Rally Your Team: How To Build Internal Momentum
Ready to hear something obvious?
You can’t deliver success on your own.
Great, so now that we have established that, let’s look at how you are going to ensure you have the support that you need to create a High Value PMO. Your team is the backbone to your success. They will be with you through the highs and lows, so it is crucial to have them committed and onboard. To ensure you have that, let’s explore how to build momentum within your team, no matter the current state of its morale.
Elevating from Despair to Evangelism
There’s a concerning trend that I’ve seen across too many of my client’s PMOs. The staff within these PMOs have grown worn, cynical and lifeless. It’s usually the result of being stuck in the Administrative Death Cycle (covered in this post). If you don’t have time to read the post, here’s the visual summary:
When your PMO is stuck in the cycle, often the staff can intuitively see the writing on the wall, but they stick around because, hey, at least it’s a pay cheque.
However, even if your team isn’t stuck in the depths of despair – not enough PMO staff are willing to stand at the top of a building and shout glory for their PMO! (…or at least talk up the cool things that their PMO is doing for their colleagues).
So, no matter where you and your team are, there is probably room for growth.
It’s time to introduce to you to The Momentum Path.
The Momentum Path enables you to diagnose the current momentum level of each member of your team, and then provides you a clear strategy on what to put in place to build to continue to grow.
When considering momentum, you must look at two key elements – Hope and Energy.
For clarity here, I’m not talking about energy in a pseudo-science sense, or even an electrical one. I’m using the term energy closer the way that one could describe a 4-year-old child, i.e., ‘Full of Energy’.
Hope, on the other hand can be thought of as a blend of the belief in the validity and usefulness of the work being done and an optimism for their personal future as part of this work.
What I’ve found is that the higher the energy and hope within your team, the higher the momentum. It makes sense then, that these two elements form the x and y axes for The Momentum Path. Plotted within you will find 5 levels:
- Motivated, and
These 5 levels cover the breadth of momentum types that you are going to work with as you build a High Value PMO.
To put these into context for you, a team at its lowest point – Despair, has no interest in their work. They will be producing low to no useful output and will have no vacation or sick days left (as the days are taken as soon as they are available).
On the other hand, a team at its highest point – Evangelist will be eagerly engaging in each conversation, thriving with excitement to share new ideas. They will be talking about your PMO with friends and family. Teams with high momentum love coming to work, and truly believe in what they are doing.
Clearly, we want less Despair and more Evangelism.
Identifying Where You (and Your Team) Are
Organisational energy is intangible – the measurement of which is not as simple as looking at a balance sheet (although sometimes there are some clues there).
Typically, qualitative measurements would need to be used here to gauge the levels of energy and hope. So, think surveys, focus groups, etc.
However, I’ve found that one of the most effective methods of gauging organisational energy is simply observing.
Momentum is felt rather than seen.
So, my advice here is trust your gut. If you’ve been working with your team for longer than a few weeks, then you will have picked up enough of a sense of the culture to be able to make a judgement.
But, for those who prefer a more analytical approach, feel free to release your inner Sherlock Holmes and look for clues in:
- The level of absenteeism,
- Time spent on non-work activity (e.g., surfing the internet),
- The general ‘buzz’ and franticness of your team – or a lack thereof,
- Regular high or low moods,
- An inability to deal with stress,
- High or low change resistance,
- Change fatigue and exhaustion.
Strategies To Level Up
What’s interesting with the Momentum Path is that the strategy for one level is different to the strategy for another.
In other words, as Marshall Goldsmith says:
“What got you here, won’t get you there”.
Let’s spend some time together and explore what’s needed to level up your momentum.
A quick note here before we dive into the specifics for each level. You may have noticed in the earlier diagram that the first few levels almost seem to stack on top of each other, then the last few spread out wide to the right. This is to reflect a crucial point.
Hope precedes Energy.
First, we must find ways to create Hope. Then, and only then, can we look to generate energy.
From Despair to Fearful
Those in Despair suffer from a complete and utter lack of hope. These people despise coming into work every day and are very likely miserable. They almost always feel stuck, because if they didn’t you can be sure they would have moved on already.
A primary factor for those in Despair is the feeling that their work at your organisation doesn’t matter, so they have given up and will just do the bare minimum to get by.
Key Strategies for Those in Despair
We humans rarely change our minds without some form of new information or catalyst to excuse the change. This is especially so with strongly held negative views.
Your aim here is to discretely give those in Despair the permission to change their mind. None of us want to feel we are inconsistent, so there needs to be a notable change in something around them.
