Better Than Money—Herding Cats in 3 Easy Steps

I watched a wonderful video on creating drive for your employees based on a talk by Dan Pink. It turns out that while traditional reward systems work for mechanical skills they actually reduces drive for jobs that require cognitive performance. It seems counter intuitive but monetary rewards don’t work for jobs that require thought. For that you need:

Autonomy Master and Purpose
I have spent years managing creatives (herding cats) and I can say without questions that this is true. When catalog creative gets stale, one of the first things that happens is someone, usually from management or marketing, takes control of the problem. This is counter to all three of the proven motivators above. It has been my experience that whoever is sent to fix the creative problem meets resistance and it ends badly. Think about it, why would sending in someone to control the problem (less autonomy) from another department (less mastery), who tells the creative department that they are not doing a good job (less purpose), improve performance or personal satisfaction? Here’s a better way using the motivators above.

Autonomy: Create time and space for new ideas to flourish. Give creatives room to be creative. Great ideas always seem so obvious after the fact but getting there takes time and there are lots of mistakes and false starts along the way. If your team is really floundering consider bringing in a consultant who knows how to work with and motivate a creative team. Let your team know ahead of time that this is a reward and not a punishment. Being creative is hard work, even when it sounds like a party. That’s usually when crazy good ideas start to flow.

Mastery: Learning new skills and honing existing skills are also big motivators. Consider rewarding your team with a class or conference. Talk about a win-win for the company. The employees gain skills which motivate them to work harder and do a better job. The company now has happy motivated workers at significantly lower cost than a performance bonus which has been proven not to work anyway. (Watch the video, it’s an eye opener!) The NEMOA DirectXchange conference or Catalog University are both good ways to increase mastery.

Purpose: Having a purpose doesn’t always mean something big like finding a cure for cancer. It can just mean doing a great job, helping customers, or being part of a team that makes a difference. Does your creative team know how well each catalog performed? Do they have any connection to marketing efforts? Top creatives invest ego and emotion into their work, they want to know what worked and what didn’t. They want to know their work is important to the company’s success.

When you walk into a great creative department you will know you have wandered into something wonderful. It looks different, it sounds different and it has a buzz of energy in the air. Go walk into your company’s creative department, if it doesn’t feel different, add a little autonomy, a dash of mastery and stir in a sense of purpose. Even a little will get those creative minds cooking!

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Sarah Fletcher
President/Creative Director Catalog Design Studios
Co-Founder Catalog University