web analytics

10 Ways the Workplace Crushes Creativity (and How to Fix Them)

I’m starting to think the word ‘workplace’ is a contradiction in terms.

I’ve lost count of the number of people who have told me they do their best work in the early mornings and evenings, “because it’s impossible to get any real work done during working hours”.

This is particularly common among creative employees, many of whom bitterly lament being charged with delivering outstanding creative work – and then expected to work in conditions that crush their creativity.

In other words, these are people who really want to work hard and deliver amazing results for their employer. But they are being prevented from doing so by the very people whose business depends on their creativity.

[Read more…]

Is Burnout Inevitable in the Creative Industries?

Candle that has just been snuffed out.

Photo by J R Guillaumin

How would you like to work 15-20 hours unpaid overtime a week?

What about doing it for weeks on end because of unrealistic schedules?

How about a 65% chance of damaging your health from the stress of overtime?

And what if someone told you these were just occupational hazards, to be expected if you choose a career in the creative industries? [Read more…]

Four Conversations to Boost Productivity During a Recession

Chaff, separated from wheat

Photo by Lincolnian –(AWAY)–

Collaboration is the new productivity.
Leo Babauta

The recession is challenging all of us to achieve more with less.

Whether you’re a manager facing a hiring freeze (or even redundancies) or a freelancer burning the candle at both ends, chances are your resources are shrinking and the demands on your resourcefulness are growing.

So following on from my piece about How to Motivate People during a Recession, this article will offer some suggestions for boosting your productivity without adding extra team members or spending any money.

The first thing you can do — right now, for free — is to download a copy of my Time Management Training ebook Time Management for Creative People. It’s licensed for free noncommercial distribution, so you are welcome to pass it on to your colleagues and contacts. It contains plenty of tried and tested advice to help you and your team improve your working habits and deliver more value each day.

But getting individuals to change their work habits isn’t always enough. While teaching time management in organisations, I’ve noticed that many of the barriers to productivity are created by the company culture: [Read more…]

IPA Seminar — How to Motivate Creative People (Including Yourself)

Sunshine bursting through clouds

Photo by JeffBelmonte

On 24 April I’m running a half day seminar for members of The Institute of Practitioners in Advertising, about How to Motivate Creative People (Including Yourself).

Here are the details:

How to Motivate Creative People (Including Yourself)

A practical seminar to help you get inside the heads of creative workers and bring out their best work.

Objectives / Benefits

  • Understand how motivation affects performance – especially creativity
  • Use non-monetary motivations to get the best out of people on a limited budget
  • Turn problems into inspiring challenges
  • Get better work out of creative people
  • Avoid (inadvertently) crushing people’s motivation and harming performance
  • Use rewards effectively
  • Understand and influence many different types of people
  • Facilitate better team collaboration
  • Adjust your approach according to how the recession affects your agency


  • What makes creative people tick
  • Why motivation is crucial to performance
  • Why offering rewards can sometimes harm performance
  • The 4 most powerful types of motivation
  • Practical ways to use each type of motivation
  • Which motivations to use in the best/worst case recession scenarios
  • What Iggy Pop can teach you about management
  • How to write 47 novels before breakfast
  • Why some people seem so weird – and how to deal with them
  • The positive side of peer pressure

Who should attend

Managers, creative directors, account managers – and anyone else charged with facilitating outstanding performance.

What People Say About the E-book – How to Motivate Creative People (Including Yourself)

“If you’re a creative director like me, it’s a must-read.”
Tim Siedell, Fusebox

“The kind of reading that should be required for new supervisors as well as those in the creative professions.”
Steve Roesler, Roesler Consulting Group

Mark McGuinness is a coach and trainer specialising in work with creative professionals and creative industries companies. He writes two popular blogs about creative business: www.wishfulthinking.co.uk and www.lateralaction.com.

Please note — the seminar is open to IPA members only.

To book your place(s): Login to the IPA CPD Zone. Once logged in, click on ‘Training Courses’, then ‘Friday Morning Energisers’ – my session is on 24 April.

Non-IPA members — if you are interested in booking a seminar on this topic for your organisation, please e-mail me or call me on 01707 644 665 for a confidential discussion about your needs.

HR Carnival – Tackling the Management Problems of a Recession

Venetian festival costume with orange ruff and mask.
Photo by Alaskan Dude

Jon Ingham is hosting an HR blog carnival — or as he calls it ‘Carnevale delle Risorse Umane’. Why la lingua bella? Well, Jon points out that it’s carnival season in Venice, which is as good an excuse as any to include a beautiful image of one of the stunning Venetian costumes on. So I’ve followed suit.

After you’ve marvelled at the masks, check out the great collection of articles he’s assembled from HR professionals offering solutions to the management problems raised by the current recession.

