Think you’re a great boss? You might want to think again. When you’re managing creative employees, you need an entirely different skill set than with traditional roles.
Did you know that 75% of people who quit their jobs cite their bosses as the reason they’re leaving?
If you want to keep good staff, it’s critical that you learn how to manage creative employees well.
If you don’t adapt your management style to fit your creative talent, you risk more than your reputation as a good leader – you put the longevity of your business at risk.
We know that managing creative staff is challenging. Long-gone are the days of demanding strict work schedules and acting as a micromanager on every project. And if you think your employees will deliver better results when you watch their every step, you’re wrong. (Though that does put you on the fast-track to the “world’s worst boss award.”)
Getting the most out of your team takes more than upgrading the office with a basketball hoop trash can or a hip workspace. You have to change your mindset. Are you making these mistakes when it comes to managing your creative team?
If you have a team of creatives, you should stop doing these top five things:
1. Not Giving Credit Where Credit's Due.
Big creative projects are complex and—when they’re finally deployed—are the culmination of an entire team’s efforts, from the person who wrote the brief to the copywriter who penned the tagline. But just because it’s a group effort doesn’t mean you shouldn’t recognize outstanding individuals for their great work. Quite the opposite.
Failing to recognize a staff member’s great idea or (even worse) taking credit for someone else’s work, is one of the biggest mistakes a manager can make. When employees aren’t recognized for their accomplishments it can undermine your whole team’s structure, especially if they believe you’re taking all their glory for yourself.
Though it can be hard to track who did what on a complicated project, taking the time to
spotlight individual accomplishments is well worth the effort.
Key takeaway: To manage your creative team well, take the time to recognize your team’s efforts and celebrate the individual wins.
2. Being a Micromanager.
Trust is a key factor in an employer/employee relationship. Without trust, you’re doomed to fail. – but the fastest way to quell trust when managing creative employees is to micromanage everything they do.
Need examples of micromanagement behaviors? Here are some of the worst:
- Making employees track every minute of time they’re spending at their desks.
- Asking for hourly status reports.
- Using spy software to figure out how much time your employee spend online.
- Telling your employees you need to approve any email correspondence that gets sent to your clients.
You hired each member of your team for a specific reason….so let them do their jobs!
You might feel tempted to chalk it up to your perfectionist tendencies. But make no mistake: micromanaging your team borders on bullying, and it drives your creatives crazy.
It’s true, you absolutely need to train your staff and set clear expectations up front - they can’t read your mind to know what you expect - but once you’ve done that, insert some scheduled checkpoints to ensure they’ve learned the skill, then let them do their job.
Key takeaway: Don’t be a bully. Train your team then trust them to do their job and do it well without micromanaging them.
3. Only Rewarding Absolute Perfection.
In today’s ever-changing world of work, things don’t always go as planned. Deadlines are missed, budgets overrun, new ideas don’t take off. Mistakes happen–and that’s okay. Don’t confuse perfection with productivity.
Coach your team to have a growth mindset, so they look at mistakes and failures as learning opportunities instead of catastrophes.
Sometimes the best ideas often come after something that looks like a complete failure. Keep your team engaged, and get them to generate new solutions to problems. A great leader actually looks for and encourages staff to share their learnings with the team so it’s clear that mistakes are welcome.
Key takeaway: Give yourself (and your team!) permission to screw up. No one is perfect, and sometimes mistakes can be extraordinary learning opportunities.
4. Adopting a Rigid Management Style.
As an manager, you thrive on details. We get it. Without nailing down specifics, your projects would never get off the ground. But it’s important to note that you see details differently than your creative staff does.
While you are confined by the details, your creatives see them as endless possibilities.
Don’t restrict your team with your limitations. Take their lead! It’s time for you to see details for what they really are -- opportunities in disguise.
Forcing conventional, laborious methods of getting things done stagnates their creative input. Stop rejecting their big ideas and give your team the opportunity to explore the possibilities that are born out of the details.
For the key details they must pay attention to (ones that may mean you don’t get paid by a client or would fail a compliance review), create standard guidelines and measurement to ensure those details are flawless. But don’t stick to details when they don’t matter or you’ll risk alienating (or worse, limiting the creativity of) your creative staff.
Key takeaway: Be flexible when it comes to managing the details of getting projects done. Allow your employees a little wiggle room so they can explore creative ways to achieve your goals and you just may find new ways that work better.
5. Sticking with the Status Quo.
With more and more creative talent - and especially extremely digital ones - filtering into the workplace, the way we do business is changing. Are you stuck in a rut? Do you refuse to change because “that’s not the way we do it here?”
The most talented employees seek to improve everything they touch. And refusing change takes away from their need to improve things and likely means you’re missing out on efficient and modern ways to get work done.
It’s time to stop doing business as usual, and be open to the changes your creative employees suggest.
If you’re concerned that chaos will ensue, book time for creative problem-solving - a “One Big Idea” meeting where your team shares their insights on how to improve work products, workflow or systems. Book that meeting on a regular basis and stick to it. Hate meetings? Have a suggestion box or slack channel where new ideas can constantly be shared and are reviewed on a published schedule.
Key takeaway: Empower your creative employees and don’t be afraid to upend the status quo.
Managing Creatives in the Workplace
Having creatives in the workplace isn’t a fad or passing trend. They’re here to stay. And if you want to succeed and grow your career, you’ll take this advice seriously. You need to learn how to manage creative employees – your future career depends on it.
As business and technology moves faster than we can keep up with, understand and embrace your creative employees’ ability to go with the flow. Give them time and space for brainstorming new ideas and don’t micromanage their projects.
Realize they do best without having set-in-stone plans and give them freedom to create and explore to let them shine even more. (After all, their success is your success, too, right?)