Episode 140 – What’s Your Why? Ignite Your Project

Original Air Date

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45 Minutes
Home Manage This Podcast Episode 140 – What’s Your Why? Ignite Your Project

About This Episode

Doreen Linneman

“Why you work determines how well you work.” Our guest Doreen Linneman is passionate about helping people, professionally and personally, find and live their best life. Doreen says that the cornerstone of mental toughness is finding your life Why. Join us to hear her professional story, how she identified her Why, and the impact it has had in her life.

People will often mistake goals and Whys. For a project manager there is value in discovering the Why behind project goals and knowing how to differentiate between the two. Doreen explains how finding our Why impacts how well we lead a project, and enables team members to stay focused and motivated to finish the project successfully. Listen in to hear advice on how to create team alignment when individual Whys might be very different. Building trust, being transparent, and having the courage to model the right behavior, are ways that we can work towards having a more ignited and engaged team. Doreen gives valuable advice on resilience, motivation, adaptability, and “growing your grit” to help project managers envision their potential and build stronger teams.

Doreen is the founder and leader of The Riverbend Group, LLC®, an international people and organizational development company focused on management consulting, professional development, and teambuilding. Doreen also created Prepare To Roar®, an adventure-based learning® company which takes leadership and professional development out of the “boardroom” and into nature – to exotic locations such as Africa and Belize. She is a Master Trainer in LIFO Behavior and Communication Styles, a certified Mental Toughness facilitator and trainer, and has completed the Navy SEALFIT Leadership Academy.

Learn More About Our Course: Crave Your Goals! Motivate Your Team And Get Things Done

Favorite Quotes from Episode

"It’s just such a perfect opportunity to put a stake in the ground and be like, what do I want to be remembered for? Who do I want to serve? How do I want to be? What is the legacy I’ll want to be? And to start to make that shift. And if it seems daunting, then you go back to those micro goals. …but now is the time, because what you will not regret are making the changes."

Doreen Linneman

"Why you work determines how well you work. … why you were on this project determines how well you’re going to do on this project. So slowing down and figuring out the whys of each project or the whys of your company only tee you up for greater success."

Doreen Linneman

The podcast by project manager for project managers. “Why you work determines how well you work.” Finding our Why impacts how well we lead a project, and enables team members to stay focused and motivated to finish the project successfully. Listen in for valuable advice on resilience, motivation, and “growing your grit” to help project managers envision their potential and build stronger teams.

Table of Contents

03:25 … Finding Your Why: A Look at Past Guests
06:58 … Prepare To Roar Expeditions
08:32 … The Riverbend Group
09:18 … Embarking on a Major career Change
11:08 … Doreen’s Story: Identifying Her Why
12:48 … The Impact of Your Why
14:01 … Relating the Why to Projects
16:27 … Project Teams: Aligning Your Whys
19:27 … Making it a Priority
21:43 … Goals vs. Whys
24:34 … Cultural Drivers Affecting our Choices
30:35 … Resilience and Long Term Goals
32:26 … Misconceptions about Motivation
34:19 … Becoming Motivated
36:39 … Key Factors of staying Motivated
37:57 … Our Differences and Growing Grit
39:34 … Are You at a Crossroads?
42:40 … Get in Touch with Doreen
44:01 … Closing

DOREEN LINNEMAN: …and because of that the world is just reeling with change, and change is happening all the time.  And as scary as that is, the beauty about that is people’s postures are open for change.  Normally as humans we resist change.  But people are expectant for change.  They have just been forced to do it.  It’s like, oh, what’s coming next?  And with that is a gift.  It’s a huge gift for all of us.  If we laser focus here on just being your professional legacy, very rarely do you get the opportunity to change it, or to change a trajectory.  Really the only time you get to do it is when you leave a company.  Right?  And you get to start over and build up reputation from scratch.

What’s beautiful about the situation of moving past and through COVID is that, again, everybody is expectant to change.  And quite frankly, if you’re a leader who doesn’t change, I mean, shame on you.  How could you not go through what we’ve just gone through and not lead differently?  Right?  Your people want you to.  They’re ready for you to.  It’s just such a perfect opportunity to put a stake in the ground and be like, what do I want to be remembered for?  Who do I want to serve?  How do I want to be?  What is the legacy I’ll want to be?  And to start to make that shift.  And if it seems daunting, then you go back to those micro goals. …but now is the time, because what you will not regret are making the changes.

WENDY GROUNDS:  You’re listening to Manage This, the podcast by project managers for project managers.  I am Wendy Grounds, and joining me is Bill Yates.  We’re so glad that you’re joining us today.  And if you enjoy this episode, please visit us at Velociteach.com.  You can leave a comment for us on our Manage This Podcast page.  We always like hearing from you. And remember you can still claim your free PDUs.   Our PDU claim page has the new instructions.  Make sure not to use the autofill, but type in “Velociteach” and the title when you are submitting your PDUs.  So I’m very excited.  Today we have a guest in the studio with us.

BILL YATES:  Yes.     

WENDY GROUNDS:  And we always love getting to personally meet our guests and not have to talk on Skype all the time.


WENDY GROUNDS:  Doreen Linneman is a keynote speaker, she focuses on management consulting, professional development team building.  She really takes leadership and professional development out of the boardroom and into nature, doesn’t she.

