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motivation1Motivation is essential for people and teams to work effectively and harmoniously. Studies into what motivates people at work have revealed that motivators and demotivators are not necessarily the same thing. In other words, the things that make people feel motivated and enthusiastic are not always the same things that, if unsatisfactory, make them feel discontented and apathetic.

The top ten motivators for project team members are from Motivation in the Project Environment by R.J. Yourzak:

  • Reason #1: Recognition
  • Reason #2: Achievement
  • Reason #3: Responsibility
  • Reason #4: Team peer relations
  • Reason #5: Salary (notice that money is in the middle?)
  • Reason #6: Relations with project manager
  • Reason #7: Project manager’s leadership
  • Reason #8: Work itself
  • Reason #9: Advancement
  • Reason #10: Personal growth

Now, concentrate on the first four reasons!
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If you are to make your staff think better of themselves, the work environment must be friendly instead of hostile, open instead of closed, supportive instead of discouraging, relaxing instead of rigid, inclusing instead of divisive. But it must be more than that. If you want ideas to flourish, the work environment must be fun.

“Make it fun to work at your organization,” wrote advertising mogul David Ogilvy. “When people aren’t having any fun, they seldom produce goodwill. Kill grimness with laughter. Encourage exuberance.”

Mr. Ogilvy did not have to limit his remarks to advertising agencies and advertising. The same could be said about any kind of organization producing any kind of product or service. For you it’s true: People who have fun doing what they’re doing, do it better.

“If you ask me what’s our primary purpose,” said Ogilvy is “I would say that it is not to make the maximum profit, but to run our organizaton in such a way that our employees are happy. Everything follows from that – good work, and good service to your customers. Fun, like enthusiasm, is contagious and has a snowball effect that helps generate good work over and over again throughout the organization.

Ogilvy states that “this was proven to me early in my career.” “When I started in advertising, the writer and art directors dressed the way everybody in business dressed – the men wore suits and ties; the women, dresses or suits.”

In the late ’60’s all that changed. People started dressing in sweaters and blue jeans, T-shirts, and tennis shoes. Ogilvy was running a creative department then, and the Los Angeles Times asked him what he thought about people coming to work dressed so casually. “I don’t care if they come to work in their pajamas,” I said, “as long as they get the work out.”

“Sure enough, the day after the article (with my quote) appeared, my entire department showed up in pajamas. It was great fun. The office rocked with laughter and job.” More important, the days and weeks that followed were some of the most productive times his department ever had. People were having fun, and the work got better.

Note again the cause and effect relationship: the fun came first; the better work, second. Having fun unleashes creativity. It is one of the seeds you plant to get ideas.

Indeed, nothing is more important for a leader to do than to create this kind of an environment where people enjoy coming to work every day, where there’s a feeling of camaraderie and good fellowship, where people attack their work with alacrity and confidence, where they like the people they work with, where they think of themselves as partners instead of employees, where – in short – it’s fun to work.

But why should you care?

The number one reason that people mention for quitting their job is dissatisfaction with their boss. Indeed, interviews with 2 million employees at 700 American companies found that what determines how long employees stay — and how productive they are — is the quality of their relationship with their immediate boss. “People join companies and leave managers,” observes Marcus Buckingham of the Gallup Organization, who analyzed the data.

This article is a summary of ideas developed in Ideaship: How to Get Ideas Flowing in Your Workplace, by Jack Foster. San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler Publishers. 2001.

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Conflict in a team is an inevitable dynamic. And it doesn’t have to be destructive if managed well. Here are some options on how to handle conflict among your team members.

  • Ask those who disagree to paraphrase one another’s comments. This may help them learn if they really understand each other.
  • Work out a compromise. Agree on the underlying source of conflict, then engage in a give-and-take and, finally, agree on a solution.
  • Ask each member to list what the other side should do. Exchange lists, select a compromise all are willing to accept and test the compromise to see if it meshes with team goals.
  • Have each side write 10 questions for their opponents. This will allow them to signal their major concerns about the other side’s position. And the answers may lead to a compromise.
  • Convince team members they sometimes may have to admit they’re wrong. Help them save face by convincing them that changing a position shows strength.
  • Respect the experts on the team. Give their opinions more weight when the conflict involves their expertise, but don’t rule out conflicting opinions.

Source: Making Teams Succeed at Work, Alexander Hamilton Institute, 70 Hilltop Road, Ramsey, NJ 07446.

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Creating a winning team

Whatever the industry, its great leaders share basic qualities. In his book, Think Like a Champion: Building Success Once Victory at a Time, Denver Broncos coach Mike Shanahan shares his insight into the principles of creating a winning team on, or in, any field.

