Lots of people talk about leadership – including us if you review other blog posts we’ve made on www.Waddellgrp.com. People talk about how you get your team members to do what you need them to do. How closely should you manage? How should you give difficult feedback?
This article will approach leadership from a different perspective: What motivates your team members to do their best? We’ll start by going down a historical lane and examining what one ancient general believed motivated people to go to war. While not the whole truth, I believe we might find enough here to give us insight into how we might manage those within our charge.
A Walk in the Dusty Past
It was the year 431 BCE and three regional powers in Greece were angst ridden. One was powerful Sparta, with a culture and army driven to be the best. They oppressed the local slave population called the Helots who farmed their fields while the sons of Sparta spent their days in training to be the best warriors in Greece. Another powerful city state was Athens. They were an economic powerhouse with thousands of ships, used both for protection and for commerce. The third powerhouse was Corinth. This up and coming city was engaged in colonization and building a name for themselves among the Greek states.
The political upshot was that war broke out between these three powers. Before long one of the Athenian generals was given the boot for failing to save an Athenian city. His name was Thucydidies and he spent his time recording the events of the war. Along the way he distilled the primary causes of the Peloponnesian war as Fear, Honor and Money.
At the beginning of the war, Sparta was driven by fear. This may seem counter to our modern perspective with movies like 300 telling of the brave deeds of the Spartans. While they were amazing warriors, they lived in fear of their slaves, the Helots. If the Spartan army were to go out and fight on a field far from home, the abused Helots might justifiably rise up and attack the wives and children in Sparta.
Athens was a thalassocracy, in that it used its ships and navy to project power. Modern equivalents would be the British in the 19th century or the USA today. They dominated the Mediterranean and they used their navy and trading ships in commerce to accumulate an enormous war chest. Led by the famous politician Pericles, they used their wealth to expand project their power. More wealth meant more ships, more trade, and more wealth. This led to the advantage that their battles were often fought away from Athens as they kept on the offensive. Athens itself was rarely at risk.
Corinth was the upstart, looking to establish their credibility by accumulating honors. We don’t typically view honor in the ancient Greek sense. Honor was the other side of the coin of accomplishment. In our age we point to prideful individuals and say, “They are arrogant.” This would be akin to the Greek word hubris. In ancient Greek myths, great deeds engendered great honors. Corinth was always striving to prove that it belonged at the big powers table. It did this by waging war, stealing colonies and building coalitions to win the Peloponnesian war.
Many historians have taken the Thucydidiean triad (fear, honor, money) and sought to explain why some wars took place or – in the case of Donald Kagan’s The Origin of War and the Preservation of Peace – why some things like the Cuban Missile Crisis didn’t lead to combat.
In our experience, we have seen these motivations play out in business witheach form of motivation, and it’s reciprocal: So what motivates people? We can talk about the Spartan strategy being driven by fear – and they were fearful – but that culture didn’t come from the top. It came from the collective activities of the people of the city to oppress the Helots in slavery. The Spartan strategy was hamstrung in that they never felt comfortable going very far from home, or from being independent.
We see the same thing in cultures of teams. Sometimes you must crack the whip to motivate people who are struggling. This can create explosive, effective results in a short period of time. However, the culture of fear has a long-term impact. If you create a culture of rulers and followers, your followers will not feel comfortable in exploring new territory. Likewise, leaders who rule in fear must themselves beware of running roughshod over intelligent people whose ideas are suppressed. This will not create a long-term culture of teamwork.
Greed can be an effective motivator. Indeed, when you have precious talent, you should pay them accordingly. You can always hire the mercenary talent who has built a career of being excellent, knowing they are great and charging for it. These fixers can provide results over short or long terms.
One of the hurdles of hiring people strictly motivated by the paycheck is that you know what will motivate them to leave. Further, they can be difficult team members. They usually are in the contract for themselves, for the paycheck and to get the project done. If they are getting paid, great. If they stop receiving remuneration for their contribution, expect them to move elsewhere. Other team members might perceive that they aren’t in it for the team and not trust them to have the best interest of the team at heart. As the Athenians said to the Melians, the strong do what they want and the weak suffer what they must.
This does not make Honor the great catch all and the “right answer” for this test. Honor as a motivator creates strong drive in people to be great. The best players will gravitate to the best teams to work on the best projects and create the best results. And yet, how do you know? As the Greeks well knew, hubris and pride could drive people to risk more than is prudent. Or to have their egos write checks their abilities couldn’t cash.
When we look at our Hierarchies of Teams considering honor, elite team members want to be challenged and improved. They want the best for the team, for the company, for the project. Because of this, people who are driven by hubris and not by honor usually self-select out. They lack the humility to constantly be improving themselves. The true honor driven individuals seek out great deeds and expect the accolades that accompany them. If you have an honor driven team member and you do not recognize their excellence, they will resent it. And they are right to do so.
