Mar 2, 2012

Managing a Creative Team

Managing a creative team without you or the team members wanting to throw themselves out the window!

As my subhead implies, working with creative people can be challenging. But also, incredibly rewarding. While it can be stimulating to be surrounded by talented people and ideas in the midst of a creative environment, learning how to manage creative teams or co-workers is an art. And it needs to be pursued with care and attention.

The term “creative people” immediately brings to mind artists and writers. However, this definition includes musicians, RJs, application architects, architects, graphic designers, advertising professionals, filmmakers, landscape artists, photographers, sound engineers, nutritionists, clothing designers, etc. Often, creative people are known for being eccentric, working flexibly and not following a set routine. They may sometimes be asocial and withdrawn and at other times flamboyant and articulate. They are often frustrated by regimented working hours and work conditions. However, creative teams may sometimes be a part of a larger corporate outfit and the rules that apply to the rest of the firm apply to them too.

To manage a creative team effectively it is important to understand the way creative people work, and ensure that productivity does not get sacrificed in the process. Lack of inspiration is often cited as a reason for turning in poor quality work. Remember that while you can do everything to keep your creative team’s energies charged up, it’s just another day at work. You can’t produce creativity on demand by turning on a faucet, so there has to be an established code of work that is fair, stimulating, and result-oriented.
  • Communicate briefs clearly and provide context while doing so.
  • Ensure that your team-members are aligned to a goal.
  • Drive home the point that your emphasis is on the outcome of the work rather than the hours spent on creating it.
  • Watch out for burnout and prevent it before it happens. If people are working overtime, ensure that they take necessary time off to recover and recharge their batteries.
  • Innovation is necessary but deadlines are sacrosanct.
  • Build a framework that allows for timely reviews and interventions prior to submission or presentation of a project.
  • Foster a culture of openness and collaboration within the team. Do not encourage cliques within a team. If two creative people in a team do not get along, drive home the point that the odds shall favor the team player.
  • Be public with praise and discreet with criticism. While rejecting ideas, be sensitive to the person who generated them. However, take care not to undermine your own authority. Be frank and diplomatic, but also forthright.
  • Create a culture of mentoring – allow team-members to contribute to each other’s’ growth and learning Within the boundaries of company policy, enable access to learning tools, resources and activities
  • Always celebrate accomplishments and dissect failures together and as a team