In Part One of this article, I covered why it was important to have different management styles for creative people, and I addressed some management tips that can help shape projects in positive ways. Here are some more tips and the conclusion to this two-part article:
If you know you’re a micro-manager, speak to strengths
The one truth about micro-managing is: there will always be micro-managers. If you are one, you might make life really uncomfortable for creatives because of the way we think and work, especially since sometimes explaining the creative process is infinitely harder than just being allowed to create.
Here is an example of an exercise that can really help you and your team: Say you are managing an ad campaign and you don’t know much about copywriting, web design or layouts, but you know a lot about online marketing. Instead of speaking to the things you don’t know (i.e. trying to watch over your web designer’s shoulder or ask for constant updates), try setting goals as if you were talking to another online marketer. Then, give the outline to your team prior to a brainstorming session. They’ll bring their creative input and, at the meeting, you can patiently explain why (or why it won’t) work according to your online marketing goals. Not only will your team will respect you more, because you’ve given them the chance to provide feedback from their area of expertise, it also turns into a learning experience and a growth opportunity for yourself. You will learn more than you would have if you watched over their shoulder, because they will help translate their knowledge according to what your strengths are and vice versa without wasting your time and creating an atmosphere of anxiety.
Remember, people first (not robots)
We’ve all heard the stories about how neurotic writers are, but in reality maybe we’re all just a little bit “off.” Yes, creative people think differently than others, and maybe some can make the case that we’re also moodier or have stranger habits. The bottom line, though, is that we are not machines. Some days are going to be better than others for production, and the sooner you realize that, the more effectively you can manage. If you are concerned with a team member’s productivity – talk to them about it. Don’t assume, don’t inquire indirectly. Have a friendly, face-to-face discussion and ask them if there are any factors preventing them from doing their job. If they say “No,” then you have every right to take it to the next step. Either way, the worse thing you can do is either ask someone else about so-and-so, or keep a closer eye on your employee. Most people know when they’re being watched, so take a direct approach and your employees will come to trust your honesty.
Acknowledge different work habits and methods
We’ve all used MSWord, maybe some of us have used Adobe InDesign or Google Docs. From shortcuts to spell check, there are different ways to get to the same goal. If you’re comfortable with your employee’s proficiency and project completion time using the tools you’ve given them, then let them work in the way that’s comfortable for them. This also builds respect, because it says that you, as a manager, have the maturity to let people do their jobs without worrying about minutia.
Your team’s reputation is your reputation
Last but not least, remember what I said about how creatives produce? Well, when any one of your team members puts their name on a project, it turns into something they can be proud of, put into their portfolio and share with others. Here is where having ownership truly pays off, because your team members know what part they contributed to and you can enjoy the fact that you shaped the project to its successful, end result.
Unfortunately, there are risk factors that are beyond your control: bad print runs, people interfering with the work flow, missed deadlines, work not up to par, etc. In the event of unforeseen circumstances, do whatever it takes to protect your team’s reputation like you would your own – especially if you can easily identify “what went wrong.” Remember, that if they look bad, you look even worse because you will be perceived as a poor manager even if you have an excellent reason why the project didn’t turn out as planned. Whatever you do, don’t ever badmouth your employees behind their back or worse — pit them against one another. This means that you may need to make hard decisions to do what’s best for your business but, in the long run, remember that all the money in the world cannot fix a tarnished business reputation. If you treat your employees poorly for whatever reason, it will come back to haunt you.
There are quite a few other techniques that work to manage creatives (like allowing your team to “play”) but really, it all comes down to the people you have on your team. Sometimes, it’s necessary to cater management styles to reflect different personality types in order to achieve team goals. Other times, you’ll have to look in the mirror to decide if you can effectively manage creative people, or if a different structure will work better for your business. Either way, it’s important to point out that different people require different management styles. While there are an infinite number of ways to effectively get what you want, it’s also important to understand, on a basic level, the level of creativity you have to work with.