A great perk of working at netlogx is the availability of classes from a company named trueU. trueU provides its members with classes that cover self-improvement across a broad range of topics. I recently attended a trueU class on motivation. The class explored the factors that influence employee engagement and reviewed ideas and techniques to maximize employee engagement. With so much information available today, it is challenging to find easily applicable ideas. However, within 1.5 hours, I left the class with two solid ideas to use when working with others. The first concept was how to apply Maslow’s hierarchy of needs to the workplace to determine an individual’s motivations which then makes it easier to determine how to motivate an individual. I will save that discussion for another time.

The second concept came from the book Flow, by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. As a project manager, many times I determine the tasks my team members are responsible for.  With that responsibility, I need to be aware if the work is too challenging for an individual and I also need to recognize when the work under utilizes a person’s skillset. The idea I took from the class was to use the Flow Model to adjust team member’s responsibilities to maintain a positive motivating experience on the project.

As I left the class, I envisioned my conversations as a back and forth discussion of the work a person is doing in terms of:

  1. How challenging does the person feel the tasks assigned to them are? Does the person perceive the work to be extremely challenging or very easy?
  2. How well does the person feel the skills and experiences they possess have prepared them to handle the assigned tasks?

Learning Curve Diagram

Ideally, I want the person’s skills to intersect with the perceived difficulty of the challenge within the flow channel. Based upon this conversation, to promote a positive environment, it is my responsibility to adjust, where possible, the tasks assigned such that the tasks fall in each individual’s flow channel. When a person is in the flow channel, the person is totally involved and engaged in the tasks. They are motivated and enjoying work. The days fly by because the person’s ability is well matched with the challenge at hand. Anything outside the flow channel means people may be bored because the work is too easy. Or, if the work is too challenging, the person may be unhappy because of the constant anxiety of trying to complete work outside of their current skill set.

But I do realize a reality check is needed in the real world, in that not all work situations will provide the opportunity for everyone to be in the flow channel. At some point we must all feel some discomfort to grow in our abilities. However, I feel that as a project manager/leader, the fact that time is taken to discuss with a person the work at hand and how it impacts an individual goes a long way in ensuring team members know you do care and want the best for them. And, that in itself can be a positive factor in many work environments.