January 17, 2023

How to use motivation in your team

We are consistently impressed with the brilliance of our community and the knowledge every member has to offer. That’s why we asked our members to share their knowledge with everyone! This Member post is brought to you by Jana Vesela, Head of Testing at Inventi.

I have worked in IT for 7 years and the last 3 years as a manager.  During those years I found out that it is my job to know how to deal with my team and to adapt to them. I have to know what motivates them to be happy and how to gain better results because my results are linked to their happiness.

There are a lot of principles and "how to" on the internet. But I will show you what works for me everytime and has never let me down.

The Animals - Motivation versus Skills

The Animals principle is based on the Political behavior in the workplace by Simon Baddeley and Kim James. With a slight change, I use The Animals for motivation and skills in the team.

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As you can see on the picture we recognize two flows:

1. Motivation: Is he motivated or not?

2. Skills: Is he skilled or not?

Also we recognise 4 animals:

1. Sheep

2. Donkey

3. Eagle

4. Fox

The Sheep and the Eagle are the most motivated team members. The Donkey and the Fox are very demotivated. Let's see how it interact with their skills, how to motivate them or keep them motivated:

The Sheep

The Sheep is usually a junior team member with a very low skill level or she is a newcomer. That is why she is motivated even though she isn't able to be independent. The Sheep is excited about new things and she is eager to learn. 

It is very good to use this - teach the Sheep knew skills in a dosage with which she is able to keep up but it's challenging enough for her to keep her motivated and excited.

Her motivation, beside new skills, usually are: to be accepted by the team, personal growth, career, 

Be aware of how many Sheep you have in the team and how much time you can give them. Unattended Sheep can quickly turn into the Donkey. However, it is great to have Sheep in the team and rise new Eagle from them.

The Donkey

Donkeys are not motivated that much nor excited by the work. They are usually long-term members of the team. They feel good with the level of their skills and they don't feel the urge to learn new things. The Donkey wants to work his 8-hour shift and go home with an empty head. He doesn't like changes, he prefers his stereotype. 

However, you can rely on Donkey's work. If the Donkey gets an assignment which he is able to get done with his level of skills, it will be done without mistakes. 

If the Donkey is an unmotivated sheep, he can be turned to the Sheep again with the right motivation. Otherwise, it is pointless to push the Donkey. You both end up unhappy and exhausted.

With Donkeys, it is your own choice whether to keep them in the team or not. They won't do any harm but it also can be a place for a new Sheep.

The Eagle

Eagles are highly motivated and very skilled team members. Eagle can be your right hand or your successor. He/She is independent and able to organize his own work. You can delegate the work or he/she takes the assignment himself. 

The Eagle is motivated by his/her own success, recognition, and results. He/She always pushes things forward and stay up to date with his skills. 

It is important to keep him/her motivated or he/she can quickly turn into the Fox. 

The Eagle should have your full attention at all times but be careful and let him be independent enough. The Eagle will run away at the first sign of micromanagement. 

He/She is also motivated by your trust - let him/her teach the Sheeps. It saves your time, you motivate the Eagle and the Sheeps are taken care of. 

The Fox

The Fox is simply a demotivated Eagle. She/He is very skilled but she has no reason to be on the top of the game. However, she/he is canny and usually mad. That is why she/he has the loudest voice in the team. 

Because the Fox used to be the Eagle, other members of the team listen to her/him. That might be the problem because the Fox is able to stand to you and disagree. Loudly. She/He has influence and the impact can be huge. 

The Fox usually doesn't even realize that she/he can harm the team.

To motivate the Fox back to the Eagle is very hard. You need to find the reason why she/he is demotivated and because she/he is canny, you have to be even more. This battle is usually long and tiring with very low possibilities to win. That is why it is for the best to fire the Fox as soon as you can. Yes, that is right. During the project "Motivate your Fox back" she/he still has a bad influence and she/he can demotivate the whole team. 

To fire the Fox is not easy as well because she/he is skilled. You won't get her/him fired because of mistakes at their work. The best way how to get rid of the Fox is to convince the Fox that to leave the team is the best for her/him.

To build your own team is easier, I am sure you will choose the motivated people. However, this works even better when you start as a manager and the team exists already. 

Your team members don't always have to be at the edges of this animal scale but I hope this helps to be more aware and sense when your team member is losing motivation.

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