take advantage of what they are already interested in.Not only are they already interested, but it also signals that you care about what they are interested in.2. Manage Meaning. The second most importantthing a leader can do is to give a geek some sense of Without a sense ofthe larger significance of their work. Without a senseof meaning, motivation suffers and day-to-day meaning, day-to-daydecisions become difficult. It is easy for geeks to decisions becomebecome mired in the ambiguous world of questions,assumptions, and provisional facts characteristic of difficult.technical work.3. Communicate Significance. It is veryimportant for managers to be explicit about the role Leading Geeks education + consultinga new technology plays in a business; otherwise,some will misunderstand the centrality of their workand others may develop delusions of grandeur.4. Show Career Path. Many geeks have only a vague sense that there’s more to advancing their careersthan just acquiring new technical knowledge. Be specific about what competencies a geek mustdemonstrate in order to advance their career.5. Projectize. Projects help turn work into a game and geeks love games with objectives that delineateboth goals and success criteria.6. Encourage Isolation. While geeks need free flowing communication within their own work groups,collective seclusion provides fertile soil for motivation, cultivating cohesion and concentration. Much of themost creative work comes from small groups who are isolated from the rest of their organization and arecompletely focused on one major creative effort.7. Engender External Competition. Healthy competition can enhance group cohesion. Nothing like acommon enemy to get a group to focus.Copyright 2011, Leading Geeks Company. All Rights Reserved | www.leadinggeeks.com | 310-694-0450 3
  4. 4. Motivating Geeks Two Ways to Build a Motivated Team (On the Cheap)8. Design Interdependence. When a colleague is relying on you to complete your work, it’s mucheasier to put in the extra effort for them than it is to meet some externally imposed deadline. It’s thefoxhole mentality. In war, soldiers fight for their buddies, not for some abstract concept.9. Limit Group Size. As group size grows,colleagues become less individuals and more an In war, soldiers fight forundistinguished mass of anonymous faces. The largerthe workgroup is, the less conducive the their buddies, not forenvironment for developing intrinsic motivation some abstract concept.becomes.10. Control Resource Availability. Whetherthinking about money, people, time, or training,there’s a delicate balance of resources that will Leading Geeks education + consultingencourage a group’s enthusiasm. Too manyresources or too few can diminish interest in the work.11. Offer Free Food . . . Intermittently. Never underestimate the power of free food. I can’t offer anyrational explanation, but for geeks, even those making sizeable incomes, free food offers major support tomotivation development, far more than an equivalent amount of cash. Plus, it brings the group together ina common setting, allowing for outside-the-box collaboration. So when you are thinking about your staff and how to get them firedGeeks need a up, forget about all the expensive and ineffective techniques thatplace they are involve throwing money around and hoping that people chase it.excited to come What most technical people need is not more money, but a place thatto every day. they are excited to come to every day, a place where they can feel appreciated and fulfilled. Give them that, and the motivation will take care of itself. Paul Glen is the CEO of Leading Geeks, an education and consulting firm dedicated to unlocking the value of technical people. Leading Geeks taps this value by transforming the tricky relationships between technical and non-technical groups, at the executive, management and project level. You can contact him at paul@leadinggeeks.comCopyright 2011, Leading Geeks Company. All Rights Reserved | www.leadinggeeks.com | 310-694-0450 4