The Greeks engaged in a war that dragged on for almost three decades as their city-states fought for supremacy in honor, in power, and in wealth. When we look at projects, we recognize that each team has all three motivators. At times you use recognition, bonuses or corrective interviews to motivate and keep a team hurtling toward the completion of the project. We strive to be aware of the strengths and weaknesses of each form of motivation. More important, as project managers, we seek to understand how our team members are best motivated. What gets the best results from them?
At the Waddell Group, our project managers strive to be honor driven. We do great deeds and glory in their accomplishment. But we also look in the mirror and remind ourselves to be humble, knowing that the company, the team, and the project are the most important.
Abraham Maslow theorized that we as humans have a hierarchy of motivation that transcends from getting our basic human needs met to stay alive all the way through self-actualization. As a team of project managers, we see the same kinds of dynamics at play in the hierarchy of what a project team needs. Waddell Group segmented four levels of team quality and identified the qualities of each. Further, we have identified attributes of these stages to enable identification of the level or stage at which your team operates.
The categories of teams are Adequate, Good, Great and Elite. Within each category exist several consistent sub-categories: The level of talent of people you have, how these teams deal with challenges, how risks are dealt with, what kind of manager oversees the project and how they motivate the team.
Project teams all have certain needs: they need people, tools, funding, a communication structure. Without these, no project can get done. With an adequate team you must have enough people and funding to make sure the project gets done. These projects have a project manager who runs the project.
However, these projects face hurdles because of the talent of the team. Adequate teams often get derailed by things like scope creep, unanticipated delays, costs, or quality issues. The product or service meets baseline requirements. Sometimes a superstar dominates team performance which can cover up the shortcomings of other team members or inhibit team members from fully participating.
Adequate teams can be proving grounds for new team members. They will have to learn how to deal with challenges like scope creep, superstars, funding and hurdles. These can be very educational. Team members who can succeed here will move up the hierarchy of teams. Team members who remain here are likely a corporate liability.
Good project teams differentiate themselves from Adequate teams in the level of quality of their team members. These teams have the appropriate level of talent for their project. A sense of teamwork exists which motivates each member to do their best. The Project Manager inspires individual team members to be great in their role on the team. And because of the level of talent and experience on the team, risks are anticipated, and a plan is put in place to manage them.
Good teams get projects done on time and on budget most of the time. While a good team might encounter scope creep, it is usually managed. These teams also have good communication and an Esprit de Corps. And the result of having a good team on a project is that they product a quality product or service.
When you want a project done on time and on budget always, you put together a great team. A great team anticipates challenges because they have the level of experience and talent to know when those will arise. The team is committed to each other and to the team winning and the project manager in place inspires moments of team greatness.
When you have this level of talent on a team, the product or service exceeds the customer’s expectations. The morale of the team is heightened because of their ability and enjoyment of working at that level. Challenges are embraced by the team to grow and learn.
Members of Elite Teams tend to get scooped up to lead other teams. But when they are allowed to exist the company wins because that is what the team members are committed to. These teams anticipate and embrace challenges. And the project manager inspires continuous team greatness.
Because of this, these teams execute at a level other teams seek to imitate. These teams are in high demand because of their rarity.
Team members have a better work life – and quality of life in general – when their projects are meeting milestones and communication is really working. Companies benefit from the improved ROI on their teams’ output as well.
There are multitudes of articles and books that contain advice on how to be a great leader. But what if you’re like most of us and not at the top of the food chain? In most teams, there is one leader and a team of people doing the work. While we like to place the responsibility for a project’s success or failure on the leader, every team member has ownership and influence in how a project turns out. Your contribution to the project must make a difference, otherwise you wouldn’t be there for long. The core responsibilities of being a good team member will help you stand out and succeed no matter where you fall in the chain of command.
Integrity in a team is doing what you said you would, doing what you know you should, and holding team members to account for what they said they would do. This positively influences those around you. For core principles, none are as important as integrity. If you lack integrity, the whole project is at risk no matter where you are in the chain of command because all the following core responsibilities discussed here will fail.
Without doing what you say you will, the team will not trust you. Lack of honesty creates unpredictability within the team structure. You must do what you should as well. More than merely following through with your commitments to the team and the project, doing what others will expect of you positively builds at the core competency of the team. Simple examples are to be on time, work hard, and contribute to the team.
Finally, integrity involves more than self-discipline. It also involves holding your team members accountable for what they said they would do. It may be that they need your help in getting their part of the project done, and providing the information or help they need can be critical to the overall execution of the project.
