Why You Should Not Focus on Self Esteem
It’s important to have workers and teams with the ability to persevere. When they have this ability, they are better able to drive results you want, to push through obstacles effectively, to work ethically and avoid problematic short cuts, among many other benefits.
So how do you, as a project manager, build the ability of workers and teams to persevere? Should you bring in a motivational speaker to build up your project team? Or should you bring in a basic training sergeant to scare them into persevering?
It was not that clear until relatively recently, where researchers found a link between perseverance and self esteem. Basically, in the study, researchers raised their subject’s self esteem using mental imagery. Researchers also reduced subject’s self esteem using opposite mental images. Then, in each case, they had their subjects attempt to make a complex decision. The interesting results were:
It turns out that self esteem can be fragile if it is not based on something tangible. Self esteem that is achieved by accomplishing something difficult is not as fragile.
The implications project managers: There is now an even stronger reason to give the right type of balanced feedback to workers and teams. The right feedback can align attention and perseverance on those factors that will lead to better performance. Don’t focus on self esteem. Focus on feedback.
Specific Feedback Tips
Forego the motivational speaker and the drill sergeant. Just refine your skill at providing feedback and you can build up your project team’s ability to persevere.
You can listen to a radio interview that explains the research in a little more detail.
The fact that workers need interaction with each other to be more productive was made clear in my last post. What was not so clear was how you, a mere project manager, can use what the studies are telling us to make your workforce more productive without a lot of effort on your part.
By “productivity improvements,” we are looking for ways to obtain
The studies showed that eating together and taking breaks together provide just the kind of unstructured/lightly structured interactions that enhanced collaboration later.
You can foster these kinds of interactions in the following ways:
Recommend that other project groups adopt the same tactic of scheduling unstructured time. Everyone on the whole project does not have to eat together each time. What you are looking for, though, is many people interacting with each other often. (Remember that the more people who sat at the table, the more productivity there was.)
Be careful to avoid leaving out those who are not in the office. Take measures to ensure they are involved.
Think of your own ideas. Just keep the structure to a minimum and the interactions between workers at a maximum.
Eat This Way for Workforce Productivity
How you eat affects workforce performance.
If you’re like me, you are always looking for a way to get more out of your project workforce, especially if it does not require a survey, participation by a team from HR, or a long training class – any significant extra effort really.
You may also have experienced problems between project work groups where they just did not communicate with each other well or they did not plan their schedule well together or where some other collaboration problem existed. How do you get these people to fix whatever problem is there without micromanaging or having some kind of facilitation meeting or therapy session?
Recent studies have made clear the importance of face-to-face interactions, especially “unstructured” interactions, my term for informal meetings when there is no agenda. For example, this article describes several studies with these results:
A University of Michigan study on researchers (yes, researchers studying other researchers!) found that the more “zonal overlap” scientists had in their daily walks within and between buildings, the more collaboration there would be. They even calculated that for every 100 feet of zonal overlap there was 20% more collaboration.
So we have plenty of evidence from a broad spectrum of organizations and worker categories that collaboration is linked to unstructured interactions. So how can we as project managers put this information into practice to help us make our project workforces collaborate better without doing too much work?
OK, so these are simplistic options. In the next post, coming in a few days, I’ll give you a list of tactics based on increasing collaboration through routine interaction.
Cubical Controversy: Can You Hear Me Now?
Among the indignities we suffer in the modern workplace is the cubicle. Miracles of modern human resource unit warehousing, they enable us to work without privacy or protection from biological infection. There is even the occasional head-scratcher: Someone once told me that they heard a supervisor terminating an employee over the phone from a cubicle. In all this don't forget that the benefit desired was that there would be improved performance from more interaction between workers. That's what the "workstation" sales people told us anyway - just after they showed facilities management drastically lower prices compared to offices.
If you were the type of project manager who wanted to score points with your workforce, what could you do to make a real difference here? A recent study published in the Journal of Environmental Psychology reveals factors that really matter to workers.
Should you care? Does it matter to you if your workers are bothered by gossip from a nearby desk? Should you be concerned if workers see each other shop for underwear online or pick their nose?
It matters to you because one of the top ten important factors affecting employee satisfaction (as reported here previously) is the relationship with immediate supervisor. So here is an opportunity to show that you understand basic daily problems. In case you don’t have the power to put all your workers in quiet private offices, what can you do about these causes of dissatisfaction? Here are some ideas to get you started.
This will not replace other motivational tactics you should use, but it can help as cubicle life is not good. This can help improve team performance as well if distractions are keeping workers from focusing.
Do you have a cubicle horror story? Let me know.
I recently re-certified for my PMP, and I learned some lessons for next time. Still, I’m glad I did it and learned a lot to become more skillful for the future.
There are just too many points needed to fill them in at the last minute, even in the last months. I was lucky in that I had a continuous way to make points over time, but the rationalization that comes from procrastination made me think that I had more PDUs than I thought. Look at the number of PDUs you need and plan to space them out over the three years. It’s just like an intermediate milestone in a project plan. Tracking your progress will let you know whether you are falling behind or not.
What made procrastination worse was that the PDU category caps limited the number PDUs I could get from certain activities. I mismanaged this.
Granted, you can do all the PDU classes and local PMI continuing education you want to meet 100% of your goal and this is a good thing. You even get to meet great people.
But if you choose to get PDUs through other means, there are limits. That’s where I went wrong. I thought I could get more points in one category than was actually true. Don’t do as I do, do as I say.
So clearly you need a decent plan where you think about how and when you will best obtain the most PDUs for the activities you will actually complete and enjoy. You like taking classes? Then take classes. You like a mix of classes, continuing education at PMI meetings, but you also enjoy create new knowledge? Plan to do all of those things and document it during the 3-year cycle on your PDU meter on the PMI site.
If you don’t have a plan, then you could be left scrambling in the final months, when work load happens to be at its peak and when employer-provided online courses are switching over to the new PMBOK versions and then you find that you have completed the wrong mix of PDUs in categories.
Believe me, it can happen. Don’t ask me how I know.
If you lead PMs who are also re-certifying, tell them the same thing.