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Getting Apps Done

Motivating a Development Team: The Intro!

January 22, 2019

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Joshua and Kellen introduce the concept of motivation on a development team. The first in a 4 part series! Motivation is a big topic! In this episode, we discuss what a motivated person looks like on a team and how that differs from being productive.

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  • 00:02 Joshua

    Welcome to getting apps done, a mostly nontechnical podcast with the goal of helping you deliver software, because if you didn't ship it, it didn't happen. All right. Hey folks, it's been a little while. I know. I know. It's Christmas time. We're leading up to things and we're busy doing other things and well, you know, it just hasn't happened, but we were chatting and we were talking about some developers and some other team members on project development teams that we've been looking at and wondering what exactly does a motivated developer or team member look like?

  • 00:38 Kellen

    We have loads of ideas, but I guess we can start with the easy one. The motivated employee in terms of what you want them to be motivated about. You want them to be motivated to solve your business problems, so the problems that are bugging you, the, the problems that your customers care about, all of the problems that are building up in your backlog. Those are the ones that you want people to be motivated about. And so those are kinda the, the, the real, when we say motivated, that's the part where we're kind of focusing on

  • 01:08 Joshua

    Yes, because absolutely they could be motivated about completely different things, like getting you to go away.

  • 01:15 Kellen

    There is, yeah...

  • 01:17 Joshua

    That's not an uncommon situation where you have developers who are highly motivated at getting the directors, managers, anybody like that to go away the meetings just to end, please god end meeting, but that's not the motivation we're looking for here. We actually want them getting stuff done that's valuable to the company. So we want to look at what that looks like and probably break this down into multiple sessions where we discuss why they might not be motivated, how to get them motivated in the things you want them to be interested in and what the steps are in between there.

  • 01:51 Kellen

    Yeah. So I guess the first one looked like recognizing especially like if you already have a team, you probably have at least one person who is motivated at least part of the time. So you've seen this behavior, you know what it looks like. Um, so you have the, you have this one, the one person or multiple people that you can, you can hand a task to and it comes back fixed. They, they take care of it themselves, they, they plow through it, they get through it, they solved all of the issues around it without having to constantly bug you or you know, that that's kind of the motivation that you're looking for. Not, not just looking or acting motivated, but motivated to solve the problem and just get it done.

  • 02:28 Joshua

    That's the key there. They're getting stuff done. And in fact, they're getting apps done. We had to put it in one cheesy line somewhere. It just, it had to happen. I'm sorry.

  • 02:40 Kellen

    I was expecting around episode 50 or so.

  • 02:43 Joshua

    Episode 50? I have a goal to get at least one in per episode. What's the fun if we can't have a few cheesy moments?

  • 02:53 Kellen

    Well that's the motivation.

  • 02:55 Joshua

    That's the motivation behind what we're doing. Cheesy moments. Uh, maybe that's not the motivation we're looking for here.

  • 03:03 Kellen

    But yeah, getting it done.

  • 03:05 Joshua

    Uh, so yeah, not only are they getting it done, they're actively looking for the best way to solve the problem they're looking for maybe not the best way, but good ways to solve the problem. They're looking at what the constraints are and then looking at ways that they can work within your business to provide some real value for you. And that's actually their goal. That's their mission. And you can clearly tell that's what they're trying to do. There are asking the right questions, they're doing the right things that go into the right people that are participating and actually involved in the project heavily. And you know, you can rely on them because they're doing all these things. They are getting stuff done and they're getting the right stuff done in the right sort of way. There are lots of different ways to do things. There are also some really wrong ways to do things. And uh, I've seen my fair share of people doing those wrong things as well. But the highly motivated ones are looking for the right things to be doing.