Here is Shanahan’s 15-point game plan for winning teams:

  1. Teams matter more than individuals.
  2. Every job is important.
  3. Treat everyone with respect.
  4. Share both victories and defeats.
  5. Accept criticism.
  6. Keep the boss well-informed.
  7. Focus on your work ethic, not others.
  8. Allow for differences in lifestyle.
  9. Be more creative than predictable.
  10. Let go of failed ideas.
  11. Employ structure and order.
  12. Reward those who produce.
  13. Find different ways to motivate your employees.
  14. Keep your employees fresh.
  15. Protect your system.

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morale1One of a manager’s most important jobs is to keep spirits up in the workplace.

With stress levels in organizations and companies at an all-time high, this isn’t always easy to do. However, there are some strategies you can use that will get the job done – without hurting your budget.

  1. Sponsor a “Noon Movie.” Once a week (depending on employee schedules), set up a VCR in the lunchroom and show a funny movie during lunch. If time is limited, show reruns of “Seinfeld,” “Fraser,” or other situation comedies.
  2. Set up a “Humor Corner.” Designate one section of the office as the place for humor, and encourage employees to post cartoons, jokes, or other funny material.
  3. Get out of the office! Wherever possible, hold meetings outside the office – at the coffee shop down the street or at a local restaurant. If weather permits, don’t be afraid to hold meeting outside from time to time.
  4. Liven up your memos. Buy a book of one-liners, and include a joke at the bottom of your memos.
  5. Run a “Guess the Baby” contest. Ask the staff to bring in baby photos and post them on the wall. Award a free lunch to the employee who can guess who’s who.
  6. Have “Late Day Mondays.” If possible, once a month allow your employees to arrive an hour late on a Monday morning – or leave an hour early on a Friday.
  7. Take pictures! Every office has an aspiring photographer. Ask that person to take candid shot of employees, and add them to the “Humor Corner.”
  8. Play with the dress code. If you culture allows it, hold an “Ugly Tie,” “Ugly Pants,” or “Ugly Sweater” day. Award prizes for the “winners.”
  9. Bring your smile to work. You’ll be surprised at the difference it makes. If the manager consistently has an upbeat attitude, the staff will as well.

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Nonprofit and community-based organizations face the continual challenge of not only attracting terrific staff but keeping these talented and committed individuals. Make a retention program part of your organization. If you have a little bit of money to spend on employee retention, here are some high-impact ways to use it.

  • Training. An inexpensive workshop, or a Web or CD-based training course, can help team members bridge skills gaps that cause frustration and dissatisfaction. Regular investments in training– even small ones–help create a culture where employees’ desire for career development can be met.
  • Equipment and furnishing. We’re not recommending that you bribe people into staying with new computers or fancy desk chairs. But if people feel their genuine needs for equipment aren’t being met, they may feel that another organization would take those needs more seriously.
  • Time off. A “free day off” can be a wonderful incentive for employees who are wavering about staying with your organization because they’re having trouble balancing work and life issues. If necessary, the funds you want to spend on retention can go to pay a temp to cover for the day.
  • Recognition. There are plenty of low-cost and no-cost ways to recognize your people’s achievements, regular praise from the manager being just one. But if you can invest a little money in a recognition program, you will reinforce that it is genuinely important to you not just that your people don’t fail, but that they succeed, not just for the team but also for themselves.

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Make no mistake about it. The most valuable assets your organization has walks in the door in the morning, and out at night! These three tips can help you build an organization committed to your staff.

Make everybody an owner.
The surest way to make the people you work with feel that it is there organization is to make it their organization. After all, it is mostly the owners who drive organizations. So figure out a way in which everybody who has been their at least eight months becomes an owner. That way, you’ll have an organization that’s owner driven. Of course you can do it. Hundreds or organizations have. So can you. Be creative.

Keep it small. 
When an organization has twenty-five or thirty people, people feel connected and tend to more easily help each other. As the organization grows (and this goes for profit-making companies as well), people too often tend to pull apart and become strangers. There seems to be something about the law of 35 — 35 people are about as big as you can get before you cease to care about the people with whom you directly work. Your job is to keep people caring for one another, to keep them together, to maintain that sense of fellowship that helped fuel the growth in the first place. One of the ways to do this is to organize your organization so that it becomes not big and stranger-filled, but a bigger company combined of small units. This means, of course, giving more and more authority and responsibility to more and more people. And the more you do that, the more you raise your staffs’ self-images.

Tell them everything about their organization. 
If you expect the people you work with to come up with great ideas, they must (a) know the problems facing your organization, or the opportunities that have to be taken advantage of, and (b) have the information they need to solve those problems, to take advantage of those opportunities.

So keep nothing secret, nothing for top management’s eyes only. Open up the books to them. Keep them posted on negotiations and pending opportunities. Tell them of your constituents’ concerns. Brief them at a weekly staff meeting on the state of the organization. Answer their questions fully and honestly. Tell them everything. After all, they are the organization. They have the right to know.

This article was based on information from: The Six Fundamentals of Success: The Rules for Getting It Right for Yourself and Your Organization. Stuart R. Levine. New York: Doubleday. 2004.

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