BILL YATES:  Yes, she does.  That’s an understatement.  She’s got three companies that she started, and one’s called Prepare to Roar.  We’ll hear more about that.  But that involves taking leaders out of the boardroom, out of the conference rooms and  all the coffee and doughnuts, and putting them in nature and having them face some of their biggest fears, like these gorillas or sharks or different things like that.

WENDY GROUNDS:  She’s got some incredible stories.  I’ve also noticed in her bio she’s a certified mental toughness facilitator and trainer, and she’s completed the Navy SEALFIT Leadership Academy.  So she’s got some punch there.

BILL YATES:  Yes, absolutely.  She has got some game.  I can’t wait to have Doreen talk with us about her experiences.  And she’s an accomplished athlete, as well.  She’s finished the Ironman Triathlon three times, which is just amazing.  So we’re delighted to have her here in our studio to share some of her wisdom with us.

Finding Your Why: A Look at Past Guests

WENDY GROUNDS:  One of the main topics we’re talking about is the why, or the purpose behind the what of what we do.  And we’re going to get deeper into that with Doreen when we talk with her.  But while we were talking about this, Bill and I just went through some of our past episodes on our podcast, and looked at guests that we’ve had who’ve had very strong whys.

BILL YATES:  Yeah.  Oh, yeah.  Let me just start with one.  Episode 86 we talked with Doc Watson, and that was on saving rhinos with Connected Conservation.  Here’s a quote from Doc:  “I think there was almost a calling, if I could call it that, where I could marry technology to conservation and have a look at saving species.”

WENDY GROUNDS:  More recently we talked to Jody Staruk, and she is a woman who’s leading the way in construction projects.  And she had been asked to be the first female executive of her company.  And in Episode 132, the quote she gave was to her boss.  She said:  “You’re asking me to be the first female executive of the company, which means it can’t fail because, whether it’s my decision or not, it will never be viewed that way.  I don’t want to send that message to younger women in the company.”  And so she took on a big task, and she succeeded.

BILL YATES:  Yes, she did, yes.  The desire to help others and step beyond yourself, that theme came out.  Mark Von Tillow, Episode 80:  In Case of Fire, Handle With Courage.  Mark said he was moved into what he does after his father’s sudden passing.  And to quote Mark:  “That was really my first exposure to that.  And I thought, you know, I’d like to be that person someday, trying to help somebody.  So that’s really where it started.”

WENDY GROUNDS:  We could go on all day and just do a podcast quoting our guests.  You know, they’ve made an impact on us.  They’ve touched us with their story.  And one that’s really touched my heart is Peter Baines.  This was Episode 126:  Leading Through Tragedy, Finding Purpose.  And I’m just going to read Peter’s quote.  He says:  “We need to understand our real clarity of purpose, or why we do what we do.  And for leaders it’s when we should be bringing that into our teams.”  He has an amazing story of going through tragedy of seeing the tsunami victims and why he went to help the children there.

BILL YATES:  A final one that I’ve got to mention, Dr. James Crowe, Episode 124:  A Vital Project – Pursuing Antibody Science in a Pandemic.  Dr. Crowe shared that he started out as a pediatrician.  And just to quote him:  “Ultimately I trained as an infectious disease specialist to try to work on prevention of disease, infectious diseases particularly, for the world’s most vulnerable people.  And that ultimately led me to science.”  So again, that motivation and kind of the story behind the story with those who have gone on to do projects that make such a difference in the world.


BILL YATES:  Wendy, this is crazy.  We could talk all day about some of these guests and some of the things that have motivated them with their projects.  I’m just thinking about orbital space debris.  I’m thinking about removing plastic from the oceans.  There are so many examples.  I’m really excited to be able to have this conversation with Doreen.

WENDY GROUNDS:  Yes.  Doreen, we’re so glad to have you here today.  Thank you for joining us.

DOREEN LINNEMAN:  Oh, thank you so much.  I am fired up to be here this morning, really excited.

WENDY GROUNDS:  I’m glad to hear you’re fired up because I know you’ve just had a bit of jet lag coming in.

DOREEN LINNEMAN:  Yes.  I had 10 hours and 45 minutes of sleep last night, so I am amazing.


DOREEN LINNEMAN:  I think I’ve conquered the Serengeti jet lag for sure.

Prepare to Roar Expedition

WENDY GROUNDS:  Why don’t you tell us about that?  Tell us about the trip you’ve been on.

DOREEN LINNEMAN:  Yeah, I just got back from a Prepare to Roar expedition, which is one of my companies.  And it’s kind of this unique intersection of blood and wine or sweat and wine.  It’s all about helping people professionally or personally find and live their best life, goal-setting.  I get corporate executives come.  I get families.  And I get teams.  And this one was all about goal-setting.  We use the big cats of the Serengeti – the lions, leopards, and cheetahs – to teach us about identifying your prey or your goal, and then design your hunting strategy.  So I just left four or five executives fired up to finish their 2021 strong.

BILL YATES:  How long were you there?

DOREEN LINNEMAN:  For the program, this particular program was five nights in the Serengeti.  And then I stayed a little bit extra to sharpen my saw when it comes to identifying birds by sound.  And my guides, I’m an expert on vultures now, and termites.  So I spent a couple extra days down there to sharpen my skills, as well.

WENDY GROUNDS:  I know that you do other expeditions, as well.  I’ve been very interested in the shark one done near Cape Town?

