Can a project manager be too motivated?

An unmotivated project manager is obviously not good for a project. He has difficulty motivating others and he will have difficulty completing all tasks on time. Motivation is therefore essential for the job of a project manager. But how much motivation is necessary? A lot helps a lot? Unfortunately not in this case. Even an excess of motivation can be problematic. So how do you deal with overmotivation and what can you do to find a healthy level?
Businessman on a tricycle with a rocket on his back.

Different people - different motivations

All people have something that drives them inside. Motivation plays a role in all areas of life and is often decisive for success or failure, including project management. In a critical situation, the level of motivation of a project manager and therefore often of his team can make the decisive difference and avert disaster or provide the important impetus needed to achieve success. Just as motivation can help, it can also hinder. Therefore, every project manager must always keep his or her inner motives and motivations in mind. What are you driven by? Do you want perfection? Do you always want to get everything done as quickly as possible? What makes you tick? It is important to answer these questions honestly, because if you know what drives you, you can react to it. This way you avoid the risk that your inner motivations push you in the wrong direction.

Motivation types in PM

Dr. Taibi Kahler developed and studied the concept of different types of motivation in the 1970s. Among the different types of motivated people there is the "workhorse", a PM who is always driven to work more and more diligently. The "workhorse" is convinced that success only depends on hard work. Usually this type of manager has a great deal of stamina and perseverance. Unfortunately, sometimes this also means that he is only satisfied when the work is demanding. If everything goes too smoothly, the workaholics are worried. The only thing that helps here is to remind oneself from time to time that one can be lucky, that work can sometimes be fun and that it doesn't have to hurt to be successful.
The second type of motivated project manager is the "powerhouse". His motto is to always show strength and to push himself to new best performances. He likes to see himself as a hero who can basically do almost everything on his own and who can't be beaten. If this attitude is exaggerated, it can also become a problem if, for example, it is appropriate to ask for help and the powerhouse won't admit it to himself.

Powerful, hectic or everybody's darling

The third type according to Kahler is the "hectic person", who is always driven by the desire to achieve fast results. He wants to encourage everyone to work as fast as possible and easily gets impatient if certain things don't go as fast as he imagines. The good thing about hectic people is that they can carry others along and drive them forward. However, if their drive becomes too strong, this over-motivation leads to a certain hectic pace rubbing off on others, creating disgruntlement and thus conflicts, which can lead to mistakes. It is good for over-motivated hectic people to try to find inner peace every now and then and to remember that this is where the power lies.
The fourth guy is "Everybody's Darling" who wants to please everybody. Managers of this type don't want to be rejected and want to please everybody. Sounds good, but in practice it is actually not possible. For a team, it is great if the project manager has empathy and wants to listen to and consider the needs of everyone. But if you have problems setting a limit or saying no to someone for fear of putting them off, you should concentrate on keeping the project goals in mind and aligning your strategy with them. Everybody's Darling has to be aware that for the good of the project, a firm standpoint has to be taken now and then and that an unsatisfied interlocutor has to be accepted.
The fifth person Kahler has named is the "perfectionist". This guy wants everything to be perfect at all times. Sounds exhausting, utopian and difficult. In general, perfectionism is not a bad quality to a certain extent. Perfectionists, however, must consciously encourage themselves to let fives be straight in some project phases. Sometimes you have to settle for 99 or 90 %, especially under time pressure. Perfectionists also often judge their results to be worse than others would, so they can loosen the reins a bit.

Tips for highly motivated project managers

It is clearly interesting for project managers to look for their own drive. Which of these five types of motivation suits you best and where do you see yourself? Does it happen that your motivation overwhelms you and you overshoot the mark? Then identify your drive and your motto to keep it in check when it threatens to become overpowering again. There is also no shame in getting support from employees.
Author: IAPM intern

Keywords: Management, Project Management, Management Culture, Motivation, Motivation Type

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