Putting together eye-catching websites, perfecting logos, and writing copy that sells a product might seem like a straightforward task on your department’s to-do list, but for the creative professionals involved these projects take time, inspiration, and motivation.

When the work piles up or the inspiration dries out, here are three great tips on how to motivate and inspire your team, and steer them on the path to success.

1. Define Constraints, Then Get Out of the Way

How to motivate and inspire your team
high voltage post.High-voltage tower sky background by gui jun peng

Daniel Pink, author of Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, explains that one of the secrets to high-performing teams of all kinds is autonomy and the ability to direct our own work. This is highly applicable to creatives, whose work is usually done independently, even when part of a team. In order to create an autonomous atmosphere, you must clearly explain the scope of a project and the business objectives involved. When setting up a team for success on a creative project, it’s important to define the constraints up front:

  • What are the project goals?
  • What is the output meant to achieve?
  • Who are the stakeholders?
  • What are our budgets, timelines, and available resources (including team members)?
  • Are there technical or media considerations to keep in mind?

Not only do constraints provide clear direction to creative teams, but they also encourage focus and enable greater creativity. That said, once constraints are defined, let your team do their best work; do not micro-manage. This alone can be a big help in motivating your team.

2. Encourage Constructive Feedback

how to motivate your team
Businessman showing something to colleagues on computer in creative office by bikeriderlondon

The act of sharing creative work can be a vulnerable process — after all, the creator is putting something he or she has personally crafted under the microscope! That’s why it’s important to promote a culture of constructive feedback where creatives feel safe and supported in sharing their work, whether it be within an internal team or directly with a client. When creative teams feel positive about the feedback process, they are more inclined to take risks and create beyond their comfort zone, which can lead to the best results.

But what exactly makes feedback good? It’s not always helpful to use the “feedback sandwich,” where you “sandwich” a piece of criticism between two positive remarks. Instead, productive feedback should focus on specific elements of the work product. According to Matt Ström of product agency Planetary, feedback on creative work should:

  • Be clear and concise
  • Encourage prompt action
  • Refer to matter, attributes, and process — the what, how, and why/when.

It’s worth noting that constructive feedback is about the work, not the individual.

3. Provide Time and Space to Think

Stock Photo Girl Thinking
Young woman in the field by AGLPhotography

As Steve Jobs said:

“Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while. That’s because they were able to connect experiences they’ve had and synthesize new things.”

The ability to connect things requires mental time and space, as well as experiences that inspire creative thought. According to this study from Psychological Science, “mind wandering” — what you might call daydreaming — is a big facilitator of creative thought. Leave some mental space and time for your creative team to do some daydreaming, but don’t think that this mental space automatically translates to alone time. Many creative teams find value in sharing what they’re working on with each other and taking inspiring trips outside of the office, whether it’s a meal spent outdoors or a department-sponsored trip to the museum.

The ability to effectively motivate your creative team is critical to any project’s success. How does your company motivate creative teams?

Top image by igorstevanovic

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