by Doug DeCarlo, Principal
The Doug DeCarlo Group
Author of eXtreme Project Management:
Using Leadership, Principles and Tools to Deliver Value in the Face of Volatility

Competing for Resources: How to Engage the Heart

People are so over committed these days that it can be difficult to get the time and energy you need to succeed. How do you get others who are already over burdened to actually want to be on your project, or to extend themselves over and above what one would normally expect?

Financial rewards, time off, awards and recognition and a host of other perks are all good motivators. They are examples of "external" motivators. That is, they depend on something outside the individual in order incentivize them. There's nothing wrong with external motivators. I say, use them. But there is more.

Internal motivators
Internal motivators derive their power from the individual himself, instead of from an external source. Internal motivators satisfy a self-serving need or desire. And, there's nothing wrong with being self-serving when the act of satisfying one's own desire also serves to advance the project.

Beyond the WOW! Factor
A project's WOW! factor is an example of an internal motivator. A term coined by Tom Peters, the management consultant, the WOW! factor is that which makes a project compelling, one that people will want to be a part of because it's an opportunity to satisfy a basic human desire to make a difference. Examples of projects with a high WOW! factor include a mission critical project to save the company, or a project that will leapfrog the competition, and many more. (For more on the WOW! factor, see my article in ProjectConnections entitled, Finding the WOW! Factor For Your Project.)

But what if your project doesn't have a juicy WOW! factor going for it? Instead it has the sex appeal of left over cauliflower.

How to Motivate Just About Anyone
The key is to tap into a person's motivated abilities. A motivated ability is an activity that you would do more of if you had the time, or one that you find yourself daydreaming about. By contrast, an unmotivated ability is an activity you are able to do—and may even be expert at—but it doesn't really excite you. For instance, I'm really good at generating very detailed spreadsheets for budgeting purposes. However I dislike this and do it only when pressed.

How then do you uncover a person's motivated abilities so that this busy individual who has been assigned to your project will really want to make room in her schedule to do the required work? The cornerstone idea here is to make the link between her motivated abilities and how these can be satisfied, at least in part, on your project. I want to emphasize that this is not about manipulation. It is a genuine quest to come up with a win-win situation.

I like to use the Lewis method (Team-Based Project Management, by James P. Lewis) for identifying someone's motivators.

  1. Pick a neutral setting, perhaps lunch or coffee.

  2. Be genuine (as opposed to contriving).

    For instance, "I want to be sure I do everything I can as project manager to make this an enjoyable experience for you. Where possible, I'd like to incorporate those things into your work that give you the greatest satisfaction. Is it okay that I ask you a couple of questions?"

    Since managers typically don't have the emotional intelligence to do this, just the asking alone is likely to raise her level of motivation to want to be on the project and go the extra mile.

  3. Ask these questions:

    • Think of a job you had in the past that you really enjoyed. What role did you play? Probe: What activities did it involve that you like doing? What was it about this that gave you the greatest satisfaction? What didn't you like about it? (Hint: don't ask about her current job. She may hate it.)

    • What about a hobby that you enjoy ... something you'd do more of if you had time? What is it that you like about that? (Hint: sedentary activities, like listening to music, don't count )

    • What's something that you've always wanted to do but never got around to it? What about it would give you satisfaction?

  4. Summarize the patterns.

    Go over what you learned. Review the patterns (i.e., re-occurring themes) with her to clarify your findings. Some patterns you might find include: working alone, coming up with unique solutions, trouble shooting, putting on presentations, getting customers to collaborate, creating the master plan, integrating ideas, reaching consensus, resolving conflict and many more.

  5. Collaborate to make it happen.

    This involves applying eXtreme project management Accelerator 3: Create ownership for results. Translation: brainstorm together, and identify ways in which some of her motivated strengths can be put to work. Let her have the lead role in deciding how what she enjoys can be used (with your help if necessary) to exploit her motivated strengths.

Do unto yourself ...
... as you would do unto others. So I ask you, have you discovered your own motivated abilities? Have you found ways of using them in your work? Most of us can get so busy that we lose track of ourselves in the process. But that's another subject. It's called Self-Mastery.

As project managers, even if we have direct authority over people, that doesn't mean we can automatically gain their loyalty. Loyalty is a matter of winning over the heart. By finding ways to enlist a person's motivated abilities, we enlist their hearts. And when that happens, their minds will follow.

eXtremely yours,

Doug DeCarlo

P.S.: For the full story on eXtreme Project Management, see Doug's book on Amazon.com.

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