DOREEN LINNEMAN:  Yeah, the shark one.  I’m a little conflicted about that one right now with nature, whether or not I want to continue that one and making sure that I’m honoring the animals, and we’re doing things in a right way.  But we have an amazing one about risk and going for it in the jungles of Belize.  But you also have amazing cabanas to go back to.  I do something on the waters of the Caribbean about finding blue water and that strategy on a catamaran.  I actually have a couple curriculum in the Serengeti, and designing some fun ones that you’ll just have to wait and see.

The Riverbend Group

WENDY GROUNDS:  Now, this isn’t your only company.  Why don’t you tell us about the other work that you do.

DOREEN LINNEMAN:  Yeah, absolutely.  So Prepare to Roar is about 10 years old.  The Riverbend Group is about 19 years old.  That’s the corporate side of me.  So Prepare to Roar is the sweaty, no makeup, rugged.  And Riverbend is the corporate heels, dress, makeup, where we do inspiring leaders and teams through consulting, team building, training, big corporations, Fortune 50, to small startups.  And then the Doreen Linneman brand is more keynotes and really how do I ignite people in a larger scale.  But all three brands intersect around helping people and organizations find their best life.  It’s just we target audiences differently, and there’s different products for all three brands.

Embarking on a Major Career Change

WENDY GROUNDS:  All right.  So let’s just take it back a step.  You embarked on a major career change.  Can you tell me about that?  What made you make that change?

DOREEN LINNEMAN:  So Wendy, that is a great question.  And I would be lying if I said that I had this amazing business plan all mapped out, and that is not true.  Well, I did, actually, but in one direction.  I wanted to be the first group company chairman female at J&J, and this big career.  I was focusing on healthcare and purposely getting experience in all these verticals of sales and marketing and quality and you name it.  And I was in a technology startup, and I was on my way to a big meeting, and I got a call from my CEO.  And he said, “Doreen.  You’re going to turn around.  You don’t have a job anymore.”


DOREEN LINNEMAN:  And I was like, wait, what?  What?  I’m on my way to a big pitch with a meeting.  Like, no, you can turn around.  You don’t have a job anymore.  I said, “What are you talking about?”  “Well, the venture capital firm just pulled all the funding.”  And I literally turned around and went home.  And I was like, what am I going to do?  And I just talked to a bunch of mentors of mine over the next couple months and explored.  I could go back to corporate.  I had a great offer to go, you know, back, big corporate healthcare.  Or I could start my own thing.  Some mentors, like why don’t you start your own thing?  And I said, in what?  And they said, well, what are you good at?  I’m like, I don’t know.

But anyway, started a consulting firm 19 years ago and just went for it.  And it’s just been an amazing journey.  So it was really more I was forced into that scenario versus having a strategic plan.  And I’ve just followed the opportunity.  I’ve followed where people have needed help, and both palms up, and started in corporate.  And now I find myself in the jungles of Belize and the plains of the Serengeti and on big stages and keynotes.  And I’m just – I’m always a both palms up girl.

Doreen’s Story: Identifying Her Why

BILL YATES:  One of the themes, I guess, the three-letter theme for this podcast is really why, W-H-Y, why.  How did you identify your why in this transition?

DOREEN LINNEMAN:  Well, Bill, again, I guess truth be told, that was also not purposeful.  I stumbled upon that.  I actually won a deal with Riverbend to facilitate a board of directors meeting.  And anytime that something’s a little bit out of my reach, I’m the kind of person, like, well, I’m going to go for it, and I’m going to just win that deal.  And I won it.

Then honestly I panicked because my audience were all older, very seasoned men, as most board of directors were.  And I don’t mean that in a derogatory way.  These men were amazing.  And the fact that they had faith in me, I was so grateful.  But I absolutely panicked and didn’t think I would be able to resonate with them.  And so I stumbled upon this coach by the name of Lorenzo Beltrame, who’s still dear friends of mine today.  And he is amazing.  He coaches athletes worldwide, Olympic athletes, tennis athletes, on mental toughness.

BILL YATES:  So he coached Pete Sampras, Jim Courier.  He’s big‑time.

DOREEN LINNEMAN:  Yes, big-time.  Olympic athletes.  Worked alongside of Dr. James Loehr for a while on mental toughness.  I can’t say enough about this man.  And I came across him, and I begged him, begged him if he would put his toes into the business world and coach me on mental toughness as a former athlete.  And he rolled the dice and said yes.  So all the focus was to get better and be ready to facilitate this board of directors meeting.  And little did I know that the cornerstone of mental toughness is finding your life why.  So he led me there, and I will be forever grateful for him and that work.  And it took about nine months to get there.

The Impact of Your Why

WENDY GROUNDS:  Let’s take this into the story of the project manager.  And for project managers it’s important for them to discover the why.  How can finding the why impact how well someone does on a project?

DOREEN LINNEMAN:  Wendy, thank you for asking that question because sometimes when we talk about why they seem so big and so  out of reach.  And where do we even start on a micro level?  So that’s really why on a much more micro level, which is vital.  So instead of that life why, it’s why do I work where I work?  Or why do I even care about this project?  And the answer to those questions are vital to the scope of success for every level of the answer.

So for example, why you work determines how well you work.  Let me say that again because it’s really, really important.  Why you work determines how well you work.  So that’s why you work at company XYZ.  But also why you were on this project determines how well you’re going to do on this project.  So slowing down and figuring out the whys of each project or the whys of your company only tee you up for greater success.

