I think motivation is very complex, but yet important topic. Especially for testers. Some of our tasks are repeatable and sometimes boring. We are under a high load of stress and chaos. Therefore I am not surprised that I know many demotivated testers. Even during Test Management Meetup in Wrocław topic of Motivation was selected for discussion as the most important.
There are two ways You might get interested in it – when you are searching for motivation yourself or You want to help a team member. Personally, I got interested in this topic for both reasons 🙂 There are many theories around what motivates us. I was trying them one by one – with better or worse results. Until during leaders training at Objectivity, we were introduced with this:
According to Dan Pink, our motivation is driven by three factors:
Let’s take a closer look at each of those factors and how we can use this knowledge to our advantage.
Not so long ago I’ve read a blog post that one factor of staying motivated over a long time of period is sticking to tasks right on the edge of our abilities – not too hard, not too easy. But not always we have the power to choose our tasks and yet it would be great to stay motivated. Mastery factor of our motivation takes a different approach.
Let’s think about some task – let’s say preparing test report for our client. This task given to test manager would be very easy, but given to tester new in the project, it would be crazy hard. The thing is that given repeatably to both of them this task may cause demotivation. The thing is that >we< need to have necessary knowledge and skills for the task, not the other way around. In our case, the solution might be to give the task to an inexperienced person and provide this person with help and support.
Mastery means that we need to provide our team with training, tools and other support they require to work with their task. They need to feel the mastery within their fields. Moreover, if we are searching for motivation we might reach out to others and ask for help. Build your own mastery. Of course, it takes time, but be open to what and why You are doing – most Project Managers will see the benefit of acquiring mastery and keeping the motivation up.
When we first heard about autonomy during our motivation training we were terrified. It sounded almost like “If You want people motivated – leave them alone”. Many questions raised in my head like “But what about deadlines? How can I believe they will do their work as fast as they can?”
My fears where hollow. Autonomy doesn’t mean we need to leave people alone – they just need some space. Deadlines will still be there, we might check how the tasks are progressing. We give freedom in the form how and when they perform their task, but with clear deadlines, priorities and good communication.
And sometimes You feel that You have no autonomy. You are tied to the set of rules, regulations, responsibilities and processes. In the long time period it might demotivate you – so ask for autonomy. Clearly state that You need some free space in how You do things, as something absolutely awesome and new might come out of it.
I strongly feel that mastery and autonomy aren’t enough to keep people motivated. In fact, when I think about that lack of those things causes demotivation, but the most important thing pushing everything forward is the sense of purpose. The sense, that our work matters for someone. Even most boring task can be excited if we know why we do it.
Often knowing the purpose gives a new meaning to the task. For example, I know many persons who feel that meetings are just waste of their time. What I found out is there were two possible scenarios – either in fact, they are not needed at those meetings or they did not see the purpose of their presence at the meeting. So when I see my fellow employee struggling with motivation to do any task I try to present them with >why< it is important to do it.
Same goes for keeping myself motivated. When I feel that something is pointless or not attractive – I ask plainly why should I do it? With the clear information that I want to know the purpose. Who will gain from my effort? With this knowledge, it is easier to perform many tasks.
I have my own team and a hard project so after my training I decided to work on0 those three factors. I came up with the list of things I want to work on:
- Give up control (Autonomy)
- Try out “Do anything day” (Autonomy)
- Promote collaboration and cross-skilling (Mastery)
- Ask and share with team reasons behind tasks and priorities (Purpose)