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Pawel Brodzinski on Software Project Management

Listen and Motivate


As I was reading Alison Perkel’s post about building loyalty in the team I recalled a communication training I got recently. One of tasks for the group was to point areas we suck at and/or would like to work on.

Almost everyone pointed listening and motivating.

As Alison writes

“This means that one of the most important skills a manager needs is the ability to listen. Find out what your employees want, what motivates them and ensure that they feel enabled to reach their goals. Figure out how to make these goals happen.”

Sounds good, doesn’t it? I guess vast majority of managers would second it.

And then I hear how people can’t be motivated because a couple of money-related mechanisms were frozen. Or how people are lost because they keep hearing mixed messages about the situation around and managers can’t give them straight answers.

If we talk about motivating people let’s just stop thinking about money and money alone. Look at the big picture. Do you even know what is important for your people? Do you even talk with them, let alone listening to them?

I don’t organize meetings with my team. But the only reason why I can do this is because I sit with every one of them in a single room (which is great by the way). If I had a fancy isolated office I would have scheduled time for team meeting every week. That’s one of sure-shot methods to get people speaking. And if they don’t speak you won’t hear them, no matter how hard you try.

Once you know what is important for whom it would be easier to build team motivation. Even when money is an issue for someone, in vast majority of cases it is neither the only nor the most important problem. And almost always a manager can easily deal with it.

Stop complaining about lack of tools to motivate people and start using those you have at hand.

Now I’m just going to read the post. After all it is addressed to me too.

in: personal development, team management

4 comments… add one

  • Vukoje March 31, 2010, 5:34 pm

    Latest studies showed that greatest motivator for people was making progress. Imagine that, you should enable people to be grate at what they do and they will be motivated to be even better. How convenient!


  • Pawel Brodzinski March 31, 2010, 11:00 pm

    That’s interesting but I’d be careful with these results. People among teams and among companies differ. Company culture has much to do about motivation. And people tend to say they care less about money than they really do.

    But of course I agree there are better ways to keep people motivated than just throwing a bunch of dollars at them.

  • Michał Paluchowski April 27, 2010, 6:05 am

    I meet quite a few managers who continue to think that money is the top motivator for employees, so they go on to construct sophisticated evaluation, appraisal and compensation schemes, while their teams are dramatically low on morale.

    People are truly motivated when they see that their work makes a difference and when they realize, that they have influence over the world around them. Exactly like you said – people must be heard, their problems addressed and they should be celebrated for showing candor and bringing issues to attention.

  • Pawel Brodzinski April 27, 2010, 6:56 am

    Every time I think about money as motivator I recall a story. It was a hectic quarter but we were able to finish very big project thanks to exceptional commitment and insane effort put into the project. There was fat bonus to split among team and PM was one of people who deserved big chunk of the cake and she got it. And when I say it was big I mean it.

    Since PM was also my friend I asked her: “Did it motivate you?” And her answer was “No, not at all.”

    I can’t say I was stunned, but it was a surprise to some point. I never expected to hear money was the biggest driver for her but I thought it would work at least a bit. But it’s always individual. And because of that systemic motivation systems just don’t work.

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