Relating the Why to Projects

BILL YATES:  So when I hear these conversations, these are so strategic to me because I think of what motivates individual team members to get things done on projects.  I appreciate, I’m glad we’re going to go deeper into this micro level.  But I’ve got to reference something from “Start With Why,” Simon Sinek’s book that’s so influential on this.  He talks about why.  He says very few people or companies can clearly articulate why they do what they do.  When I say “why,” I don’t mean to make money.  That’s a result.  By “why” I mean what is your purpose, your cause, or your belief.  Why does your company exist?  Why do you get out of bed every morning?  And why should anyone care?

So as we tee up this conversation, this is helpful for me to kind of think about this word “why” and how do we relate it to projects?  How do we create micro level goals for team members so that they can stay focused and motivated to finish the task?

DOREEN LINNEMAN:  Bill, can I add to that?  Because I love what Simon says about that.  It’s so vital for organizations to start with the why completely aligned.  And where what he’s saying and what I’m saying intersect is Simon is focused on the why of an organization, which is vital, and where I kind of, coming in here, is complementing that of the why of the individual.  It’s when they intersect, or it’s when leaders spend the time helping their people connect or align the company why with people’s individual whys is where the magic happens. 

That is, it’s such a great point that you’re making, and it is so vital because individuals can have all the whys in the world.  But if they’re not at an organization or on teams where they can make the alignment, it doesn’t work.  Or a company can have all the greatest whys in the world; but if they don’t help their people get their individual whys lined up, it also fails.  It’s when the intersection of both happen.

And so for me, when I hit the ground running in the morning, I say bluebirds make my bed every single morning.  I have not woken up uninspired in 19 years, and that is true.  Doesn’t mean I’m not tired some mornings, frustrated some mornings, et cetera, et cetera.  But completely ignited because my personal whys also align to my professional whys.

Project teams: Aligning Your Whys

WENDY GROUNDS:  It’s important to find that why.  I know I have a why that gets me up in the morning, as well.  I don’t think I have bluebirds making my bed.

DOREEN LINNEMAN:  We can talk about that, Wendy.  We can talk about that.  We’ll get you there.

WENDY GROUNDS:  Maybe right now it’s the blue jays.

DOREEN LINNEMAN:  Hey, that’s fine.

BILL YATES:  Kind of wild and squawky, yeah.

WENDY GROUNDS:  Yeah, yeah.  But, you know, I’m up, and I’m excited about what I do.  But not everybody’s why is the same, and we have to align them.  When you’re on a project, you’re working towards the same goal, but you have different whys.  So how do you align those whys with your team members?

DOREEN LINNEMAN:  Well, the how is – the answer is easy, but the path is hard.  You know, just to be transparent; right?  I mean, the how is simply have conversations.  Right?  The how is if you’re starting on a new project team, it’s just literally sitting around the table and remembering that everybody that you’re sitting with is human first, not company first.  I think that’s one of the biggest lessons hopefully that I want people to take out of COVID is pre-COVID people felt like everything they had in common is they work at XYZ company, and they just happen to be human.  Post-COVID, I think we now realize what we have in common is that we’re all human beings who just happen to work at XYZ.

So if we can leverage that mental shift of humans first, we sit around the table with our project teams and just ask, like, why is this important to you?  Right?  What is your why?  Doesn’t have to be your big life why.  If you want to get them to share, that’s great.  It forms better teams.  But why is this project important to you?  Why is it important to you?  Why is it important to you?  And you?  Here’s why it’s important to me.  And then why is this project important to the company?  And how can we all help each other align our individual whys to the project whys?

  It’s just simply a conversation.  I’m not saying that that’s easy.  But you can imagine the path is hard because, I mean, what do you guys think it takes?  Throw the question back on you.  What do you think it takes for that kind of conversation to happen?

BILL YATES:  Yeah, you’ve got to have trust.  You have to have a team that really know each other on a personal level.  Or they know, okay, these are the strengths and weaknesses of the team members, and they’ve got my back.  So then in a conversation, then you can get into, okay, what is important to this team member?  What’s important to Stacey?  What’s important to Robert?  And maybe Robert says, “I don’t know, I don’t really connect with this project.  I just, you know, I’m just kind of punching the clock on this one.”  But then Stacey shares something that suddenly ignites Robert.


BILL YATES:  He’s like, oh, man.


BILL YATES:  This is on a deeper level that Stacey’s connecting with, and she’s always had my back.  She supported me in the last effort.  So, man, I’m onboard now.

DOREEN LINNEMAN:  Gold star, Bill.  Gold star.  I mean,  seriously, you’re welcome.  I mean, trust is – trust is everything; right?  In that trust, vulnerability, authenticity.  We just have to have the courage to do it.  Self trust, mutual trust, organizational trust.  And if people aren’t doing it, it starts with you.  You have to have the courage to model the behavior if, right, you want to work on a more ignited team.

Making it a Priority

BILL YATES:  Yeah, I think to me it’s up to that project champion or the sponsor, whoever’s leading it, to really explain the why for the overall project.  But then I think the next level and where I see excellent leaders is then they go, okay, how do we personalize this?

DOREEN LINNEMAN:  One hundred percent.  And making the time.  I think another roadblock, although a lot of people say time, and I actually think it’s prioritization is a roadblock, is understanding that this may be a little bit slower on the front end.  A good buddy of mine, Tom Williamson, always says, “Slow down to go fast.”  The great project leaders or champions will make the time upfront to pause and make it a priority.  We can’t afford not to have these discussions because, if we don’t have a team that’s aligned and fired up, projects take longer.  People make mistakes.  We’ve got to go back and fix them, which takes longer.  It’s not our best work.

