Creative people are the backbone of your agency team. They're the people who dream up the innovative ideas that propel your agency to the next level. Hiring and retaining the best creative minds will be one of your most vital functions.
But sometimes creative people can also be the biggest troublemakers at your agency. If their minds aren't properly stimulated, they can be moody, arrogant and weirdly erratic. Because creative minds look at the world in a different way, they often require a different managerial approach. So, how do you manage creative people to get the most out of their talents?
Allow Them to Try… and Fail
If you want to encourage creativity and innovation, you need to support a workplace culture where it is OK to fail. Creativity is all about experimentation, and sometimes experiments explode in your face. If you know something will work, then it isn't creative. Encourage and support your creative unconditionally. If they realize it's OK for their ideas to not work, then they will feel much better about suggesting and implementing them.
Encourage a Creative Workspace.
Does your office consist of row after row of dull, grey cubicles? Is there any artwork on the walls? Is it silent and orderly? Then you are probably stifling your creative staff.
Color, texture and items of interest can make a huge difference to the way a staff thinks while they're at work. Many design firms showcase work their team has done, which is a great way to inspire creativity in staff.
You can also rearrange your office in a way that encourages collaboration. Do away with the cubicle walls and create bright areas with couches and tables where staff can sit and discuss ideas.
Keep in mind that many creatives do their best work at odd times of the day. If possible, be as flexible with work schedules as possible, allowing staff to come early, stay late and even work from home (with good project management software, they can still exchange work and collaborate with everyone in the office). As long as you're getting the results you need, where and when your team works as much of a concern.
Get the Team Mix Right
It may take some experimentation on your part to get the right balance of personalities and working styles within your team. For instance, the one thing you don't want is an entire team of creative types — they will either spend all their time bouncing ideas around or competing against each other for who has the best ideas.
And creatives also tend to be big-picture thinkers: They're great with ideas and concepts, but not so good at drilling down the finer details and worrying about "unimportant" things like deadlines.
You need a team that's a mix of different personality types, who are all willing to listen to input from each other and adjust their ideas accordingly. You want some deadline-driven, analytical types who can keep everything on track, as well as some colleagues who are production-driven, with a definite unconventional streak, but still good at handling the production work.
Provide Praise and Feedback
Creative people often need validation to feel as though they're contributing in a meaningful way. Recognize and celebrate the creative potential in your employees, or you will see them go somewhere else. Acknowledge good work (this goes for anyone on the team, not just creatives) and make sure client praise is passed on to the team.
When giving feedback, remember to keep your comments constructive. Creative people often become emotionally attached to their ideas, and it can be good to remind them that just because an idea isn't right for a client doesn't mean it's not a good idea. So much of the work produced in the creative sector is judged on personal preference alone. What is amazing to someone is dumb to someone else. Keep this in mind when offering feedback. Focus on whether a piece of work is technically sound or if it fits with the brief and the client's brand.
What tips do you have for managing creative people?
Originally published Oct 29, 2013 1:00:33 AM, updated July 28 2017