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how to motivate a creative team: 8 key principles for leaders

A motivated employee works 44% more productively than an unmotivated professional, according to research by the international consulting company Hay Group.

Every manager faces the question of "how to motivate?" And the first thing that comes to mind is money. However, this is not the case. Another recruiting company, HAYS from the UK, has proven that when a person decides to quit, a salary increase is not significant for them. It would be too simple if everything came down to money, as monetary motivation has its own threshold.

Business is not like real estate, where you can invest once and expect an increase in the value of square meters every month. We are talking about people, about a team that comes together to find solutions for various business tasks: copywriters, designers, marketers, creators, and smm specialists.

At ICU, we also use a research approach for both client projects and internal interactions. Thus, we have developed 8 principles of motivation for a creative team based on experience, psychology, and global research, which our CEO Alexander Rusin talks about in this article.

Principle #0. Foundation for the foundation

By default, it is assumed that a leader can handle conflicts in the team, distinguish a professional from a workaholic, and unmotivated from burnt out. In other words, the team sensei who can organize people for results is the one who:

  • - has the necessary soft skills: knows how to build a dialogue, recognize emotions, has time management skills, is enterprising, and knows labor ethics
  • - understands people's psychotypes: distinguishes impulsiveness from emotionality, sees a desire for self-expression and personal freedom, and loves non-trivial tasks.

Principle #1. Individual approach

An individual approach is designed to show the employee that they are an important link in the chain.

What does this look like in practice?

  • — Personal conversations
  • — Identifying a person's needs
  • — Empathy towards their problems
  • — Finding common interests and working towards them

The CEO of Belfor finds time to send a personal greeting card on the birthday of each of his 7,000 employees.

In our company, we plan individual "off-desk" time over lunch or a cup of coffee with each employee. Not everyone can come to the office and talk about their problems, but when they know that the manager has set aside time in their schedule to chat with them, it creates a solid platform for bringing people closer together.

Principle #2. Recognition and Gratitude

Athletes don't engage in sports just for good physical shape; they do it for victories and rewards. Similarly, any professional works not only for money, but also for recognition.

According to an OfficeTeam survey, 66% of employees are willing to leave a company if they feel undervalued.

The leader's task is to make an employee feel that their work is valuable. Depending on the employee's level of competence, this can include:

  • — Praise
  • — Positive feedback from clients
  • — Gratitude at a general meeting, team applause
  • Share your experience in the form of an article or a small master class
  • Assign new and responsible tasks

We have a tradition of celebrating one employee's victory with the whole team, so that everyone feels the taste of victory, and the distinguished employee understands that their work is important and valuable to the company.

Principle #3. Money

Money is a basic motivation. Any specialist should receive exactly as much or slightly more than they expect. Separately, for successes at work, the manager can reward the employee through:

  • Raise in salary
  • Bonuses and allowances
  • Percentage of sales
  • Insurance, benefits, social package
  • Bonuses for exceeding KPIs
  • Discounts on company services or products

"Creativity is not a craft where you have to justify your salary, creativity is a craft where your salary has to justify you." Frederick Beigbeder

Principle #4. Freedom of Decision-Making

The manager should not limit the employees' will with the phrase "I know better". When people come to a decision themselves, they have much less resistance than in a situation where the decision comes from the top.

Applicable to our company, even if the management has an answer, we give the initiative, ask the employee's opinion on various issues, consult. This way we emphasize the colleague's expertise.

Principle #5. Self-Realization

In most companies, specialists live within the framework of the brief. The manager should give the person the opportunity to reveal themselves and show their potential, even if it goes beyond these frames.

Employees need to know about how they see their "Everest", what they want to create, and what achievement they dream of. Perhaps too heavy backpacks in the form of restrictions and frames prevent them from conquering their peak.

Thus, we usually present 1-2 project concepts according to the brief and a third alternative option from the creative team, which goes beyond the brief. Often, it is the third concept that the client chooses.

Principle #6. Growth Points

Every new employee should see how many steps there are in their career ladder in this company. The leader needs to look ahead with the employee for a year, 5 or 10 years and set out the prospects on this path.

This also applies to growth opportunities in other directions. It is necessary to find out if the person is currently interested in branding, but in the future, they plan to develop in metaverse. Then it is worth discussing right away what growth options you can offer them, and which ones are not a priority for the company.

When a person knows why they are here and sees their growth points, their motivation to grow with the company increases.

A normal practice in our team is to have a conversation with a person after some time of working with them: are they satisfied with the realization of their potential? Have they exhausted themselves? Do they see themselves in the company in the future? Based on the answers, we decide whether the employee is ready to develop with the company or they see their path in a different direction. Honesty is the best strategy.

Principle 7. Community

Each team member "plays their instrument". But playing together is the highest level: board and sports games, marathons, and quests bring people together based on the principle of community and reveal new sides of them.

In our agency, we go deeper and form not a team spirit but a community of like-minded people in this way. Among other things, we formed it based on a universal love for "Mafia" - this is not a one-time planned event once a quarter, but a pleasant pastime for the entire team, which is ready to put aside work and come at the first call to play with these people and at this time.

Organizing joint leisure activities where work is not discussed is a winning move for a leader focused on results in work.

Principle 8. Fighting Burnout

An unmotivated employee can be motivated, but a burned-out one cannot. The leader should be attentive enough to colleagues to notice signs of burnout: from the complexity of tasks, deadlines, and work schedules. The reasons can be different, but the person needs to be given the opportunity to reboot:

  • – free evening or day-off
  • – easing the task
  • – switching to another activity
  • – vacation

In our team, we are always interested in why a person takes a day off, and if the reason is apathy and lack of ideas, we can give them a few days off, and if the person is tired, we can buy them tickets to a movie or theater and send them to recharge.

Insurance for Managers

Motivation is great, but we live in the real world where force majeure events and accidents happen, throwing us off track. For such cases, a project manager should have a shadow timing, in other words, "time with a margin." This is especially relevant if your team consists of people in creative professions.

What does this mean? When a specialist has a deadline for Friday, the project manager should orient the client to Tuesday. This way, they always leave themselves room for edits and unforeseen situations.

So, we have proven that the interaction between a manager and a team should be based on basic principles:

  • - personalize your approach
  • - value each team member
  • - don't skimp on your team
  • - trust
  • - help unlock internal potential
  • - stimulate professional growth
  • - unite
  • - notice the state of a person

By following these basic principles, any manager can become a team guru. They can be found in any field, from the director of a school in the depths of Russia to a financial titan on Wall Street. The task of a team leader is to develop a team that, in turn, will develop the business.

The suggested 8 principles can be successfully applied not only to a team of creatives but to employees in any field. As a result, they will help you create a corporate culture in the WOW style: when an employee is the main internal client for a manager, and a manager is an indispensable guru of business for an employee.

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