it’s easy to get people to do things they want to do. have you ever seen a school teacher who has had a hard time getting her kids to enjoy recess? have you ever heard a parent complain about their kids not playing enough video games? not often! we all want to have fun. we all want to leave the heavy-lifting to someone else.
‘i don’t wanna’ is a natural reaction when asked to do something that’s not exactly fun or will offer us various challenges along the way. that’s exactly why managers and project managers are just as much responsible for managing people as they are responsible for the work. let’s remember, it’s the people who do the work that make the manager look good.
as i mentioned in my post on teams, there are a few different classes of workers. i named 3 primary classes as being: (1) the minimalist, (2) the seeker, and (3) the go-getter. each of the 3 classes presents its own set of challenges much different from the others. in this post i’ll go into more detail on that first class—the minimalist.
within the minimalist category, i believe there are 3 more sub-classes of workers:
- the objector: those people who have a problem with either their role, the leader, or the work they’re doing.
- the uncurious: those people who don’t care either way for what they’re doing. neither negative or positive, these people are generally there to “pay the mortgage.”
- “delay fish”: though borrowing a term from “finding nemo”, i’ll give my own definition here—these people cause delays because of a lack of confidence, lack of talent, or a bad attitude.
the objector, i’ve found, is the easiest to work with. the objector says ‘i don’t wanna’ because they have a problem with something, and the good news is that problems can be solved. if you have an objector on your client or project team you need to have a talk with them about it. “he’ll get over it,” isn’t a good answer. when there are obstacles in the way, as managers, it’s our job to break down those barriers. find out what the problem is (especially if it’s you!) and find a way to solve it.
the uncurious person is more difficult to deal with because they can be a bit unpredictable, but the positive here is that they have no negatives. someone who might be doing the work just because they need the paycheck and are waiting for something better to come along can still be an asset to the team if you can manage their psyche well. unfortunately, i feel that a lot of the people in the corporate world fit under this category. many work for the paycheck—still others work for the health insurance. sadly, if you took a poll, i think you’d find a majority of the people working in america today would say that they’re unhappy with their career or the current company that they work for. so how do you motivate these ‘i don’t wannas’? use the head-fake. as a coach, you’ll have a hard time lining your team up and having them run or skate suicides. but you can set aside 15 minutes of practice to have the team play freeze-tag. there’s just as much running in that stop and start motion, with quick cuts and balance checks, but it’s fun! find a way to make what you’re doing fun, and those uncurious people will start to become curious. buy the team ice cream on a hot day. have a special ‘party’ to mark a team member’s 5 year anniversary with the company. get the whole team to play a practical joke on “the new guy”. there’s plenty of things that you can do to make people want to come to the office and do their work.
finally, the third and most difficult of the classes of minimalists to motivate is the “delay fish.” some people aren’t indifferent—some just don’t want to be doing the work at all. some people might have been put on a team because they lied on a résumé. others might be causing problems because they don’t feel they can actually do the work because stakes are higher. the reason this group is so difficult to work with is because some people you just can’t reach. trying to understand the person in more depth and coming up with a game plan to motivate them individually is still your best option, but sometimes it just doesn’t work. in cases involving these types of people, you might want to accept the situation as being what it is, realize that you’ve done what you can to fix the problems, and move on with the rest of your team. “fire” these delay fish quickly because they’re going to cause problems in the future. what i mean by “fire” them is to reduce their role—remove important tasks from their queue—don’t actively include them in discussions—and reallocate any effort expected from them to other, more willing members of the team. sometimes it’s the only way to go.
good managers get projects done with people who want to do the work. great managers get projects done with people who don’t want to do the work. the most valuable people on your team could end up being the minimalists. you can generally gauge from the others—from the seekers and the go-getters—what kind of effort and quality you’ll get from them. they’re more predictable. it’s the unpredictability of the minimalists that give them the highest impact on your projects. if you can take the ‘i don’t wannas’ and make them wanna, then you could just be standing on the verge of something amazing.