As a project manager, manager, or even an individual contributor, it is important to understand that there are different types of employees.  Each type of employee requires different things to inspire and motivate them.  Understanding these different types of people can help you understand your project team more. 

When you consider the four personality types of enthusiastic beginners, disillusioned learners, reluctant contributors, and peak performers, the focus can impact each type.  Being able to understand where an employee is during their employment is important for a leader so they can understand how to work with that employee.  The enthusiastic beginner may be low in confidence but has strong commitment.  In contrast the disillusioned learner is low in competence but also does not have strong commitment.  The ones that are high in competence but low in commitment are reluctant contributors, and the peak performers are high in both competence and commitment (Casullo, 2012)1.

If the focus is on the individual that is an enthusiastic beginner this type of employee may thrive with the attention; where if it is on a team, they may in time become less enthusiastic.  This is because the employee is low in competence but high in commitment.  An example of this type is a now program manager than I mentored about five years ago.  She started as a junior project manager with little experience or knowledge.  With the focus on her learning and coupled with her enthusiasm to learn and commitment, within six months she was quickly out performing other senior project managers.  If I would have focused on the team, I fear this employee may have lost her drive.

For the disillusioned learner having a focus on the individual has the opportunity to increase their commitment while increasing their competence.  If the focus was on the team, this could easily turn this employee into what I would term a disillusioned contributor, one that is low in competence and low in commitment.

The reluctant contributor to me is a person that you just cannot please.  With relatively high competence, but low commitment the key to me would be to find what inspires this individual so individual focus is needed. 

For the peak performers, these are the ones that are often forgotten about because they always deliver.  With high competence and commitment these are the individuals that can be counted on and are seen as reliable.  For these individuals, I would look at the individual more closely as they may be fine staying out of the limelight and are often more concerned about the team than themselves; where others may find that the simple words of ‘great job’ is what keep them in this category.

So, what do you do when you are a project manager and have these different types of employees working on your team?  That is simple…get to know them.  Some of these types, such as the peak performer, will quickly become known to you since you will find yourself going to this person for many reasons.  For others such as the reluctant contributor or the disillusioned learner it may take more time to identify these individuals.  As a project manager, in my opinion, you are in a leadership role and the expectation should be that you understand your team.  By taking this time to get to know them, this can reap enormous benefits.

In the past when I have managed projects, I took the time to learn about each of my project team members.  Many of these team members soon became committed to helping me complete the project successfully and without them, this would not have been possible.  Some looked forward and asked if they could even work on the next project with me.  This is the type of response you want from your project team; you never want to hear the words ‘I have to work with them again’.

One of the things I spend my time on with project managers today, is how to appreciate and understand their project teams.  Helping them realize that the project is more about them and less about you as a project manager.  A project manager needs to be willing and happy to share and give away the credit, after all without them there would be no success.  Let them know that they are the ones that are the key to success, and that you appreciate everything they do.  Make sure you listen to them and really hear what they are saying both verbally and through action.  Take the time to sit with them and listen to their concerns.  They are actually closer to what is going on than you are. 


  1.  Casullo, D. (2012). Leading the High-Energy Culture. McGraw-Hill.

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Alyce Reopelle

Alyce Reopelle

Author, Speaker, Project / Program / PMO Thought Leader

Over 20 years project management experience with a passion for helping organizations grow their PMO, their project managers, and their teams.  My passion has taken me to the pursuit of a Doctor of Education, as I enjoy seeing the proverbial light bulb come on.  I am a believer in continuous growth and improvement, and believe that an organizations culture and environment is what drives the growth of PMOs and all areas, and not the other way around.

Alyce is available to speak at conferences, organizational events, organizational training opportunities and more.  Contact Alyce via her website at  - CLICK HERE

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