Managing Intrinsic Motivation. That’s the subtitle of a post that Mark McGuinness published here.
The article is for those who need to manage creative people, not precisely for those who are. But – here comes the twist – it’s precisely what a creative professional needs to apply to her/himself too, no matter if you are your own boss. Even more effective, I’d say.
There we go:
By definition, intrinsic motivation works through spontaneity, pleasure and fascination — none of which can be served up to order. No wonder managing creative people is often described as ‘herding cats’, notoriously wilful and independent creatures. But if you can’t control it, you can coax it to some extent. Here are a few suggestions:
Set them (yourself) a challenge
Remember, creatives love a challenge. How can you make the brief more difficult? More inspiring? More extreme?
Define the (your) goal clearly
If there’s one thing worse than a boring or easy brief, it’s a vague one. ‘Write a story’ is terrible. ‘Write a superhero story’ isn’t much better. ‘Write a Batman story’ at least gives me something to work with. ‘Write a Batman story in which his identity is exposed’, or ‘where he lets himself and the city down’, or ‘where he loses all his gadgets and has to rely on his wits’ – now I’ve got something to get my teeth into.
Eliminate distractions and interruptions
Help them concentrate. Don’t interrupt them — or let others interrupt them — unless it’s important AND urgent. As far as possible, help them ‘batch’ meetings, conversations, and day-to-day tasks so that they don’t keep interfering with focused work. Whatever distractions arise, remind them that the work itself is their primary responsibility.
Match the (your) work to the worker (yourself)
Make it your business to know everyone on the team, including the kind of work they love to do. Whenever possible, give them tasks that suit their talents. Their reward will be more job satisfaction. Yours will be better results.
Let them (yourself) get on with it
This is a tricky one. Creatives hate being micromanaged and told what to do every step of the way. But ultimately you’re accountable for the work, so you need to make sure they are delivering on brief. If you’re a creative yourself, you’ll have to deal with the added temptation to show them how you would do it, and the fact that they may approach it in a very different way. There are no easy answers, but it helps if you’re very clear about what you are asking them to make, and your criteria for success, and then leave how to do it up to them.
Reward (your) behaviours, not results
At the US software developer SAS, managers are trained to reward those responsible for new initiatives before it becomes obvious whether the initiative has succeeded or failed. Why? Because their aim is to foster a culture of innovation. If they only rewarded successful projects, employees would be much more careful about proposing and acting on new ideas. This way, the company benefits from many more ideas and people who are more prepared to take a risk and try things out.