The great thing about integrity though, is that no one’s integrity is perfect, and we can all improve starting now. Haven’t been doing what you said? Create some structure such as writing down what you agree to or get a planner. Every improvement in this core principle makes a very positive improvement to a team.
Like any good team or partnership, running a project requires strong communication between team members and the project manager. Strong communication between team members with the project manager allows the project manager to do their job effectively. Strong communication between team members works to educate the whole team on the issues addressed in different parts of the project. You and your team members are smart people. Review project issues with your team members and you will find better questions and better solutions for your problems.
If we want to be able to trust that our communications will be effective, we must be honest and observant. We must understand each other’s communication style. If we are always direct, we may come across as harsh to someone who wants things presented more gently. Conversely, “gentle” may come across as “salesy” or “fake” to your team members who prefer their facts undiluted. Keeping in mind how others in your team communicate will help you be an effective team member.
Things change. We can either be adaptable to change or not, and all of us should understand that things change. Your level of adaptability to change makes you more or less valuable to your team and the project. Our adaptability gives us the potential to learn new skills and work with different people to make projects flourish.
As an effective leader, fostering an environment that allows the team to handle change, and even thrive when it arrives, will help your project excel. Adaptability means that you and your team won’t be tied to a specific solution; you are given the freedom to choose the best solution under the circumstances. One way to foster this kind of environment is by anticipating that things will change and factoring that into the roadmap for the project. Having a buffer of extra resources – time, talent, or money – will help relieve pressure to conform to the strictures of the project.
Treat others the way they want to be treated. Apply integrity to respect; this rules out disrespect and gossip. Team members who do not respect each other will kill projects.
Each of us wants our boss to know how best to motivate us; money, praise, and special favors are common ways they can do that. Similarly, when we work together on a team, we can do the same thing for each other. It is not uncommon to ask people to do something extra on a project or to call on favors for your project. Figure out how you can reward those sacrifices to show that you appreciate the team member making that sacrifice.
Perhaps you are in one of these camps: “Yes We Can!” or “Make Our Project Great Again!” Having a positive attitude has an extraordinary effect on the project outcome. This attitude can be encouraged from the top but if it really exists, it does so because of the belief of the team members. When it comes to projects, you might be in one of two camps: Team Team, or Team Project
Each team, at its core, basically states that we know we can all get the job done if we work together. The difference between the two is whether they rally around either the greatness of the team or the greatness of the project. Sometimes this might be an individual sense of contribution to be on an amazing team doing something so important.
Our education doesn’t end when we graduate from college, or when we get our various certifications. You have a great opportunity to learn with every project you work on. You get to see what does work and what doesn’t work. You’ll experience up close how “things change” can impact a project and its team members. Take this opportunity to learn.
Learn what works best. Learn how people respond to adversity. Learn about your team members, how they communicate, how they are motivated, how they deal with change, how they exemplify integrity.
Ultimately, understand what works and why it DOES work. This will prepare you for the hurdles of future projects where you can continue to be an outstanding team member.
By Tom Waddell: [email protected]
Begin with the End in Mind: This is the second habit Steven Covey lays out in his famous book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Sales Leaders.
The reason this habit is so important is that it aligns all tasks, projects, and talent toward a single purpose. This habit also provides a framework to eliminate tasks and projects that will not help accomplish the end goal.
With major regulatory shifts occurring in the medical device industry it is imperative that device manufacturers know exactly which “end” to keep in mind. Falling out of compliance with these new regulations comes with a tough consequence: your device may be pulled from the market.
When it comes to staying compliant with MDSAP, MEDDEV, ISO 13485:2016 or MDR, resources are going to be constrained across the board. Audit times are increasing, Notified Bodies are swamped or are closing, access to talent is becoming more scarce, the timeline is tight, and there is a lot of competition. It is vital that you manage medical device compliance projects as efficiently as possible.
So, Where to Start?
In simple terms, a Gap Analysis is needed. Create a comparison document between the current state of compliance and the required future state of compliance. This analysis will identify which compliance requirements are already being met and which ones the product fails to comply with. This gives a clear “end” to which the team can focus. Anything which does not align with these goals must be eliminated to best maintain efficiency.
Once the Gap Analysis is complete, identify the new regulations to comply with and create a list of changes from the previous regulatory standards. Also consider the regulatory impact changes will have on the product under each particular governing country.
With standards changing in Europe, Canada, Asia, and Australia, there may be overlap in regulations. This may enable reuse of some work for multiple regulatory bodies. Dig into and understand what documentation standards you will need to meet. Streamline this process by compiling a list of clinical trials, testing standards, and post-market surveillance to compare against new requirements.