Give those in despair an excuse to build even the slightest semblance of hope again. This requires a physical change in either one or more of the following:
- Who (their team),
- What (their work),
- When (their timetabling),
- Where (their location), or
- How (their systems and processes).
Keep in mind though, that these changes will be met with absolute cynicism by those in Despair. The flicker of hope may not be obvious, but it will be there.
From Fearful to Hopeful
Those in Fearful have just a small seed of hope – they wish for more but are characterised by a disproportionate level of fear and skepticism.
Often fueled by previous experiences where they were left behind, embarrassed, or not considered – the work output from this group is also low, usually still only the bare minimum.
An extremely common theme for those in the fearful position is again a feeling that the work they do adds no real value to the organisation. However, unlike those in Despair, the Fearful haven’t given up. Instead, they may well have good ideas but avoid instigating any change in case it places their position at risk.
Key Strategies for Those in Fearful
To create hope in this group we must attack on two fronts:
First, we must provide a way for them to complete low challenge but highly valuable work – with a clear linkage to organisational success. We are aiming to build up the belief that they do belong.
Second, we must address and overcome their fears. Key fears include embarrassment, trespassing norms, low skills, a lack of self-alignment, being taken advantage of, tall poppy syndrome and one of the worst – wasted and meaningless work. Use your intuition and empathy to dial in on which of the fears is at play. Then form a strategy to slowly counter the fear.
From Hopeful to Motivated
Those in Hopeful want to do good for the organisation but are risk-adverse. They are unsure of either their fit, contribution or skillset. Most new staff start here.
Key Strategies for Those in Hopeful
We are now transitioning from those that are skeptical of the organisation (Despair and Fearful) to those that neutral and open. What this means for our strategies is that we are switching from a path of overcoming fears and baggage to one of generating motivation. Motivation is built on three key paths – challenge, empowerment, and clear contribution.
Challenge: While we provided low challenge, high contribution opportunities for those in Fearful, those in Hopeful want to prove ‘they can do it’. This means that they need an escalating set of challenges. Conquering one encourages progress to the next. Gamification strategies like ‘leveling up’ and tiered rewards can be useful to pursue and implement here.
Empowerment: We must provide those that are hopeful with the opportunity to self-select. What this means is that, while we may provide a path of increasing challenge, the Hopeful must be able to select and have input into what the next challenge will be. Two-way trust is essential here.
Clear Contribution: We must protect those that are hopeful against any backward slide that could be caused by meaningless work. It’s crucial that their work has real meaning for the organisation and the PMO’s forward movement. In other words, there must be a clearly visible path through the following.
Organisational Strategy ->
Strategic Plan ->
Personal Plan ->
Personal Results ->
From Motivated to Evangelist
Those in Motivated are fantastic contributors for your PMO and organisation more broadly. They are highly reliable, self-driven members of staff who are taking action to ensure a good result for both themselves and your organisation.
There is, however, one step higher – ‘Evangelism’.
Evangelists don’t just like coming to work – they love it. Their obsessions drive them. They actively self-label as being a part of your organisation, not just working for it. They advocate internally for you with any staff that are at lower momentum levels, and are beacons of light within your area, groups and teams.
Key Strategies for Those in Motivated
Building Evangelists is difficult, second only to building hope for those stuck in Despair. The key strategies to build this group are:
- Build a Shared Vision: This includes involvement in not just decision but design. It includes co-design, radical knowledge sharing and regular feedback as you grow your PMO into a service-centred powerhouse.
- Build Camaraderie: Create mechanisms for sharing and recognition among their peers. This encourages ownership and will produce new ideas for your PMO.
- Use targeted self-labelling and self-alignment: Create a label that makes sense for this group to align with (e.g. ‘Person X’ is our internal expert on ‘Topic Y’), and then provide them public exposure under that very label. No matter the result of the public exposure, these individuals will start to self-identify under that label. Use this wisely.
Maintaining High Momentum
Like an engine under power, your team’s momentum can be ‘revved higher’ through the strategies we just discussed. However, similar to an engine – without proper care, the ongoing friction of everyday work will take its toll on your team’s momentum.
Counter this by keeping in mind the two key measures for your team. Hope, and Energy.
If you start to see or feel a drop in either of these, then it’s likely that one of more of your team are sliding down the Momentum Path. Check in, evaluate where they are, and then reapply the strategies as needed.
The people in your PMO are responsible for every result your PMO produces. Don’t waste them – build momentum, harness the talent, generate the energy – and watch your results improve out of sight.
Take a moment and consider, where is your PMO on the Momentum Path?
 Yourself included.
 Which of course echoes the great work in Daniel Pink’s ‘Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us’.