  • 03:55 Kellen

    And I think it's kind of important to realize that they might not look or act motivated or even be the most qualified person to solve those problems. There's simply the ones getting it done. For example, we, at a previous employer, we hired some folks to do kinda like the kind of project management and like the technical management of installing the software. And they hired this guy who was barely qualified for the job, for something that was a very technical job when he missing most of the qualifications around that. But he was motivated. So every time he came in, he, you know, he couldn't solve the question, the solve the problem using technical skills he would ask somebody, figure it out, you know, Google search, apply himself. And within six months he was one of the best employees even though he's still very technically not the best, but he was getting all the things done by knowing who to ask, what to ask, and not being afraid to ask or try things and fail and then try again to fix it. So it wasn't necessarily the obvious motivated employee, but ended up being a very valuable one.

  • 04:59 Joshua

    That's actually another sign that they are really motivated because it tends to be people who are highly motivated, they're not just getting things done, but they're really enthusiastic about it. They're going all over the place trying to find anybody with the right answers or whatever resources they can. They are really pulling all their weight to get things done and they're enthusiastic about it. They're excited about what's going on. Not always bouncing off the walls, excited. Excited doesn't always mean that they're ecstatic and jumping up and down about everything, but you can tell that developers in particular I've noticed or any sort of engineering type role when they're on a roll or the finding something or they're really excited about what they're doing, you can clearly see it. They're just head down, really getting into it and they're looking up things and they're really getting on with it and that's another good sign that they're obviously highly motivated if they're excited about what they're doing.

  • 05:51 Kellen

    Yeah, and the, part of the motivation to like on any, anything that you work on in the motivation, you're generally trying to solve problems. Like even, even when you completely ignore development and do like art, you're motivated to draw something like you're, you're trying to, trying to do something and then you get excited when you solve a problem and learn a new way to do something and that that definitely applies to your job. Like it's, it's more exciting when it's interesting and so the problems themselves can become interesting even if you, even if you don't actually want to solve them, but the, that feeling of when it is solved, of, of taking a difficult problem and solving it is, is motivating in its own right. So that's kind of self reinforcing. Once they get good at it, you do it more. Bigger and more challenging problems.

  • 06:35 Joshua

    Absolutely. It's like a drug, but yeah, but that's actually a really valid point there, that they're excited because they are learning things that they're interested in and they're achieving goals that they're interested in. And that's exactly what you're looking for because if they are motivated by what you want them to be motivated by, that's what you're going to see that are going to be excited about achieving goals. If on the other hand, they're really not motivated at all, you're not gonna see that level of excitement because even if you're learning new things, if you really don't care about it at all or have any interest in what you're doing, you're not going to be enthusiastic about it. You're not going to be excited about learning how to do this random new framework or whatever it is that they're picking up because they need to do that for their job. If there's no investment on their part in what they're doing, no goals, no goals that they are interested in specifically, then you're not going to see that enthusiasm. Enthusiasm is a really good indicator that they are highly motivated in what they're doing

  • 07:44 Kellen

    And we'll definitely get into more topics on how to achieve that motivation. But yeah, it does help a lot to have goals beyond just whatever it is that you're working on. Like even if it's just to get, you know, customer x off your back, that that is a goal. You'll be amazed what you'll learn just to get rid of a really bad customer, but that's also a good thing. You got it done, you got them fixed, you got them happy, things are solved and then the next time someone like that comes along, you know how to handle it.

  • 08:12 Joshua

    Agreed. Now I agree on this, but my next thing is all about arguing, which may sound really bizarre, but actually a really good sign that an employee is motivated and invested in what they're doing is they're gonna argue with you and we're not talking about shouting at each other down the hallway or anything like that, but a lot of the time if they aren't motivated, you'll find that people will just agree to everything. Or it's usually a sign that either they're not paying attention to you at all or they just don't care enough to argue with you. So I think it's a really good sign when they are so interested in what they're doing and involved and invested that they're willing to step up and argue with you when they think you're wrong or when they think that you're going in a different direction than they would or whatever it may be. They're telling you what they think and

  • 09:03 Kellen

    That is a great example

  • 09:04 Joshua

    and giving you their opinions. Yeah.

  • 09:06 Kellen

    Yeah. That is definitely a great example of seeing how engaged the folks are with, especially with whatever problem that you're working on, if they don't care at all, but arguing and having an idea and weighing, you know, the situation differently based off their own skillset really does show that they've thought about it. They haven't, like you said, they have an opinion.

