Project Practitioners > Be What's Missing. A Simple Way to Help Your Team Thrive

Be What's Missing. A Simple Way to Help Your Team Thrive

By Sinikka Waugh
The other day, Jason, a fairly new PM asked me the question, 
“So, Coach, how do I make the project team members do what they’re supposed to do?”
It’s kind of a telling question isn’t it?  Here’s what it tells me:
  • First, Jason had noticed that something was missing from the team – something that should be there, simply wasn’t. Something was missing.
  • Second, Jason had a clear desire to make a difference – kudos to him! He was willing to take the bull by the horns and make a change.
  • Third, Jason had an unfortunate but common misperception of what makes us tick. With very few exceptions, most of us can’t actually make anyone do anything. It’s more a matter of motivation…we can motivate people to do (or not do) things – but we can’t force them. We’re all motivated by different things: rewards, recognition, fear, others, peer input, a desire to compete, a desire to excel, the intrinsic value of the work itself, a greater purpose, etc… If a team isn’t performing, then chances are, something they need to motivate them is missing. 
The best answer I can give is simply these three words:  Be what’s missing.

  1. To be what’s missing, you have to know that something is missing. Congratulations to Jason for knowing that something wasn’t quite right. Congratulations to any project leader who is watching, observing, measuring, monitoring, and paying attention! The very first step to just about any solution is knowing there’s a problem.

  2. To be what’s missing, you have to get a good handle on what is missing. As demonstrated by Daniel Pink’s Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us and the countless studies from Gallup around engagement, and the Standish Group bout project effectiveness, more often than not, “what’s missing” fits in one of these buckets.

    Communication:  Messages aren't getting through.
    Autonomy or accountability:  People aren’t able to direct their own work
    Skills or mastery:  people lack the skills they need or don’t have avenues to grow and develop the skills they need
    Mission or purpose:  people don’t see how their work is connected to something bigger
    Relationships:  people don’t have a connection with those working around them
  3. Once you understand what’s missing, you simply have to fill the void. Add what needs to be added. Do what needs to be done. People aren’t being honest enough? Be honest and create opportunities for open dialog. People aren’t learning from their mistakes? Learn from your own and create opportunities for knowledge share in a safe environment. People aren’t being positive enough? Put a smile on your face and brighten someone else’s day with a cheery hello.
Be what’s missing.  

Do you feel like your project team is as engaged as they should be? Are they doing their best work?  If the members of the project team aren't all fully motivated to do their best work on the project, then it's the project manager's accountability to help them.  Figure out what’s missing, and ask yourself these questions:

If Communication is missing…
  • What communications can you seek out?
  • What communications can you deliver?
If Autonomy is missing…
  • What authority do you already have that you can act on?
  • What empowerment can you give others?
If Mastery is missing…
  • What have you learned that should be shared?
  • What development can you invest in for you or your team?
If Purpose is missing…
  • What purpose do you want to connect to?
  • What can you do to connect your team?
If Enthusiasm is missing…
  • What can you add positive energy about?
  • Who can you cheer and encourage?
If Relationships are missing…
  • Who do you need to view through a better lens?
  • Who can you build a stronger relationship with?
Be what’s missing.  

The idea behind the phrase is that when we find ourselves in a situation where we know of something that could make it better – a little more honesty, a little more trust, a little more communication, a little more leadership, a little more humility, a little more forgiveness, a little more patience, a little more compassion, a little more elbow grease…whatever it is – if we know what’s missing, we should add it.

When we add what’s missing, when we bring it to the table ourselves, it’s amazing to see the positive power a little dose of “what’s missing” can have in making things better for all of us!

Make it a great day!

Not all comments are posted. Posted comments are subject to editing for clarity and length.

Great article Sinikka! Sometimes, 'being what's missing', means stepping out of our comfort zone, but is well worth the effort. The mark of all good leaders is to lead by example.

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