It’s not easy to write killer content over and over again, day after day. It is even more difficult when you aren’t the one writing, only guiding a team through the process.
How do you motivate a team to produce better content? Or sometimes, how do you get them to produce any content at all?
Bark, Beg, and Badger
Usually, our first inclination is our worst. Hopefully we get better as we guide our team over time, but that doesn’t stop us from badgering our writers a bit too much in the beginning. We send reminder emails. Sarcastic hints. Eye rolls. Yelling that tanks morale and friendships.
These aren’t all that motivating, or successful. They rarely lead to long-term improvements. There is a better way.
One of my go-to management theories for nearly everything has been the principal of ownership. When writers feel a sense of ownership on a project, they become more willing to do amazing things. They work late, they put in the extra time, and most importantly they take pride in what they do because they aren’t just doing it for you. They are doing it for themselves.
This is powerful motivation, but it doesn’t happen by accident.
How do we motivate our teams? How do we give them a sense of ownership?
1. Let Them In
Too many editors assume that their writers cannot be trusted.
This is insulting, and makes grown adults feel like a child. Great editors move beyond this, and trust their writers first by letting them in on what we are doing. If they simply can’t be trusted, then they probably shouldn’t be on your team (and that is a different problem entirely). This means that you should make them a part of your big decisions. Their opinion needs to count. It also means that your job is not to lord over them. Rather, your job is to delegate big goals, and then get out of the details and out of their way.
2. Let Them Be Them
Most editors were writers first, and that makes it easy for them to meddle and place too much control over what their writers do and how they do it. Don’t micro manage. Trust your writers, and let them develop their own spin, their own voice, and their own style.
Of course, this doesn’t mean that you withhold all restraints. Boundaries are good and necessary. Just don’t be over zealous in your control, and recognize that your tendency is to go at least one step too far.
3. Create a Creative Environment
When we over-extend ourselves as managers, we turn a creative process into a robotic one.
We create “templates,” “guidelines,” and “standards” that suck creativity out of the room. We believe that our limitations bring quality, but if they are over the top, they can do the exact opposite.
Creativity is a powerful tool. We have to recognize that our writers are creative people, and give them the opportunity to embrace it. This means that we need to be willing to let them try something new, let them explore, let them fail, and let them succeed all on their own.
4. They Won’t Write Like You
I know. Your writers don’t write like you do. It drives you crazy! If only….
But it doesn’t matter. Seriously. No one creates the same way. They will have a different style, a different approach, and a different niche. Good editors learn the core strengths of each writer, and then find new ways to foster it. If you try to force everyone to become something that they’re not, you will never get the results you are looking for.
5. Give Them Their Own Topics
What inspires writers personally will inspire them professionally. Don’t always make your team write about what you want to write about. Give them some rope! Trust me, you readers will be okay with the variety.
On our own blog, I have been pleasantly surprised to see a great response to post topics that I didn’t necessarily care for at first glance. I okayed them only because the author was passionate, not because I felt like they would be “successful.” Much of the time, my concerns proved to be wrong. Some of my least favorite topics ended up being our most popular posts. Go figure!
6. Give Them The Spotlight
It is amazing how many writers don’t get the credit they deserve. Tiny by-lines, bitty blurbs, and half-hearted mentions are too common. I always cringe on multi-author blogs that post everything as “admin.” Give your writers some credit! A visible by-line, a great photo, and a short bio won’t hurt anyone. In fact, it will add a bunch of “authenticity” to your blog, which your readers will appreciate.
There is nothing wrong with giving your writers the credit they deserve. You may feel like it will take away from your “brand,” but I would argue that it will only enhance it. People love seeing the man behind the curtain because it builds trust, and reader loyalty. People connect with people, not logos. Put your people front and center.
Here’s The Thing
If you are having a hard time motivating your writers to write, then there is probably too much editing in your editor. You need to loosen up your grip and give your team the trust, freedom, and credit they deserve. We aren’t conducting top secret science experiments for the government or anything. Take out the banana clip, and let your hair down.
Give your writing team the trust they crave and the power they need to be successful. I promise, you won’t lose control, and you won’t come out looking like the bad guy.