A friend just sent me this link about how to be a Technical Lead. It is written for technical people by a technical person, but it really applies to anyone running a company that depends on technologists.

Especially note “Mistake #2,” which discusses motivation. One of the most common things I’ve found is managers who don’t take the time to find out what is motivating to their particular people. They assume that everyone wants the same recognition they do. Or they assume everyone thinks a football outing is the be-all-and-end-all of bonding.

This is important stuff! Over time, you can demotivate someone by consistently “rewarding” them with things they don’t appreciate. One engineer used to bust his butt working late, putting in heroic efforts to deliver an over-scoped, under-funded project on time. A gift certificate to Computer World, a new laptop (cost: $1000) or a few days off would have made him happy and appreciated. Instead, he got a public award and notice at the next all-company meeting. Big mistake. It turns out he had been raised that pride is a sin. Far from motivating him, public notice felt like a slap in the face.

This story ends poorly. The engineer left, feeling unappreciated and angry at management that “didn’t care” and was “just going through the motions.” His managers were puzzled at his seeming indifference to their recognition. And it cost the company several hundred thousand dollars to replace him, not to mention get his replacement up to speed on the project.

The solution is simple: take the time to find out from everyone around you what makes them feel appreciated. If they say, “Gee, I’d love a flat-screen TV,” remember that. If they say, “Gee, I love spendin time with my family,” remember that, too (a family week at Disneyworld is cheaper than you think). Then show appreciation by doing something that the recipient will appreciate.

Motivate each person according to their values!

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