If you’ve ever felt like managing a creative team is like herding squirrels, you’re not the only one. We all know that creative jobs involve a process that’s a little different from the typical office position, and inspiration is not always in large supply. Unfortunately, deadlines and productivity expectations don’t reflect this, and it can be a challenge to keep a team of creative people on track. It takes some creativity on your part and a lot of patience to effectively manage a creative team, but the rewards are well worth the effort. Here are 6 tips you can apply when managing a creative team.
- Get to Know Your Team’s Strengths and Weaknesses
This is a must for anyone in a management role, but it’s particularly important when you’re working with a team of creative people. Knowing each team member’s strengths and weaknesses makes delegation more effective and results in higher morale and productivity, because people are not discouraged or unhappy with the tasks they are given.
- Don’t Micromanage
Nothing kills creativity faster like someone looking over your shoulder, telling you how to do your job. If you’re learning a new technical skill and you need a lot of guidance, it makes sense that you’d need more management on how to do your job over the result, but the opposite is true when it comes to creative teams. You need to give them the freedom to use their own methods to reach the results you have clearly communicated. Micromanagement not only makes it more difficult for your team to be creative, it can also put a dent in morale and make people resentful or defensive.
- Recognition Means More Than Money
People who work creatively love what they do. They love bringing an idea to life, and their work is about more than just bringing home a paycheck. While it is important to compensate creative people appropriately (and give raises when they are deserved), recognition often means more to creative people than monetary incentives. They love to share what they do with others, and they get motivation and satisfaction from knowing that others (especially management) value their work.
On a related note, if you find some of their work lackluster, it’s important to deal with the situation delicately. There is an emotional attachment to creative work, and if you don’t like that work, the creator of it may feel personally slighted. Approach the situation with sensitivity, but don’t accept sub-par work—that reflects on you too.
- Encourage Collaboration & Brainstorming
While we all have some romanticized image of the artist or writer making brilliant breakthroughs in a solitary studio, the truth is that talking with others is often the best inspiration. Don’t have meetings that involve endless PowerPoints, use your in-person meeting time to brainstorm and inspire the team to excel in their own projects. There are so many ways you can encourage collaboration among team members that don’t end in them staring at the table and getting nothing done. Team outings and breaks, letting people work outside on their projects together, and providing creative environments are all ways you can help your team accomplish their objectives without prescribing a method or hovering too much.
- Don’t Bore Them
Being bored at work is no way to bring creative ideas to life. Offer opportunities for development, switch up the office environment, and make sure your department’s culture doesn’t stagnate. Be open to different ideas for livening up the office—there’s nothing wrong with being flexible as long as expectations are met.
- Prioritize Trust and Communication
This is a big one. Start out with optimism, and trust your team, unless they’ve given you reason not to trust (if that’s the case, other evaluations probably need to happen). Communication will help ensure that everyone is on the same page and can be relied on to get the job done. Deadlines and expectations for deliverables drive a creative team, but none of that can happen if everyone is stressed out and distrustful. If someone has a good idea, let them run with it. They’re the creatives, after all! There’s a reason creative teams haven’t been replaced by artificial intelligence: we need the pure innovation of the human mind. Work with your team to unlock that innovation through communication, and you should see some impressive results.