So really I would say, in addition to trust, a huge roadblock is prioritization and prioritizing that we can’t afford not to spend time on this human element and this why.  It’s not just trust as we said.  It’s absolutely a prioritization issue because rarely do organizations or teams have execution problems.  They have why problems.  It’s not I don’t know what to do.  I don’t know what to execute.  It’s why do I execute.  And if we want to then fix that execution problem, it’s getting to the root of the why.

BILL YATES:  Because people are complex; right?  For me to be motivated, for me to be all-in on an effort, I need to understand the why.  I need to understand the purpose.  What’s behind this?  I’ve got three days of hard work I need to do to finish these things that are on the schedule.  These are tasks that are assigned to me.  If I can see where they fit in the overall, then it’s like, okay, I get it.  This is going to set up this next big effort that we’re going to put in front of the customer that’ll make all these other things happen.  But if I’m just kind of in a blind box just slogging away, shoveling coal mindlessly, I feel like I’m being taken advantage of.

DOREEN LINNEMAN:  One hundred percent.  And most people know how to shovel coal.


DOREEN LINNEMAN:  They don’t know why they’re shoveling coal.  Right?  And that’s where the magic happens.

Goals vs. Whys

WENDY GROUNDS:  People will often mistake goals and whys.  How would you differentiate between the two?

DOREEN LINNEMAN:  Wendy, that is super insightful.  And I actually think a lot of people don’t know that they’re mistaking goals and whys, and they actually equate them.  And they’re very, very, very different. There’s nothing wrong with goals, by the way.  I am a highly goal-oriented person.  Highly.  Highly.  It motivates me.  It fuels my fire.  But they’re very different.  Goals have end dates associated with them.  And typically they’re about you or can be about you, like moving the needle.  But most importantly they have end dates.  I think most project managers are very familiar with smart goals.  The “T” is timely.  You have to have a time around those.  Whys, good whys, good correct whys do not have expiration dates.  And they’re typically about something or someone else other than yourself.

So, for example, my macro why, or my macro purpose, is to ignite people to courageously find and live their best life.  There’s no expiration date to that.  That is my cornerstone.  That is the bluebird moment, if you will, Wendy; right?  That’s what gets me up in the morning.  That will never end, right, until I’m sliding into home base.  And that’s the big difference.  The whys are what keeps you motivated and keeps you excited, and the goals are the things that maybe signify that you’re moving towards that.

BILL YATES:  You’ve participated in the Ironman a few times, haven’t you.


BILL YATES:  That blows me away.  But I think that’s an example.  You have goals that you had to set for, okay, it’s biking, it’s running, it’s swimming.

DOREEN LINNEMAN:  Yes.  Also, to give you a little insight to my mental state, sometimes I think back about that, I’m like, what was I doing; right?

BILL YATES:  What was I thinking?

DOREEN LINNEMAN:  Right.  But again, there’s that goal, the line in the sand.  If it’s easy, and everybody can do it, I’m not interested.

BILL YATES:  You had to set so many goals.

DOREEN LINNEMAN:  Yeah, absolutely.

BILL YATES:  For that event, to be able to achieve that.  But you have an overarching why.  I’m pursuing this for a purpose.

DOREEN LINNEMAN:  Exactly right.

WENDY GROUNDS:  Yeah.  What was your why?  To do it three times?

DOREEN LINNEMAN:  What was my why?  Well, you know, I think to be honest I was not so advanced in my why thinking at that point in time.  It was, seriously, it was a challenge I wanted to do.  I wanted to see what I was made of, quite frankly.  And I never want to be stagnant in this life.  Our bodies and minds and spirits can do so much more, infinitely more than we even think possible.  We’re just magnificent machines.  And I just wanted to push myself to the limit.  And quite frankly, I did think it would be one.  But what happened was I went 56 seconds over an hour mark that I was shooting for.  And I couldn’t live with…

WENDY GROUNDS:  You couldn’t leave it at that.

DOREEN LINNEMAN:  No.  And so that I went back and did it again.  And then I was like, well, that was kind of fun.  I did better.  I wonder if I can even do faster.  And then after the last one, I’m in retirement.  I’m in retirement.  I have so much respect for those who keep doing it.

BILL YATES:  That’s impressive, yes.

Cultural Drivers Affecting Our Choices

WENDY GROUNDS:  When we had talked earlier in preparation for our conversation, you had mentioned cultural drivers which affect our goals and our why and our motivation.  Could you elaborate a little bit on that?

DOREEN LINNEMAN:  Absolutely.  Cultural drivers was a concept that was given to me.  A colleague of mine introduced me to an article out of the Harvard Business Review, and I wish I could remember the exact people that wrote that.  They write so many articles.  But it was a light bulb moment for me.  And I really have distilled it down into the light side and the dark side, if I can steal from Star Wars there.  There are really three drivers that create a culture of what I call “light.”  And that is play, purpose, and potential.  And then three drivers that what I feel cause a culture of darkness, which is economic, emotional pressure, and inertia.  It’s when we can find ourselves, and again going back to that concept of alignment of why, on the light side, of what I’m working on. 

