Motivate don't denigrate

From an IT leadership and service perspective, much can be learned, and achieved, from exploring people's similarities.

From an IT leadership and service perspective, much can be learned, and achieved, from exploring people's similarities.

David Taylor

Inside track

The precise wording of personal motivators and their order may differ but most researchers agree on the following five motivators that apply to everyone.

A sense of personal power and mastery over others

This is seen as the strongest motivator, but many people will not admit it in public, or even in private. Think about gossip, the last time you pulled away before someone else at the traffic lights, or how you feel when you hear that a business rival is not doing as well as you.

Financial security and success

Money remains one of the strongest personal drivers and material wealth one of the most powerful displays of how we are doing.

A sense of personal pride and importance

This is a feeling within ourselves of something we feel we can stand up for. Some may call it ego or personal status. To test the importance of this one, try changing someone's job title to administration assistant, or try to introduce the word consultant into your organisation.

Reassurance of self-worth and recognition of efforts

We all need to be reassured that what we are doing is OK. We often seek out and value the opinions of others more than our own. This covers everything from the power of a well-timed thank you to promotion issues.

Peer group approval and acceptance

People identify with specific groups - be they IT directors or general leaders of social standing. We all crave to be accepted by people we identify with.

Whatever you think of this list, or will admit to with regard to your personal goals and drivers, there are strong messages that we can learn in all of our communication with customers and colleagues.

As much has been written on financial incentives for staff, let us focus on the other four issues and how they can be put into practice for you as an IT leader; by your team in transforming the service you provide; and within your department.

To gain a sense of power, seek out the most powerful player in your organisation and ask them to be your mentor. Listen carefully to, and acknowledge, all advice given you by your chief executive, directors and other business leaders, no matter what your opinion of that advice.

Take every opportunity to demonstrate that as a leader you work for your department, not the other way round. Put your team's concerns, thoughts and recommendations ahead of your own.

If you want to improve your self-worth, ask senior business leaders to adopt an important role - such as project champion - in an IT project. It will help to ensure success for the project and boost their status and involvement.

Ensure people in IT feel they belong to their project and teams. Make sure they can identify with their roles and how their work will relate to the final results.

Recognising efforts means more than a pat on the back. Make it your personal mission to educate or train your peers in the fundamental issues of IT they need to understand, and praise them as they make progress. This will have two advantages: you will be appreciated for your efforts, and you will banish forever that destructive phrase, "I don't need to understand IT."

Acknowledge good work within your own team, sincerely and often.

The approval and acceptance by your peers can be obtained by ensuring that you are seen as part of the company's leadership team. The decision-makers will identify, empathise and spend time with you. Be seen as a mover and shaker in the organisation - someone worth knowing - and your personal influence will soar.

Treat your leadership team the same way, with no obvious favourites.

David Taylor's Inside Track, a provocative insight into the world of IT in business, is published by ButterworthHeinemann. Tel: 01865-88180

Read more on IT operations management and IT support