General Motivation and His Plastic Troops

by Albert Berkshire

In the early morning dawn, fog passes over a field. There’s a smell in the air this morning. It’s one you know too well. It’s the smell of certain defeat.

As you scramble to your predetermined position, your fellow soldiers at your side, you hope that today’s battle will be different. Inside, you hope for victory, or at least a glimmer of hope.

Your anticipation overwhelms you. Your body contorts with sheer terror as you await your instructions. You hold your breath. And then…it comes.

“’Morning.”

Today you stood tall, ready for battle and again you knew there was no way you could win. You had already been told.

“Men. Today you will charge forth and meet the enemy face to face. And as much as I’d like to be there on the front lines with you, I’m going to hide in my office because I know we’re going to loose the battle.”

If General George Washington said that to his troops, the United States of America would be using the British Sterling for currency and Starbucks would be serving twenty blends of tea, not coffee.

It’s hard enough as a Creative to stay on track, to shake the funky emotions that fill our hearts and heads everyday and make us think that we could never do anything that’s really worth a damn. For those of us who are passionate about what we do, we need to feel good. And not having a General in the field with us that screams “CHARGE” and leads it, just isn’t much help.

When I studied business in college (one of my unsuccessful attempts at a career change), we did a lot of work on Human Resource Development—you know, the six hundred page text that could have been summarized “Motivate, appreciate and stand behind your employees so you’ll have less turnover and more productivity.”

You’d think a manager would understand “more productivity.” It’s the little thing that helps him get a fatter bonus check.

It’s not rocket science. No one lives or dies at the end of the day because of something we did or didn’t do. But something important does happen when Creatives are not appreciated, not motivated, not supported and thanked with more than a gift certificate and a paycheck twice a month. What happens is someone driving home at the end of a really bad day doesn’t hear a commercial that makes then laugh, or smile, or almost cry. They just hear words, words we struggled to put on the page, words that came in interrupted sequences of preoccupied thought.

Creatives don’t want to be pampered. Not the real ones. We just want to know that what we do means something…to someone. We don’t have to be quoted, or introduced as “our best writer,” or even fed lines from some stupid “Chicken Soup For The Creative Writers Soul” book.

If you’re a manager, this may offend you. If it doesn’t, you don’t get it.

When I was a manager (a PD with a staff of 19 and later a Creative Director with two on staff) it was me in the back. And I wasn’t much help to my troops. Could I handle the pressure? Yes. Did I want to? No! But at least I realized it before it ripped the creative hearts out of anyone. I moved on to someplace better.

You see, it’s not what we Creatives need; it’s what we don’t need. And most of us frail, timid, insecure dreamers just don’t need to be greeted with a grunting “’Morning” as the manager heads off to hide in his office. To us, he’s just in there playing with little toy soldiers that look like salespeople and Creatives, lining them up—himself safely placed at the back—with no words of motivation and no desire to lead the charge.

 

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