Connect with your Notified Body.
Some Notified Bodies no longer exist and you may need to find a replacement. If yours is still operating, find out where each of your products are in their queue.
Find the Talent.
Begin identifying the talent and resources needed, and when, for this project. With all the competition for talent, it may take extra time to secure the right people on the best timeline. Both the timeline for available talent as well as placement in the queue for the Notified Bodies will require quality project management skills.
Make sure your project is ready when those resources are allocated to you.
The stakes are high and you have a lot on your plate.
If you are concerned about the upcoming medical device compliancy changes, the time to act is now. A Gap Analysis from the experienced team at Waddell Group will get you pointed in the right direction. We work with companies to perform gap analyses for medical device compliance, help maintain compliance, and manage the projects that spin out of these compliance initiatives.
See how we can help you!
To micromanage or not to micromanage: that is not the question. Rather you should ask yourself how each member of your project needs to be managed. And to answer that question, you need to be very aware of the strengths, weaknesses, and personalities of each member of your team.
Some people need the constant attention and are only effective when they are micromanaged. They need the daily check in with the positive (or negative) reinforcement that comes with that. Their ability to focus requires they feel aligned with you and know that they are on track with the project. They need to feel that you care about what they are doing. Are you engaged with them, with their success on the project? Regular reinforcement that you are giving will keep them motivated and driven to accomplish the tasks you have set for them.
Other people are driven by independent accomplishment and do not want to see you on a regular basis. They prefer to be heads down, digging into a project and getting things done. If you stop by their desk for a check in, they assume you don’t trust their ability to get the project done. In effect, they feel their competence, work ethic, or commitment to the team is in question. In some cases, they may shut down if you provide what they perceive as too much oversight. Some people will even quit the project – or the company.
The danger for you as a project manager is that if you get it wrong – you may have a project going off the rails. Did someone need more attention than you provided? They may be way behind. Did someone find your daily chats irritating but refused to confront you about it? You might lose that key person from your team! This is why it is essential from the very beginning of the relationship to invest your political and personal capital in your team members. Find out what kind of management style they prefer and need. And align yourself to that.
When you are in the medical device space, there is a level of competence and intelligence that you expect from every member of your team. The fact that your team has the ability to design, manufacture, and put a product through FDA testing means they are above average intelligence and capability.
With that said, we also know there are some people who excel even among this rarified air. These are people who are smarter and more clever than the rest of us. They see through to a solution immediately while the rest of us have to work through problems and conundrums to achieve a solution.
When it comes to project management, caution is advised with superstars. Working on a project is a team effort; not one shining star with a supporting cast. Any exceptional talent who works on a team must be able to play well with others, be held to the same standards as each member of the team, and be willing, and even eager, to have their solutions challenged.
Some superstars do not play well with others. And it can be dangerous to have them on your project. You might think you can’t live without them, that they are too important. Their genius tempts you to think they are the only one who knows – or has the capacity to learn certain technical details. Worse yet, perhaps the superstar is favored by management.
Superstars can be solid contributors or they can be a cancer. And if you have a superstar who does not play well with others you must get rid of them immediately. Do not put it off as it can destroy your team and derail your project. It may be one of the hardest decisions you’ll make, and there will no doubt be consequences… but it’s the best plan.
We all know that person who thinks everything will be smooth sailing and there won’t be any problems on a project. The great thing about these team members is that they are positive about the project and bring an upbeat energy. However, balancing a team out with people who recognize there will be hurdles and obstacles to overcome is useful. These realists should help hold the team accountable.
As a project manager, you need to identify which team members are optimistic and pessimistic. If someone is predicting things will be done very quickly and with low stress, challenge their assertions. One method? Dive into the details and learn about the assumptions together.
Further, the whole team should have buy in. To accomplish this, the team has to build the plan, link the tasks, and identify the timelines for what needs to be delivered and when it needs to be delivered. The completion of the whole project depends on each member of the team delivering their part on time and on budget. Intimate knowledge of those interdependencies will help motivate the team with both positive energy and accountability. Regular review of these schedules with the team will both keep the optimists grounded and the project on track.
As the project manager it is vital you know each member of the team, their demeanor for the project, their history with other projects, and what issues they might have with scheduling. Factor that information into your project plan. You also need to know yourself. Are you too optimistic? What is your own history? If you have a history of being too optimistic, be intentional about inserting slack time into the project so that you will hit deadlines and achieve goals.
Finally, with almost every project, the end of the project is a challenge for both the optimists and realists… With your entire team, build enough interpersonal capital in the first two thirds of a project so that when crunch time comes, they know you have their back. And they will have yours. Then the optimists will be right… the project will go well.