As a coach, says Deborah Henry-Pollard, Associate Consultant at Coincidencity and creative coach at Catching Fireworks, I work primarily with professionally creative people, that is, people who make their careers as artists, writers, designers, photographers, musicians, dancers, etc. Of late, I have noticed an increasing trend in another type of people who are applying to work with me. These are people who have good, successful careers of anything between 10 – 30 years in corporate life. They tell stories of good salaries, impressive job titles, steady promotions, good perks, healthy pensions and all the other trappings of an outwardly desirable career.
They approach me because they want to throw in the towel on their corporate careers and explore their creativity. They feel their careers are straight jackets, places where even if/when reaching the higher levels of their organisations, they have no permission or opportunity to be adventurous in their thinking. Further frustration is added by the fact that left to their own devices and not fettered by “the way we do things in business”, they are certain they could contribute far more to their organisations and get more personal satisfaction for themselves and those around them.
Obviously, I am happy to work with these people if we discover a burning need to follow a new, creative career path. However, I often ponder about the wealth of experience, skills, knowledge, insights and relationships which are being taken out of the corporate world. There is also all the time and money which has been invested in these people over many years. And all because the corporate world is not being astute enough to find new ways of working which will energise their people.
When writing this blog, I decided at this point to Google “how to motivate your staff”. I came up with pages of “top tips”, ranging from bonuses, promotions, and advice on not micromanaging and letting them work from home. I also changing their job title, giving birthday cards, holding social events, gym memberships, dress down Fridays, order-in a pizza once in a while, let them leave 15-30 minutes early one day… The people I have been talking to have all this, or their company’s equivalent. And yet they still want to jump ship. This is because all this ‘motivational’ thinking is still happening within the current business paradigm which dates back to the Industrial Revolution.
When asked what would motivate them, some very common answers have been coming up:
• the sense of real value in the work they are doing for their clients/customers (and not just how much money this will make the company)
• seeing that the contribution of their individual skills/personality makes a difference (i.e. it’s not just whoever happens to be in the postholder role at the time)
• the experience of genuinely collaborating equally with their colleagues without the barriers of a hierarchical corporate structure
• being able to experiment and try out ideas
• using creativity and ‘non-business’ skills to solve problems
• being trusted
(Interestingly with the people to whom I am talking, money is the least important aspect. Indeed, money only becomes an issue the more dissatisfied a person is, along the lines of, “If I am going to be unhappy in my work, then at least I am going to get well paid for it.”)
People will always be needed to work in corporations. Some will accept the way things are run now as the only way and be glad to know their place in the system. Some will accept it, but be unhappy and seek fulfilment, contribution and development outside their working hours, waiting for 5pm to chime before they get really excited about life. Some, like those who approach me, are taking their toys out of the pram and setting up for themselves. This can be a great thing for those who are natural entrepreneurs, creatives, freelancers. But for those who actually thrive in being part of a bigger organisation, working around and with lots of other inspired and inspiring people, escaping the corporate life isn’t really the best option, either for them or for the businesses who lose the wealth of experience and potential each person represents.
I would suggest that the best option, for both the individual and for corporate life, is for businesses to become more centred around all their people (and incidentally, not just around their staff but also around their customers). In business consultancy, staff motivation is often on the agenda, but in the context of, “this is how we run our organisation; how can we motivate our staff within this?”. It is time to change it to, “this is what gets people motivated; how can we build our working methods around this?”
And then, perhaps, I will have fewer discontented business people contacting me.
As an inspirational coach, Deborah works with people to help them find and build on their vision. She supports clients by seeing both the big vision and the small next step. If you would like to find out more about Deborah’s fantastic work, please contact here at firstname.lastname@example.org or check out her inspiring site atwww.catchingfireworks.co.uk