Does it contribute to either my purpose?  Does it contribute to play?  Do I think it’s just fun?  Or, hey, I may not quite be on the project I want to be on yet, or the job I want to be in yet.  But I can see how that’s going to contribute to my potential.  When I can get myself and my teammates on one of those three things or more than those three things, that’s when organizations and teams thrive.

BILL YATES:  That’s so powerful.  I agree with that completely.  And I was thinking about the dilemma of the project manager.  Most who hear this will embrace it fully.  Play, purpose, and potential, that is definitely the light side.  But there are times when I’ve got economic pressure, or I’ve got corporate inertia that is pulling on me.  It’s driving me to present these reports on my project progress, or to make these presentations that are eating into some of the light side, you know, for my team.  So I’m thinking for the project manager sometimes we have to be that buffer or be that advocate for the team.  It’s like, okay.  Let’s protect the light side for our team and somehow absorb some of the dark side ourselves.  Or convince corporate or convince management that this dark side stuff, we could do without it.

DOREEN LINNEMAN:  Gosh, I mean, Bill, we could have a whole podcast just on that topic.  I think that that’s – it’s the yin and the yang of the light and the dark side.  And I think we also can’t live in a utopia of la la la la la light side; right?


DOREEN LINNEMAN:  But why the light is important.  You can still be working on the light side and be in the light side and still be dealing with dark forces.  But that is why even more so it is important that before every project meeting, or whenever you can, you reinforce why you work because why you work determines how well you work.  And by the way, we can be working for play, purpose, and/or potential and still deliver on economic numbers.  Or still have to deal with those dark side forces.  It’s just the attitude or how we deal with that that’s important, if that makes sense.

BILL YATES:  It does, yeah, absolutely.  It’s a reality check of, okay, there are certain things that we have to abide by.


BILL YATES:  But as leaders, how can we engage the team?


BILL YATES:  So that we do spend most of our time and our effort on those things that fill up our cup.

DOREEN LINNEMAN:  Yeah.  And I get concerned sometimes talking about the light side and dark side because it can sound really fluffy, and it’s not.  And it also can sound like, oh, Doreen, that must be nice, like light side, la la la, everything is easy.  But it does start with you.  It absolutely fundamentally starts with a decision of I am going to choose to put the hard work in and find out my whys.  And then I’m going to lead by example.  And I’m also going to be a steward, a servant leader, and help my people, those around me, as best as I can.  So it can be done.  It’s just a lot of hard work.  But it’s worth it.  It’s worth it.

BILL YATES:  Yeah, I agree.  And I think it’s up to that leader to understand and explain.  It’s like I feel like I need to advocate for my team if there are things that are taking away from the fun of a project, if you will.  And if there are things where I get pushback from management, or there’s just a, hey, this is a reality.  We have to have this in order to comply or whatever.  It goes back to the team members in understanding here’s the reason we have to do this.  And then people understand it.  They’re mature, and they embrace it.

DOREEN LINNEMAN:  Yeah, absolutely.  And I might even go one step further and be a little provocative here.  There also comes a point where, if you can’t get your team on the light side, or the culture can’t be on the light side or the dark side, I’m just going to call a spade a spade.  You just may be on the wrong bus.  And I will say that life is way too short to be working in an organization that doesn’t bring you joy.  Bronnie Ware was a palliative care nurse, and she did a study on, which is basically hospice care, interviewing everybody on their deathbed, all of her patients on their death bed, what their biggest regrets were.

The number two regret of the dying was I wish I didn’t work so hard.  And I propose that the only reason why that is number two is because people work on the dark side.  And if people were living their purpose, aligning their purpose, working for play, purpose, or potential, there’s no way that that would be your second regret.  You would love to be working because every single day you have the opportunity to live out your purpose.

So, I mean, I will say that, you know, it is hard work, and reality is reality.  But if you are a leader who’s willing to put the work in for your team, and at the minimum yourself because you owe it to yourself, you get one shot at this life, and you can’t get there after seeking help, then it’s time to shift the proverbial bus.

Resilience and Long–Term Goals

WENDY GROUNDS:  Following along from that, if you think about today, I think people, they just don’t have the resilience right now for big long-term goals.  How can we overcome that in light of what the future looks like?

DOREEN LINNEMAN:  Yeah.  And Wendy, people are weary, period.  I’m weary.  Not quite right now because I just got back from the Serengeti, and I’m all full of, like, you know, fired up and light.  But August was a hard month for me, August 2021.  I was definitely weary.  It’s just we’re all human.  I could understand if somebody’s listening to this podcast and be like, oh, this just seems – I agree, but it just seems so hard to attain right now.  And I don’t blame them, and I would lean then on my grow goals.  That is a huge concept.

I do some programming with the SEAL teams, and it’s a big thing, the concept my grow goals.  And it’s not the sometimes start with that big audacious goal.  It’s the little goals we can get along the way.  They talk about the candidates who go into Hell Week, for example, the ones that fixate on the end of the week are the ones that end up ringing the bell.  But it’s the ones who create those micro goals of I just need to get to lunch, or I just need to make it to dinner, are the ones that are successful.  And I think that’s a double win for us right now.

So if you’re weary, right, creating those small micro goals so you get a sense of achievement, I’m a big fan of I call it the “boost of bubbly.”  We can talk about that another time, too.  But those small micro goals so you’re getting them, and you’re feeling some wins.  But in addition, because things are not really stable, and we’re just in this constant state of change, it enables to be more nimble and more agile. If we’re just staying grounded on maybe monthly, for example, micro goals, we start to create that feeling of success, which creates energy and momentum.

