museums&MORE Summer 2010
Editor’s Letter: It Starts at the Top

By Abby Heugel, Managing Editor

I’m slowly becoming a convert to the principle that you can’t motivate people to do things, you can only demotivate them. The primary job of the manager is not to empower but to remove obstacles.” – Scott Adams, creator of the “Dilbert” comic strip

Isn’t that true?

While external influences and tactical rewards are often helpful, when it comes to true motivation to succeed, the drive is more internal. However, when unnecessary external obstacles or a lack of support from employers is encountered, motivation can quickly dwindle down to nothing.

That’s why communication and cohesiveness between retail managers and key museum staff is paramount to the overall success of an organization. Marcia Souers Doell, product manager for the Auburn Cord Duesenberg Automobile Museum, recently approached me about this topic and I thought it worthy of discussion.

A theme she heard among her fellow museum store managers is that they enjoy only marginal retail venue support from their directors and curatorial staff. Since her experience has been just the opposite, she began to wonder what the difference was. After talking with her own executive director, she concluded that the answer lies putting a mission into motion and keeping communication lines open.

I have posted the complete interview on our Web site for viewing, but I would like to share a few of her observations and encourage your own feedback on the issue.

“As a museum store/product manager, I have gradually learned the effectiveness of these two components in my own setting, accomplished by an understanding of Executive Director Laura Brinkman’s approach to running a mission-driven cultural institution at Auburn Cord Duesenberg Automobile Museum in northeast Indiana.

She said she views the store as an equal partner in the museum’s program offerings, which is quite a departure. She added, ‘One cannot ignore the store’s financial importance of generating revenue to pay the bills, but providing an educational interpretation of the collection through product offerings is, in my mind, the true fulfillment of mission and that’s why we, the museum, exist at all.'”

Access to professional resources helps one do things right and can help store managers become more credible in their communication with the people to whom they report. Store managers who seek out professional standards grow in unexpected and appreciable ways within their venue. Museum directors look for this growth and achievement in individuals for the overall success of their cultural institutions.

Communicating confidently and being backed with an industry-wide knowledge base can lend creditability to a budget conversation, and communication between directors and store managers, in general.

Measuring a museum’s success may reach beyond an evaluation of the bottom line, but rather, in how well its human resources, from top to bottom, ingeniously interpret the museum’s mission.”

Whether you play the part of retailer or director in the retail relationship, I would love to hear your experiences at If communication is key to success, this is a great chance to remove one more obstacle that might be in your way!

Until next time…

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