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The art of managing a creative team – Part 1

Unfortunately, creative genes are difficult to come by and we aren’t all blessed with them. They’re magical things that are near impossible to teach. Their value, however, clocks in at more than King Midas’ touch, particularly for growing creative brands. So how do you get the most out of creative team members?

Over the next month or so, I’m going to break down the three pillars I use to manage my team. Hopefully you can take something from my musings to enhance your day-to-day.

In a nutshell, they are:

STRUCTURE

FREEDOM

SUPPORT

Let’s get into the nitty gritty right away. When you think of creatives, your first thought isn’t typically structure, right? The term creative conjures visions of someone who is eccentric, easily distracted, hardly practical and maybe even a little crazy. I’ve personally been called these things by colleagues and friends. I’m not going to argue that creatives aren’t a mixed bunch that come in all shapes and sizes.

When I use the term structure, I’m referring to the environment you create around your team. It’s the tools you facilitate them with and most importantly, it’s giving your team the space to do what they do best – CREATE.

As managers, it’s our responsibility to build a structure that best enables creation. For me, it comes down to a few things:

  • Strong briefs – As managers, it’s our job to be guardians of our teams… we have their back. I myself won’t accept a brief from anybody in sales, marketing or management unless it fits our clearly-defined briefing process. It should be a process designers have a big hand in developing. This ensures that no matter the project, they know what to expect and where to find all the information required to do the job. There is nothing more painful than having to double handle a job because a designer didn’t have all the information they needed before they started the job.
  • Collaboration/Support – Everybody has creative blocks despite their level of experience; it’s just a fact of life. Sometimes creative juices just don’t flow. The best way I’ve found to get through these blocks is collaboration. A fresh set of eyes will always bring new ideas or different angles of attack. As managers, it is imperative that we allow time for our teams to step away from the computer and throw ideas around. I encourage it constantly. I would rather two or three designers get away from their computers and brainstorm together than have one designer sit and stare at their monitor for hours, waiting for lightning to strike.
  • Mentoring – A creative business can’t run in a top-heavy hierarchy. It makes no sense having a department of 10 seniors. Firstly, your CEO or MD would lose their mind over your wage bill, but more importantly, it just doesn’t seem to happen organically within companies. The dilemma this creates is you’ll end up with a group of your team serving as mid or junior level creatives. The challenge is growing this group into reliable resources and not always leaving them with mundane, junior tasks. The key is mentoring and empowering your team. Pair senior designers and more junior team members to encourage guidance. It will help create a new dynamic within your group, giving seniors a feeling of responsibility while growing the skill sets of your juniors and mids. This will also relieve you of an enormous workload as a manager so you can focus on keeping your team humming – even when you can’t physically be around.

And there you have it – how I give my teams the structure they need to get through their days. Disagree or have something to add? Reach out and let me know. I’m always looking for new ways to operate better.

Next time, I’ll delve deeper into what I mean by FREEDOM when it comes to managing creatives.

Watch this space,

Sam

Feel free to "Pick Our Brains" for 15 minutes. No obligation… we just want people to communicate better.

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