  • 09:27 Joshua

    It's true participation because everybody has an opinion on pretty much everything. It doesn't matter what you're doing somewhere somebody's got an opinion on it and if nobody's voicing any of these opinions, there's something wrong.

  • 09:38 Kellen

    Yeah. And you can. It is definitely possible to. They don't necessarily have to argue, but you know, everyone might actually agree. Might everyone might have the same opinion, but there is a difference between the silent agreeing verse like vocally. Yeah, that's absolutely a great idea from everybody and you got to learn how to tell the difference.

  • 09:57 Joshua

    Yeah, and even if they do agree, that's actually a good point. They may all agree, but in general everybody's going to have a slightly different take, so that's another thing to look for them may not be arguing necessarily, but they are adding and enhancing something that somebody else has said. Again, if they're not doing that, it may just be that they don't have anything to add, enhance, but if they're never speaking up and adding anything to the conversation, that's a huge sign that they aren't motivated at all in what they're doing.

  • 10:28 Kellen

    It might be a sign that they are afraid to say anything, which is even a bigger problem.

  • 10:33 Joshua

    Well actually, that's a very good point. It may be that they are motivated, but they're terrified of what could happen if they do speak up and that's another thing that we probably should talk about and one of these how to motivate and allow your developers or your team in general to perform better and fear is, it's a huge factor in a lot of businesses.

  • 10:55 Kellen

    Absolutely. I mean the stick and the carrot is the normal way of motivating employees and honestly they're both kind of iffy depending on how you're using them. If everyone's just afraid of getting whacked over the head, you know, every 10 minutes, if they do anything wrong, you're not going to get a lot of motivation.

  • 11:13 Joshua

    Yeah. That's not like carrot sticks is it. If you do something wrong, you will get carrot sticks.

  • 11:21 Kellen

    Carrots are delicious. They're bright orange. They're also like 90 percent sugar and fiber.

  • 11:27 Joshua

    They are that and they help you see in the dark.

  • 11:31 Kellen

    Cries of the carrots... I did want to mention before we went though that they're like, they're motivated employee because we've been talking about like what they look like, but we really wanted to emphasize that this is something that can be encouraged. That can be, that can be an employee, can become. Like you don't. You don't have to. You don't hire a motivated employee. That's something that you kind of, you help bring about. By creating a good environment for. So that's kind of a, an important part that not only you know, that that's what we want to do in these next, uh, the next kind of related topics is talk about how to motivate people. But that's actually how these people would come about is a good manager taught them how to be this person.

  • 12:13 Joshua

    Agreed. Not just taught them, but actually encouraged them to tell you what they need because they know better than anybody else what they need to be motivated and creating an environment that makes it safe for them to talk to you and tell you what they need and how you can make things better for them and make them feel more invested and motivated is actually a big key piece in this.

  • 12:36 Kellen

    Yeah, I think we have like at least an entire episode of, uh, examples on just that topic.

  • 12:44 Joshua

    You're telling me I took notes before this. I've got about 12 pages.

  • 12:48 Kellen

    It's a big topic that's very important and probably the most important thing I can think of of actually getting a, getting a team to build what you want in reasonable times, to get the best know the best solutions to the problems, your business problems, your customer problems your just day to day development problems. Like that is probably the biggest impact right there.

  • 13:10 Joshua

    Agreed. And it is a core piece of building a team and I think what we will do is we will break this down into a few different episodes because as Kellen says, it is a huge topic and I don't think we can talk about it. Well, we probably could talk about it all in one episode, but by the end of it, everybody would fall asleep and they'd hate us. So we'll break it down into five or six bite size chunks and will start to release those as we can. That's all for today though. So we'll toss up some transcripts at Please check out my website as well at and absolutely check out Kellen's website at And don't forget to subscribe to the podcast and check out our website. If you have some ideas for how to promote and encourage employees and help to motivate them, we'd love to hear about that. So drop us a line and, uh, we'll uh, see if we can include you in a new episode soon. Thanks for listening.

  • 14:02 Kellen