Understanding some basics of motivational theories will help you to become a successful project manager. You will already have read that the main roles of a project manager are to plan, organize, co-ordinate, control and lead. It is the role in which you are a leader that will require you to be at your very best in motivating others. Pretty well any one can manage other people when it is simply a job of telling them what to do, the difference between managing someone and leading them is that a leader will engage people in working on a task such that they feel ownership and responsibility for it, raising their self-esteem and ensuring the best possible job is done. So, just how might you motivate people working for you?
Needs, intrinsic and extrinsic motivation basics.
A definition of motivation could be – that which compels us to participate in an activity or maintains particular behaviors. Acting entirely in our subconscious we are all in a state of eternal motivation. Whether it is being motivated to eat when hungry or sleep when tired – we are motivated to do so according to our basic needs. In turn everyone has two types of needs that are referred to as intrinsic and extrinsic ones, for which we can be intrinsically or extrinsically motivated to attain them. An intrinsic motivation to do something arises when you decide you want to do something; it is something that gives you feelings of great personal causation or satisfaction in doing it. The alternative is extrinsic motivation, which is when you receive some form of reward as a result of doing something, the easiest example to cite here would be money; but it could just as easily be winning a trophy or medal and even a threat against you can be an extrinsic motivation to do something. The feelings of personal causation that arise from intrinsic motivation are what drives people on to making that extra effort and taking that extra pride in their work, which we all know are vital to the success of a project. However, before anyone is capable of becoming concerned with their intrinsic needs their extrinsic needs have to be satisfied.
Needs theory and motivation.
Our basic needs can be organized into the five following categories: Physiological – that which we need to physically survive. Safety – having satisfied our physiological needs we can become concerned with our safety which could be something as relatively minor as maintaining a routine we are comfortable with or as important as securing our homes. Social – far more than just how many friends we have or where we go with them. This need includes love, affection, and our sense of belonging and acceptance; particularly regarding our family relationships. Esteem – everyone wants and needs to feel valued and respected by others in order to maintain their self-esteem. Your level of self-esteem is established according to your sense of achievement and confidence. Self-Actualization – the desire to reach your maximum of potential in all that you do. In a hierarchy of needs this would be the highest one. In theory once the previous four needs were met, self-actualization would be a persistent goal. As once we felt we had reached our maximum potential we would then seek other new and higher goals. However, the significant point about understanding ‘needs’ in motivational theory is that the first four needs in that list are extrinsic ones and only self-actualization is an intrinsic need. Until the first four needs are satisfied humans cannot move on to consider being motivated by their intrinsic need of self-actualization – which is the one that will be of most benefit to you and your project.
Cognitive dissonance theory.
Founded on principles of Gestalt psychology, the cognitive dissonance theory of motivation arises from the need to reconcile two conflicting cognitions at the creative sub-conscious level. To exemplify this theory imagine that you have a broken window in your home, you recognize that something isn’t right and determine to fix the window. At the sub-conscious level you have a dissonance between something being wrong and the need to fix it, a cognitive dissonance that won’t be resolved until the window is fixed. Individuals level’s of cognitive dissonance can vary, but in the workplace staff who are sensitive to cognitive dissonance issues will persist in seeing tasks through to completion and to the very best of their ability, they will also often make the best problem solvers. Cognitive dissonance is a good example of intrinsic motivation, where the person concerned constantly seeks to improve themselves.
Goal setting theory and motivation.
Goal setting can work in several ways but is most simply seen as the setting of goals to be achieved by someone else or an individual setting themselves goals. In the latter case people who are able to set themselves goals and achieve them to a high degree are often using a combination of cognitive dissonance and goal setting to achieve something. In essence the setting of goals simply breaks down a large task into smaller components, as each goal is attained the owner of the goals has feelings of empowerment in achieving something, driving them on to successfully complete the next goal or objective. The acronym SMART is often applied to goal setting, where goals have to be: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Timed. In setting goals that are SMART you are giving the person to whom they are assigned a clear framework in which they need to accomplish them. This level of direction can be needed as some people, when given a task to do, will try and find ways of not doing the task without actually not doing any work, creative avoidance; this is as different again to someone who is simply incapable of doing the task, in which case they should not have been assigned he task anyway. On the other hand without making the goals SMART someone might seek perfection to such a degree that they seemingly can never finish it.
The incentive theory of motivation.
No matter what the level of salary some people are on they always seek, or even expect, further reward for their work. Incentive theory tells us that some people can be motivated to work by both tangible and intangible rewards, in both cases the incentive instills in the person receiving it the desire to repeat the behavior that resulted in the reward. Tangible and intangible rewards can, of course, be directly related to the extrinsic and intrinsic needs theory of motivation, in that receiving the reward satisfies an apparent need.