Misconceptions about Motivation

WENDY GROUNDS:  Let’s continue talking about our motivation.  When we’re motivated, we take action.  We focus on our why.  But there are some misconceptions about motivation.  Can you give a little bit more detail on that?

DOREEN LINNEMAN:  Yeah, I think that sometimes people think motivation is movement.


DOREEN LINNEMAN:  Right?  And they’re not the same thing.  They’re completely different.  We can be moving and unmotivated.  Enter our friend KITA, kick in the…


DOREEN LINNEMAN:  The tuckus. Or the arse; right?  And KITA produces movement, but not motivation.  Just because somebody is moving, again, doesn’t mean that they’re motivated.  Just because somebody is not unsatisfied at work.  So if you’re, yeah, I’m not unsatisfied, it doesn’t mean that you’re motivated.  And that’s a lot of the work by Frederick Herzberg.  He was the godfather of motivational theory in the workplace; right?  And we rely on his theory a lot in our motivational workshop at Riverbend.  And it’s such an aha moment for people, leaders, the difference between, like, well, my team is not unsatisfied.  I’m like, yeah, but they’re not ready to go through walls for you.  They’re not ready to be the light and keep things moving.

So our job as leaders is to find out why our people are motivated or how are they motivated.  Herzberg talks about things like recognition and advancement and the work itself, for example.  Which is a big difference than just forcing people to take a step forward.

BILL YATES:  Yeah.  It’s funny, it’s so cool to hear Herzberg again.  I think many of our listeners got exposed to Herzberg when they were preparing for their PMP Exam.  So we talked about different motivation theories and Herzberg’s hygiene theory.

DOREEN LINNEMAN:  Yes, exactly.

BILL YATES:  So there are basic levels we have to hit before we can really start to motivate people, so making sure there’s a place of safety.  It goes back to safety and trust.


Becoming Motivated

BILL YATES:  There’s value in this project that we’re doing.  Now we have that foundation.  Now how can we be motivated as a team and as individuals?

DOREEN LINNEMAN:  Absolutely.  And I think the biggest mistake in motivation that people have is money.  I mean, there’s thousands of articles out there that money’s not a motivator.  And people still go, “Yes, it is.  Yes, it is.  Yes it is.”  I’m like, it’s not.  It’s the why behind money.  The mistake that corporations have made is that corporations use money as the acknowledgement of what you have done.  And we have trained people or trained our thought process to think it’s money.

So a couple of examples here, if you will; right?  So sales reps, be like, yeah, no, all sales reps are motivated by money.  And it’s just fundamentally not true.  Money is the result of them doing the one thing that they’re motivated by.  So recognition, for example.  Getting onstage at President’s Club, for example.  They happen to get money with it.  But what motivated them was maybe the recognition or the advancement.

I’ve got one very powerful example around money and redirecting people’s understanding.  I was teaching a workshop of motivational leadership in Africa.  And people were talking about how poor some people on their teams were.  And people were saying, like, I’m one of them.  I kept reinforcing them, like I understand that, but money is not a motivator.  And one gentleman raised his hand, and he said, “I’m completely aligned with Doreen.  That you all keep thinking that I’m doing this job for the money. 

But what gets me out of bed in the morning is being able to provide for my son to be the first person to go to college ever in my family.”  So money signifies, like the money is going to be able to pay the tuition.  But he is not motivated by money.  What gets him up in the morning – this gives me goose bumps.  What gets him up in the morning is getting his son to college.

And when companies understand that nuance and are able to connect with people to that level – Bill, you were talking about that trust and getting people vulnerable to share really those things – and you’re reinforcing that, that’s again when the magic happens.  And people are just, they’re going through walls for you.

Key Factors to Staying Motivated

BILL YATES:  Doreen, so follow-up question on that related to motivation.  What are some key factors to staying motivated, keeping your team motivated?

DOREEN LINNEMAN:  I can maybe just share some of the things that we do at Riverbend, for example.  Huge fan of 25-minute one-on-ones.  We do them every month, you know, at least you should be doing them every quarter with your team.  These are not like how’s your projects going?  This has nothing to do with work. This is literally how is your soul?  How are your personal goals this year?  Am I hitting your motivators?  Right?  What are your motivators?  What’s your why?  How are you feeling?  Are you getting the balance you need?  This is connecting as a human being every single month.

We also start every weekly meeting with our organization with reconnecting to our purpose and our core values.  We do not talk about one thing of business until that happens. And we do ‘round the horns.  Where have we seen this internally or with our customers this week?  We do yearly motivator touch bases because motivators can change, based on context and situation.  Ask people what are your top three motivators from the Herzberg model?  Give me some context.  Give me specific ways.  We touch base that those don’t change.  So it’s constant contact with your people on a human level, not just on a work level.

Our Differences and Growing Grit

BILL YATES:  We’ve talked about adaptability.  There are a couple other things that you and I talked about before the recording that I wanted to touch on.  So first of all, just talk about our differences.  Is everybody different?

DOREEN LINNEMAN:  Quite frankly, Bill, I’m not really sure we are all that different.  I think fundamentally people just want to be loved, respected, and have our lives mean something, to mean that we’ve made a difference.  I think where our differences are is how those show up and how we communicate and how we behave and how we get there.  But fundamentally I think those are some core truths that we all can align to.  And it’s just caring enough to finding out what those are for each person.

