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How to create a culture of self-motivation in a software team

Management
by Don Lowe CEO
| 5 min read

Motivation is the key to success for every company. Building motivation and collaboration within an agile project team is necessary for achieving common goals and expanding your business. You can achieve success rates only when every team member delivers quality work efficiently and are committed to the tasks at hand. How can you create a culture like this in your workplace?

Why culture is critical to success

The culture and the thinking process embedded in your organisation are more important than the methodology or tools that you use. Without the right culture, the methodology has no chance. This is particularly relevant for agile methodologies. Agile development teams, by their very nature, need to comprise of disciplined and motivated individuals that work well together.

If you want to adopt an agile methodology like Scrum or Kanban, then make sure you have the right culture. The three main pillars of any great culture are purpose, autonomy, and mastery. Only employees who can see the final goal and be responsible for the result bring real value to your company. Forbytes, as well as many leading enterprises, use this principle because company culture runs deeply in every business process.

According to a LinkedIn report, there are several cultural factors that are important for employees all over the world. Professionals prefer to join companies:

  • That allow a flexible work-life balance – 71%
  • With a flat hierarchy and accessible management – 63%
  • That have an open and collaborative physical workspace – 63%
  • Where they have a clear career development path – 62%
  • Known for their upskilling/training programs – 63%
  • That have an entrepreneurial, “start-up” like culture that promotes agility and flexibility – 61%
  • That offer opportunities to engage with the local community – 62%
  • Where the leaders are committed to developing and executing digital transformation programs – 59%
  • Where their peer groups are digitally talented – 57%
  • Known for attracting top digital talent – 57%
  • That are located in urban areas and/or technology hubs – 51%

Signs of self-motivated people

So what characteristics can you expect to see in someone that is motivated? What are the characteristics to look for when identifying a motivated person who delivers results?

  • they can see the bigger picture in what they are doing;
  • they actively participate in activities;
  • they willingly take on challenges;
  • they are always in a state of learning – eager to learn new skills;
  • they don’t sweat the small stuff;
  • they are aware of where their strengths and weaknesses lie;
  • they are able to cope with failure as they see it as a learning curve.

People that are not self-motivated are therefore in stark contrast to the characteristics mentioned above.

A right and a wrong way to motivate people

Should you “motivate people to achieve something” or “provide opportunities for people to become motivated”?

When the culture in a team is to “motivate people to achieve something”, there is normally a reward of some sort. Often money is used as a means of motivation. Teams like this are given work items to be delivered by a certain date and there is little flexibility on time, cost and scope variables. There is a backlog of requirements that grow, resulting in other work items not getting delivered on time. Management focuses on keeping everyone fully occupied all the time but that runs the risk of burn-out due to excessive workloads. It gives employees a reason to leave. Senior managers need to step in and take over as they think they can do a better job.

Rather than trying to motivate people, another approach is to provide opportunities for people to achieve results so that they become motivated by their own actions and achievements. Individuals draw satisfaction and pride from delivering a good product or service. This change in approach with both the employer and the employee is for free.

Reading your way to motivation

It is easy to become inundated with the information out there on how to become a motivated person or how to motivate your team. Books that I have found helpful (and books I recommend all my senior managers read, and encourage others in the organisation to read) are:

The 7 habits of highly effective people by Stephen R. Covey

This legendary book played a major role in the lives of numerous people as well as in the development and philosophy of many global companies. The author, Stephen R. Covey, who was named one of TIME Magazine’s 25 Most Influential Americans, gives a principle-centered approach for solving personal and professional problems.

“Picture someone going through the best experience they’ve ever had in terms of training – that’s what they say. People credit the 7 Habits with changing their lives, with getting back on track personally and professionally.”

– Ken M. Radziwanowski, AT&T School of Business

Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action by Simon Sinek

Simon Sinek advises people on how to inspire employees in different kind of enterprises from small businesses to corporations like Microsoft, from Hollywood to the Pentagon. In this book, he explains why some people and organizations are more innovative and more profitable than others, and why it is so important to start with “Why”.

“Start with Why fanned the flames inside me. This book can lead you to levels of excellence you never considered attainable.”

– General Chuck Horner, air boss, Desert Storm 

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