About the Author: Ruth Pearce is a practicing project manager, author, speaker and coach who specializes in bringing the well-researched evidence-based practice of character strengths to project management teams. Learn more about Ruth’s philosophy with her book Be a Project Motivator: Unlock the Secrets of Strengths-Based Project Management, available on Amazon.
Anyone who has been in the workplace for a while knows that collaborative motivated teams accomplish a lot more than their unhappy disconnected colleagues. There is plenty of research from organizations such as Gallup that shows that engagement is a key factor in how people perform at work. And from one perspective, the statistics are worrying. It seems that, across the world, only one in three people are engaged at work – leaving two out of three of us who are not.
And what are the implications of disengagement? At its worst, when we have team members, managers, customers and other stakeholders who are actively disengaged, the actions and efforts of their colleagues are actually being undermined. Negative talk, persistent complaining and grudging work effort – combined with absenteeism and turnover – starts to negatively impact the entire team. Deadlines slip, work is not up to par, and tasks get missed.
This a natural phenomenon called social contagion. As humans, we are designed to mirror the behavior – and mood – of the people around us. The consequences of low engagement are not hard to imagine – you only have to think of what outcomes might occur during a surgery conducted by a two-thirds disengaged team. Or think about crossing a bridge constructed by a two-thirds disengaged crew!
Even if disengagement is not active, but is passive, there is a drag on projects. There is more clock-watching, internet surfing and general behaviors focused on things other than getting the work done.
The good news is that social contagion works the other way, too. Engagement and motivation are infectious. We can make a difference to the engagement of our team members just by changing our own level of engagement. When we take steps to boost the engagement of others directly, the sky is the limit.
When I started as a project manager, team engagement, personnel issues and resource development were not part of my remit. That was a job for line managers or human resources. Now though, the lines are much more blurred, and we all have a role to play in team engagement—and any project manager who can cultivate engagement and motivation is much more likely to enjoy a successful project.
Ready to learn more about project motivation and how to maintain an engaged, productive project team? Please tune in for my webinar with PMO Partners on Thursday, April 11 at 12:00 p.m. ET, where we’ll discuss how you can become a Project Motivator!