BILL YATES:  There’s one other item that we talked about related to adaptability, and that’s grit.  That’s a nice little word.  When you talk about growing your grit…


BILL YATES:  …are you talking about like farming, or crops, or any idea?

DOREEN LINNEMAN:  Yes, sometimes we call it “raising resilience.”  I love “growing your grit.”  And the concept is, is that you aren’t born with resilience.  You aren’t born with grit.  And you literally can grow it.  If you think about a muscle, or people think about, like, hey, get a strong backbone, right, that’s what holds me up.  You’re gritty.  Well, backbones without muscle fall over.  Right?  So it’s grit and resilience can be grown.  It’s all about growing that muscle to help you have more resilience.  And, you know, we’ve got a model that teaches how you do that.  But the key is knowing that we can become more resilient and more gritty over time, but we need to be purposeful about growing it, right, purposeful about growing it.

BILL YATES:  So there are steps to take to grow your grit.

DOREEN LINNEMAN:  Absolutely.  Absolutely.

Are You at a Crossroads?

WENDY GROUNDS:  Doreen, this has been excellent.  This has been so much good advice.  And I just want some final words.  You know, you talk about the time is right to change our legacy.  And I love your story.  I love what you’re doing.  I love your passion.

DOREEN LINNEMAN:  Thank you, Wendy.

WENDY GROUNDS:  How can we encourage our listeners, if there’s someone who’s facing a crossroads, someone who’s looking to make that change in their life personally and professionally?  What are some final words that you could leave with them?

DOREEN LINNEMAN:  Yeah, I think, well, first of all, call me.  Happy to help.  This is why I live.  I mean, I’m so passionate about helping people get there.  I just think it’s just this aha moment in making sure that we remember that we’re all leaving a legacy, whether we’re intentional about it or not.  And it’s whether you care enough about what that legacy is.  And what’s so exciting in this time, it’s so unique.  Right?  We’ve had this seismic shift in the world.  I mean, in my lifetime I don’t remember a situation that has impacted virtually every single person in the world across every industry, across every country.  I mean, everybody’s impacted.

And because of that the world is just reeling with change, and change is happening all the time.  And as scary as that is, the beauty about that is people’s postures are open for change.  Normally as humans we resist change.  But people are expectant for change.  They have just been forced to do it.  It’s like, oh, what’s coming next?  And with that is a gift.  It’s a huge gift for all of us.  If we laser focus here on just being your professional legacy, very rarely do you get the opportunity to change it, or to change a trajectory.  Really the only time you get to do it is when you leave a company.  Right?  And you get to start over and build up reputation from scratch.

What’s beautiful about the situation of moving past and through COVID is that, again, everybody is expectant to change.  And quite frankly, if you’re a leader who doesn’t change, I mean, shame on you.  How could you not go through what we’ve just gone through and not lead differently?  Right?  Your people want you to.  They’re ready for you to.  And it’s just such a perfect opportunity to put a stake in the ground and be like, what do I want to be remembered for?  Who do I want to serve?  How do I want to be?  What is the legacy I’ll want to be?  And to start to make that shift.  And if it seems daunting, then you go back to those micro goals.

But get help.  Ask peers,  ask friends, ask a professional.  But now is the time because what you will not regret are making the changes.  What you will regret is staying stagnant.

BILL YATES:  That’s so good.  And projects are the perfect opportunity because they are, by their nature, there’s a beginning and an end.  We have the opportunity every time we lead a new project to reinvent or make better how we lead.

DOREEN LINNEMAN:  Hundred percent.  Your next project, be different.  Hey, team, we’re doing things differently.  I’m so excited about that.  Here is the new normal.  And I guarantee people will get onboard.

Get in Touch with Doreen

WENDY GROUNDS:  Like you said, we get one shot at this.  Doreen, I know we’re going to have people that want to get in touch with you.  They’re going to want to talk to you a little bit more.  So what is the best way that they can get in touch with you?  And can you give us just the names of your companies?  Give us some detail so people can reach you.

DOREEN LINNEMAN:  Absolutely, Wendy.  I’m on LinkedIn, Doreen Linneman.  They can certainly find and contact me there.  The three company websites:  TheRiverbendGroup.com, also on Instagram; PreparetoRoar.com website, also on Instagram.  And then obviously Doreen Linneman on Instagram.  Happy to reach out any of those ways and get a feel for what we’re doing on our stories.  And I’m just looking forward to helping anybody who’s ready to get ignited.

BILL YATES:  Doreen, thank you so much for your time.  You’ve had incredible experiences with people in cages where sharks are all about you, in the Serengeti, and running Ironman, swimming in it.  And you’ve seen people stretched to their utmost very, very end of what they can do.  And you’ve personally done that for yourself, both professionally and in athletics.  The wisdom that you bring to our crowd and the advice that you give to project managers is incredibly valuable.  Thank you for your time.

DOREEN LINNEMAN:  So honored to be here.  Wishing you all the most best success.


WENDY GROUNDS:  That’s it for us here on Manage This.  Thank you for listening.  And we’d love to have you visit us at Velociteach.com to subscribe to this podcast and see a transcript of the show, or to contact us if you have any questions about project management certifications in general.

You have also just earned some Professional Development Units by listening to this podcast.  To claim your free PDUs, go to Velociteach.com.  Choose Manage This Podcast from the top of the page.  Click the button that says Claim PDUs, and click through the steps.

Until next time, keep calm and Manage This.


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