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Managing Creative People

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If men are from Mars and women from Venus, then most creatives come from a planet that is all their own. That is why they are so important. Easily crushed by convention and conformity they need to be nurtured. This poses a special management challenge. Here are a few tips.

  1. Understand what motivates them. Conventional rewards like money and benefits may be significant to us all, however, creatives like to see their visions realised – be it in words, image, video or any other medium.
  2. Provide a stimulating environment. Space, light, paintings, posters, plants, books and music can go a long way to creating the environment for good work. Allow reasonable customisation of workspaces.
  3. Create the right culture. Normative systems of management – where managers set standards (norms) and lead by good example – tend to work best. Rigid disciplinarian cultures are a disaster.
  4. Expect attitude. Creatives are often colourful people with differing degrees of creative temperament, odd behaviour and perhaps even unusual fashion sense. Learn to go with the flow so long as the job is done.
  5. Use change constructively. Most work groups resist change. Many creatives thrive on it. You can use change positively to energise the team.
  6. Flexible working. Creativity isn’t a nine to five process. Allow morning stars and evening stars to flourish by extended opening hours, adopting flexible work patterns and providing laptops or other tools so that people can continue to work at home or the coffee shop if they wish.
  7. Brief, consult and involve. The poorly briefed creative will go off on a tangent and produce brilliant work but, sadly, not right for the task. A proper brief to a creative will explain what the client wants, how it will be used, evaluated and when it is required. Ask your creative for ideas.
  8. Give them the professional responsibility. Let them manage themselves to meet the brief and deadline. Only intercede if it is really necessary, otherwise, let them get on with it.
  9. Variety. Creatives like a challenge and thrive on a good mix of work. This is why in-house creative teams often fail and outside agencies flourish.
  10. Acknowledge good work. Everyone likes to be appreciated and honest appreciation of a job well done is one of the finest motivators there can be.
  1. Don’t pay peanuts. Just because money isn’t the turn-on for your creatives, it doesn’t mean they have no interest. If you don’t pay at least market rates or more for exceptional talent, it will go walking.
  2. Don’t have favourites. Treat all members of the team the same at all times if you want to avoid bitterness and disenchantment.
  3. Don’t apply pressure. Much like everyone else, creatives can be crushed by having too much work and bored by having too little. Good managers set tasks and deadlines, while signposting the next assignment to give the incentive to complete current tasks and move on.
  4. Don’t interfere. Remember, the most intensive period of work is often at the end of the project, so when 80 per cent of the time is expended you may apparently see only 20 per cent of the final project.
  5. Don’t have a nervous breakdown. Managing creatives can be frustrating but also intensely rewarding. Developing the special skills required will serve you well in many other fields of management.

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