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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Copyright 2011, Leading Geeks Company. All Rights Reserved | www.leadinggeeks.com | 310-694-0450 1

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 to

motivate my staff? Companies dont exactly open

the great money spigot unleashing torrents of

disposable cash. Fortunately, money has never

been a big obstacle to motivating geeks. The classic

(and often expensive) things that managers do have

never been particularly effective anyway . Geeks

dont get fired up by inspirational speeches,

bonuses, made up awards, family picnics or even

training on cool new technology that they may

never get to use.

To motivate geeks, there are really only two things

you have to do and neither costs much money.

Thats right. The

most important thing you can do to motivate the staff is avoid

demotivating them. Most geeks come to work already engaged and

energized; but the source of that motivation 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 motivation comes from, your biggest job is not to kill it. Demotivation and

dejection 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 whatever

motivation grows.

Most geeks come to work with their own intrinsic motivation; your biggest job is not to kill it.

Paul Glen is the CEO of Leading Geeks, an education and

consulting firm devoted to unlocking the value of technical

people. You can contact him at paul@leadinggeeks.com.

1. Dont demotivate your people.

Motivating Geeks Two Ways to Build a Motivated Team (On the Cheap)

Leading Geeks education + consulting

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Copyright 2011, Leading Geeks Company. All Rights Reserved | www.leadinggeeks.com | 310-694-0450 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 people's distress at being left out of major

decisions is about more than just feeling out of the loop. They often sense that their talents have been

disregarded. They have been insulted. And, since many decisions are influenced by technical

considerations, they also feel that the decisions themselves could be suspect, since managers' technical

knowledge is rarely respected. Any of these

interpretations would qualify as demotivating.

Inconsistency. People who are drawn to careers in

technology typically have a strong need for

consistency and predictability. Early interactions with

computers are quite comforting 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. That's 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 demotivating. Monitoring someone

excessively, intentionally 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,

creative work, interruptions can disrupt thinking for long periods of time. A manager's one-minute drop-

by can result in hours of lost productivity, regaining the concentration lost.

Lets face it; you cant really motivate anyone else. You can offer

incentives and rewards, but thats not what makes creative people

create. They have an inner drive that makes them great. Its called

intrinsic motivation. Your job, as a manager, is not to create intrinsic

motivation for them, but to create a fertile place for it to grow.

For geeks, being micro-managed is disruptive and profoundly demotivating.

2. Create an environment where motivation thrives

Leading Geeks education + consulting

Copyright 2011, Leading Geeks Company. All Rights Reserved | www.leadinggeeks.com | 310-694-0450 3

Motivating Geeks Two Ways to Build a Motivated Team (On the Cheap)

11 things you can do to make motivation thrive

1. Select Wisely. The most important thing a leader can do to encourage intrinsic motivation 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, motivation suffers and day-to-day

decisions become difficult. It is easy for geeks to

become mired in the ambiguous world of questions,

assumptions, and provisional facts characteristic 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 theres 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. Projectize. Projects help turn work into a game and geeks love games with objectives that delineate

both 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 the

most creative work comes from small groups who are isolated from the rest of their organization and are

completely focused on one major creative effort.

7. Engender External Competition. Healthy competition can enhance group cohesion. Nothing like a

common enemy to get a group to focus.

Without a sense of meaning, day-to-day decisions become difficult.

Leading Geeks education + consulting

Copyright 2011, Leading Geeks Company. All Rights Reserved | www.leadinggeeks.com | 310-694-0450 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, its much

easier to put in the extra effort for them than it is to meet some externally imposed deadline. Its 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

undistinguished mass of anonymous faces. The larger

the workgroup is, the less conducive the

environment for developing intrinsic motivation

becomes.

10. Control Resource Availability. Whether

thinking about money, people, time, or training,

theres a delicate balance of resources that will

encourage a groups enthusiasm. Too many

resources or too few can diminish interest in the work.

11. Offer Free Food . . . Intermittently. Never underestimate the power of free food. I cant offer any

rational explanation, but for geeks, even those making sizeable incomes, free food offers major support to

motivation development, far more than an equivalent amount of cash. Plus, it brings the group together in

a common setting, allowing for outside-the-box collaboration.

So when you are thinking about your staff and how to get them fired

up, forget about all the expensive and ineffective 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 motivation will take

care of itself.

In war, soldiers fight for their buddies, not for some abstract concept.

Geeks need a place they are excited to come to every day.

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.com

Leading Geeks education + consulting