Nestling among them, you’ll find my piece on How to Motivate People during a Recession.

Now where did I put my orange ruff…?

Interview with Rajesh Setty About My Motivation E-Book

I’ve just been interviewed by author and entrepreneur Rajesh Setty, about my e-book How to Motivate Creative People (Including Yourself).

Rajesh is a very thoughtful and creative guy who has not only achieved success himself, but works hard to help others achieve their goals. He asked me some great questions about the e-book and my reasons for writing it — as I say in the interview, he made me look at my own motivations afresh!

The interview appears on Rajesh’s blog Life beyond Code, which is a great read for creative and entrepreneurial people — highly recommended!

How to Motivate People During a Recession

Sunshine bursting through clouds

Photo by JeffBelmonte

A few weeks into 2009, and we don’t need to look far for doom and gloom, hysterical headlines and grim-faced news readers. The main debate now seems to be how long, deep and bad the recession will be.

But what if it’s your job to inspire and motivate people to do their best? How can you stop all this negativity corroding your team’s spirit and damaging their performance?

If you’re a manager or leader, you’re probably as concerned as anyone about the economic situation. But your success – maybe even your company’s survival – depends on your ability to get top-class performance out of your team. Which isn’t going to happen if they are so stressed and depressed by circumstances that they are not 100% focused on their work.

Even in some of the better case scenarios, where the organisation’s future is reasonably secure, you may well not have much to offer them in terms of pay rises, bonuses and other incentives.

And you’re only human, so there may well be days when you struggle to motivate yourself, let alone people around you.

In this article, I’m going to offer some practical tips to help you motivate your team members in spite of – or even because of – the present challenges you face together. And I encourage you to use these same principles to maintain your own enthusiasm and commitment. [Read more…]

Motivating Creative People – Getting the Balance Right

Now that we’ve reviewed four basic types of motivation, it’s time to put them together and have a look at the big picture. Have a look at the diagram above, which is composed of two axes: intrinsic-extrinsic; personal-interpersonal.

Motivation is usually complex, so that any given task or project involves several different types of motivation. You may love your work for its own sake (intrinsic), but that doesn’t mean you will be put out if your monthly pay cheque doesn’t arrive (extrinsic). You may have a strong natural curiosity or need for self expression (personal), but that doesn’t mean the presence of encouragement and all competition from colleagues won’t prompt you to redouble your efforts (interpersonal). And you’ve probably already noticed that different types of motivation can shade into one another. For example, recognition has appeared twice, under extrinsic and interpersonal motivations, since it’s a form of reward that involves the opinion of other people. [Read more…]

Motivating Creative People – Peer Pressures

Photo by My Buffalo

The basic thing in my mind was that for all our success The Beatles were always a great little band. Nothing more, nothing less.
Paul McCartney

Creativity happens between people not, just between the ears. Whatever drives us as individuals, something magical and unpredictable happens when talented creative people get together. They spark off each other — and sparks come from friction.

Few people can have known the highs and lows of creative collaboration so intimately as John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr. They achieved fame as a unit, sporting identical suits and haircuts, and performing, in McCartney’s words, as “a great little band”. For a few years, their friendship and the euphoria of success were enough to paper over individual differences. But as time and fame took their toll, tensions mounted and tempers flared. The inevitable breakup was evidently a relief in some respects, is the individual members were free to pursue their own interests — but the consensus is that they never reach the same heights in their solo careers as they did in the years when they were known as The Beatles.

[Read more…]

Motivating Creative People – Personal Values

Enneagram diagram

Image by Sandra Renshaw

Manager: “I just don’t understand it. I’ve tried everything, but he still doesn’t get it. He just carries on doing the opposite of what he’s supposed to do.”

Me: “Well I’ve heard a lot about why you want him to do it, and a lot of reasons why he ‘should’ do it. But the question I haven’t heard the answer to is ‘What’s in it for him?'”

(Long silence.)

Manager: “That’s a very good question.”

I’m in no danger of breaking confidentiality by telling you this conversation – I’ve had it hundreds of times, with managers at all levels, in many different companies. And I hope it doesn’t suggest that I’m a particularly brilliant coach – it is a good question, but I didn’t invent it. And the main reason it occurs to me when it doesn’t occur to a manager is that he or she is immersed in the situation, while I’m in the position of a privileged outsider. To the manager, it’s obvious why a particular outcome is important – for the company, for the team, even for the individual concerned. He or she can’t understand why the team member in question doesn’t take it as seriously.

Sometimes the situation can be resolved by explaining exactly what, why and how things should be done differently. But at other times the employee carries on regardless, apparently oblivious to the manager’s threats and entreaties. Words like ‘difficult’, ‘lazy’ and ‘unmotivated’ start to be bandied about.

It’s time to look at things differently.

[Read more…]