Low Morale

Low project morale happens in one of two ways:

■ Previous experiences have led team members to believe that this project, like its precursors, won't be allowed to be successful; or

■ Team members do not believe in the product this project is going to produce, or don't feel they'll be adequately rewarded for producing it.

Team members, in order to be excited and engaged with a project, need to put their arms around the entire project, to understand what you're doing, how it will benefit them (and the company—though I submit that most team members are only secondarily interested in the betterment of the company), and what they can derive from it. For most team members, it's about them as a person, not necessarily about the project as whole.

Again, communication comes to the fore. It's up to you to figure out how to engage people in the process. Why is Jim in testing so important to the project's successful outcome? How is it that Susie's single contribution to the project—configuration of a new router—is going to so positively affect its outcome? People need to understand that they are important to the project's outcome, no matter how insignificant their contribution, and additionally that they're important to you as people.

Along these lines, sometimes you'll hear people bring up money as their motivation for boosting morale. Although drastically underpaying people compared to industry averages is surely a good way to destroy corporate morale, if a person's salary is roughly commensurate with other companies, their morale isn't tied to salary. Money is an extrinsic motivator. Let me use an illustration to try to show you what' s meant by that term. Suppose that you really want a certain kind of new car. You save and work hard for it, then one day go down and buy it. After buying it, you really like the car, but before long, as its newness dies off and with it the "gotta have it" syndrome, you find that it ' s just another car. The car is a motivator for a certain period of time, but then it ceases being a motivator.

Other motivators are intrinsic in nature: they persist. People ' s intrinsic motivators are the things they value over the long term, because of their individual beliefs and personality. The intrinsic desire in a person is the thing you should try to discover and then hone in on, because it is what makes a person tick. Software developers are typically the kind whose intrinsic nature is obvious—they really enjoy putting lines of code together and seeing something come to life on the computer screen... which is why they' l l work for hours at a time on a coding project, well after most others have gone home. But what about Abner in the testing lab? Surely sitting there day after day going through a testing procedure over and over again isn' t an intrinsic motivator. So what really makes Abner excited, energetic, and engaged? That, reader, is the intrinsic motivator you should work hard to discover in your team members. Heighten those intrinsic motivators, and you' ve got a pumped team.

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