Managing creative teams throws up a unique set of challenges, and with them come a unique set of positives. Creative teams are unlike any other within the advertising agency family. They just don’t think like the rest of us. The very best teams are full of crazy people with crazy ideas, constantly bouncing their latest creations off each other and anyone else who cares to listen. Shove a coffee in their hand, step back and let them go!
One of the problems with evaluating creatives is that much of what they do has no value. It is the very nature of creativity that spontaneity drives them. This means that much ends up on the production floor. It’s like mining for diamonds. There’s a lot of mud and clay but, occasionally, a true gem shines through.
If you create the right environment for them to thrive, then thrive they will. Managing creative teams is, however, about keeping them focused. Stick to these 5 guidelines, and you will achieve it.
1: Recognise Individual Strengths Within the Team
Any great team should be a product that adds up to more than the sum of its parts. It is only possible to build teams like this by recognizing individuals’ strengths and weaknesses and creating the right environment for them to develop. People work at different speeds and in different ways and you, as a leader, need to be able to see that and work with it.
Give your creative people a long leash and free them from the worry of creative failure. Some ideas simply don’t work. That is just the way it is. Your job is to pick up on individual strengths and direct them to the right projects. Empower your workers to work together and as individuals within their team to achieve greatness.
By demonstrating that you trust your team members, you will create the very best environment in which they can thrive and work their magic. As individuals develop, so the team grows. A group of individuals working in harmony as a team can prove to be a somewhat unstoppable force.
2: Set Your Parameters and Let Them Get On With It
Creative people are not the best at time management and discipline. That’s not a criticism, it’s just the way they are wired. They need space in which to express themselves and the right environment in which to flourish. As a manager, you need to set tasks and goals, accurate and reasonable deadlines, and then leave them to create.
Use excellent software tools like monday.com or WorkBook.com. You can then set structures in place, allowing them to define what will be achieved within your boundaries. Speak to the experts at Tangram. They will help you choose the best system for your agency.
By removing the pressure on your creative team, you will create the perfect environment for them to really blossom. Micromanagement is anathema to these people and will severely hinder their creative genius. So limit your inner control freak and let them get on with the work, for which they are paid.
3: Managing Creative Teams Means Freedom
Not only freedom for you, by the way, but for them. It is the one thing that you, as a manager, have to give them. It’s always difficult to acknowledge that someone seated by a swimming pool or riding a motorbike along a highway is actually working, but for creatives, what works for them is best for you. For some, their best work is done at a desk, head down, with a cigarette in one hand and a coffee in the other. But for many, it simply is not. A quiet corner by a river or the noisy hum of a busy cafe. What works, works!
A huge part of the creative process is “inspiration time.” The totally unquantifiable time when inspiration hits and the magic happens. It’s different for each individual. The trick of managing creative teams well is allowing them space and time to be inspired. It’s not easy, but it’s essential.
Even before Covid happened, it was important to allow creatives to work remotely. Now it is essential. The bottom line is that it just doesn’t matter where they are or what they are doing as long as they are delivering.
The payback from good creative people is that they are never, not working. It’s commonplace for them to wake up in the middle of the night with a great idea. They make a coffee, hit their work terminal, and in the morning, as if by magic, you are presented with an exceptional idea or a great piece of work, ready to go.
4: Use Positive and Constructive Feedback
Create a constructive feedback environment that they can become accustomed to and familiar with. Have weekly meetings with each individual. These weekly discussion and progress meetings should be an opportunity to boost productivity, and your team should be aware that it is just part of the process of achieving project goals. Feedback is a vital part of creative work, and a creative agency requires continuous and frequent feedback to stay focused and improve. How else will they know if they are doing a good job?
Keep it positive and they’ll be happy to take on comments and smooth out any niggles to help them achieve and excel. It is personal development for them, as it is for your company. Make sure the feedback is precise and defines exactly what needs to be done next to reach the goals of the project. They will do the rest.
5) Provide The Resources They Need
Provide your team with the right tools, and you can expect results. If it is constantly getting distracted because of the wrong software, contacts, or budget, then your team will be off-kilter and unfocused. Re-align your creatives by listening to their exact resource requirements and delivering them. This shows you trust them to do their thing and want them to succeed in everything they do. Plus, it means your projects will excel and deliver too, which will lead to continued work and happy clients.
The right resources mean your team members will feel good about the work. It will bring out the best in them. They can be proud to call it their own and will keep on track more often.
As you can see, when it comes to managing creative teams, less is more. Once you are happy that you have the right people in place, leave them to it. Lose your inner control freak. Micromanaging is a huge no-no. It can be difficult to leave such an important part of your business completely in someone else’s hands, but the rewards will be worth it.