Copyright 2011, Leading Geeks Company. All Rights Reserved | www.leadinggeeks.com | 310-694-0450 When the job market heats up, mo va on is an important topic. Managers are interested in ge ng their workforces ﬁred up to make progress and to prevent the kind of employee turnover that o en comes with an employment recovery. The ques on for IT managers is: What can I do to mo vate my staﬀ? Companies don’t exactly open the great money spigot unleashing torrents of disposable cash. Fortunately, money has never been a big obstacle to mo va ng geeks. The classic (and o en expensive) things that managers do have never been par cularly eﬀec ve anyway . Geeks don’t get ﬁred up by inspira onal speeches, bonuses, made up awards, family picnics or even training on cool new technology that they may never get to use.To mo vate geeks, there are really only two things you have to do and neither costs much money.That’s right. The most important thing you can do to mo vate the staﬀ is avoid demo va ng them. Most geeks come to work already engaged and energized; but the source of that mo va on is diﬀerent for each person. 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 mo va on comes from, your biggest job is not to kill it. Demo va on and dejec on usually start at the top. Internally generated mo va on tends to be a rela vely fragile state. While a manager may not be able to create a mo vated team, he o en has the power to kill whatever mo va on grows.Paul Glen is the CEO of Leading Geeks, an educa on and consul ng ﬁrm devoted to unlocking the value of technical people. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.Sponsored by:
Copyright 2011, Leading Geeks Company. All Rights Reserved | www.leadinggeeks.com | 310-694-0450 Excluding technicians from decision-making. Technical peoples distress at being le out of major decisions is about more than just feeling out of the loop. They o en sense that their talents have been disregarded. They have been insulted. And, since many decisions are inﬂuenced by technical considera ons, they also feel that the decisions themselves could be suspect, since managers technical knowledge is rarely respected. Any of these interpreta ons would qualify as demo va ng.Inconsistency. People who are drawn to careers in technology typically have a strong need for consistency and predictability. Early interac ons with computers are quite comfor ng for them. As youngsters, they draw conclusions about computers, their parents and themselves. "If I type in this command, the computer always does the same thing. Thats cool. I wish my mom was that predictable."Excessive monitoring. In technical groups, there are few bigger insults than to call someone a micromanager. The feeling of being micromanaged is profoundly demo va ng. Monitoring someone excessively, inten onally or not, communicates distrust for the person being overseen. And in many kinds of technical work, it can also serve as an impediment to progress. In intellectually demanding, crea ve work, interrup ons can disrupt thinking for long periods of me. A managers one-minute drop-by can result in hours of lost produc vity, regaining the concentra on lost.Let’s face it; you can’t really mo vate anyone else. You can oﬀer incen ves and rewards, but that’s not what makes crea ve people create. They have an inner drive that makes them great. It’s called intrinsic mo va on. Your job, as a manager, is not to create intrinsic mo va on for them, but to create a fer le place for it to grow.
Copyright 2011, Leading Geeks Company. All Rights Reserved | www.leadinggeeks.com | 310-694-0450 1. Select Wisely. The most important thing a leader can do to encourage intrinsic mo va on is to assign work 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 important thing a leader can do is to give a geek some sense of the larger signiﬁcance of their work. Without a sense of meaning, mo va on suﬀers and day-to-day decisions become diﬃcult. It is easy for geeks to become mired in the ambiguous world of ques ons, assump ons, and provisional facts characteris c of technical work.3. Communicate Signiﬁcance. It is very important for managers to be explicit about the role a new technology plays in a business; otherwise, some will misunderstand the centrality of their work and others may develop delusions of grandeur.4. Show Career Path. Many geeks have only a vague sense that there’s more to advancing their careers than just acquiring new technical knowledge. Be speciﬁc about what competencies a geek must demonstrate in order to advance their career.5. Projec ze. Projects help turn work into a game and geeks love games with objec ves that delineate both goals and success criteria.6. Encourage Isola on. While geeks need free ﬂowing communica on within their own work groups, collec ve seclusion provides fer le soil for mo va on, cul va ng cohesion and concentra on. Much of the most crea ve work comes from small groups who are isolated from the rest of their organiza on and are completely focused on one major crea ve eﬀort.7. Engender External Compe on. Healthy compe on can enhance group cohesion. Nothing like a common enemy to get a group to focus.
Copyright 2011, Leading Geeks Company. All Rights Reserved | www.leadinggeeks.com | 310-694-0450 8. Design Interdependence. When a colleague is relying on you to complete your work, it’s much easier to put in the extra eﬀort for them than it is to meet some externally imposed deadline. It’s the foxhole 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 undis nguished mass of anonymous faces. The larger the workgroup is, the less conducive the environment for developing intrinsic mo va on becomes.10. Control Resource Availability. Whether thinking about money, people, me, or training, there’s a delicate balance of resources that will encourage a group’s enthusiasm. Too many resources or too few can diminish interest in the work.11. Oﬀer Free Food . . . Intermi ently. Never underes mate the power of free food. I can’t oﬀer any ra onal explana on, but for geeks, even those making sizeable incomes, free food oﬀers major support to mo va on development, far more than an equivalent amount of cash. Plus, it brings the group together in a common se ng, allowing for outside-the-box collabora on.So when you are thinking about your staﬀ and how to get them ﬁred up, forget about all the expensive and ineﬀec ve techniques that involve throwing money around and hoping that people chase it. What most technical people need is not more money, but a place that they are excited to come to every day, a place where they can feel appreciated and fulﬁlled. Give them that, and the mo va on will take care of itself.Paul Glen is the CEO of Leading Geeks, an educa on and consul ng ﬁrm dedicated to unlocking the value of technical people. Leading Geeks taps this value by transforming the tricky rela onships between technical and non-technical groups, at the execu ve, management and project level.You can contact him at email@example.com