June 22, 2009 / Staff Management

Everyone needs a carrot

Written by Idea File Staff

Unlike the horse that will move forward only when he sees a carrot on a stick in front of him, there are many ways to motivate people to accomplish tasks. Different people are motivated by different enticements. For yearbook, some staff members like prizes; most like food. With some, peer pressure and being invested in the project are enough. Consider some of these inducements, both lighthearted and serious, to get your staff to perform when the pressure of a deadline is not enough.

“I just try to get the kids on the same page, thinking as a team,” said Renae Goldie, Lincoln Way East High School, Frankfort, Ill.

Goldie has developed a plan that helps her staff bond early in the year. She takes her editors to a summer workshop, where they decide a theme. When they return to school, the theme is kept secret for the first two to three weeks of school. Every day during that time, Goldie teaches lessons and the students write about what they learned the day before.

“We spend that time making sure the kids are there because they want to,” Goldie said. “The kids who do not belong usually realize it after one week.”

During this time the students are anxiously awaiting the announcement of the theme.

“This builds up anticipation and bonds them as they try to get me to tell the theme,” she said.

Once the theme is revealed, she puts the staff in teams with leaders whose job it is to motivate their team. To help the teams bond, they get to plan a fun and inexpensive activity outside of school paid for from the yearbook budget. Goldie must approve the activity, which usually includes pizza, Frisbee golfing or a movie.

“At that point they know each other as people.” Goldie said this activity helps when staffs mix people from different groups within the school, and helps staff members feel more equal.

“When kids have ideas, it’s important to share, and they need to be comfortable sharing their ideas,” she said.

For the rest of the year, Goldie buys T-shirts for the staff at Christmas, she has parties after each deadline, and hosts a nice banquet at the end of the year for students and their parents.

Motivation works best when you understand the people you are trying to motivate. Middle school students, even the best ones, need a little more help getting their work done.

“At that age they like to socialize and want to talk. They are in the class because they are interested so they are on task, as long as you keep them from socializing,” said Danielle Bradley, adviser at Silver Trail Middle School, Pembroke Pines, Fla.

Bradley also suggested breaking the book into sections so students are always working on something new. At the end of a big deadline and the end of the year, they have a funny awards ceremony in class that a few of the students help put together.

Karen Ray, a Walsworth yearbook representative in Missouri, used both positive and negative reinforcement when she was an adviser.

As a reward, Ray gave a CD to the first person done before deadline with good copy. She also offered to order lunch if everyone made deadline with clean copy. This is a good peer-pressure incentive for students to help each other.

To add a little more pressure, she recommends telling staff, “the yearbook is your homework and the entire school is going to see it.” She also let underclassmen know if they did not pull their weight, they would not be on staff next year.

Idea File Staff

Idea File Staff reports are posts compiled by the Walsworth Yearbooks Marketing Department, covering a wide range of yearbook topics.