If I offered you $100 now or $150 tomorrow, which would you take? All other things being equal, the obvious choice is the $150.
But what if I offered you the $150 in a year from now? Now you might have second thoughts about waiting. But why? You should still accept the $150 – it’s a much better investment option (a 50% annual return is better than you can get almost anywhere else). However, most people don’t think that way. We tend to devalue something if it’s further away. Even if it’s a better rational choice, our emotional brain wants the immediate reward.
This applies to your team members as well. On a long project, you are motivated by the milestones and end date because you can see how they contribute to the overall project, but they aren’t. It doesn’t matter how much you talk about the rewards and sense of achievement (or, conversely, penalties and sense of failure), it just doesn’t matter to them – unless you bring the future closer.
You can try to do this by giving them smaller tasks and shorter deadlines, but that doesn’t help them build better judgement. If you want to lift them up, there are better options.
- Involve them more in the planning process, rather than just assigning them tasks based on your plan.
- Explain how their tasks contribute to the overall project, and how that in turns contributes to the organisation’s goals.
- Include intermediate goals (you might call them milestones, lead measures, or KPIs) that involve the team goals and organisation goals, not just their own.
- Be transparent about sharing information, even if it’s not directly related to their current role.
- Recognise and celebrate milestones along the way.
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