We have all had our share of The Boss, an inspirational leader who always prioritises the well-being of the team, encourages us to do better, and inspires us to not just do it right, but do what is right.
And, like all of us, you may have experienced having your wings clipped by That Boss, a micromanaging manager who breathes down your neck, sends multiple text messages within a short period of time, and makes you — and us — run screaming for the hills. Which means you surely know exactly what kind of leader you want to be.
As a leader of a creative team, your job is to encourage and empower creatives — not just manage them. The trickiest part about leading a creative team is that traditional management advice and techniques do not always work. Try imposing a number of rigid key performance indicators or an inflexible set of rules and watch the light in your team’s eyes dim.
Any way you look at it, being a successful leader of a creative team is no easy task. Here is some sage leadership advice to help improve performance and happiness, gathered from our creative community who have been managed by the good, the bad, and the clueless.
Ditch traditional structures and hierarchies
Creatives are not executives. Just like the job title, managing a creative team requires a little creativity and a lot of outside-the-box thinking.
Before you join a meeting room, leave your job title at the door. In the meeting, you are not the Creative Director. Or, the Account Manager. You are just a fellow creative joining a brainstorming session to come up with a new campaign idea. By creating a safe environment for creatives, this will allow the team to share anything and everything they want without the fear of rejection or being judged.
Connect, don’t manage
You do not need to be involved in all the nitty-gritty details of a daily routine of your creative team. Your job is to help them do their job. The best creative team leader supports and empowers the team. The most effective creative team leader trusts the team to do what they do best.
While it may be tempting to jump in a meeting to share your opinions or to help the team arrive at a conclusion faster, stay above the fray. Let your creatives take as much time as the timeline allows to figure out the finer details on their own. Creating a positive condition for the team allows your creatives to perform at the highest level.
To help maintain a healthy and positive team culture, empower your creatives and give them a real voice. The key is to keep communicating, keep educating, and be realistic with expectations.
Set a healthy pace for creatives
The writing is on the wall and, as we know, the creative industry has always been demanding and creatives are fleeing because of the round-the-clock demands and tight deadlines. Left unchecked, the unhealthy culture may lead creatives to exhaustion, burnout, and quitting the industry altogether.
To help maintain a healthy and positive team culture, empower your creatives and give them a real voice. The key is to keep communicating, keep educating, and be realistic with expectations. Help your creatives manage stress and anxiety by allowing openness and honesty. Also, foster a culture of collaboration and encourage the team to help each other out so they would feel supported.
Help creatives fulfil their creative dreams
Every creative has their own creative dream. Your copywriter may dream of writing an award-winning commercial. Your graphic designer may want to venture into motion graphic design. Ask your creative team what their dreams are.
Be aware of your team’s creative dreams and look for opportunities to help fulfil them while also creating values for the company. More often than not, a successful campaign originates from the dream of a creative — of something they have always dreamed to do.
While creatives are always learning and growing and naturally push themselves, it’s important for you as a leader to give them just a little nudge and the wings they need to fly and grow both individually and together as a team.
Go to bat for your team
As a leader of a creative team, your role is to nurture the team to produce great creative assets while managing the expectations of your client or your company. That’s a lot of responsibility!
You would want to be an effective buffer. Protect your creative team from unreasonable requests or back-and-forth revisions and be there to take responsibility when your team’s hard work is criticised. Be sure to pass along the comments to the appropriate creative as gently as possible. And, when the creative work is applauded, always direct credit where it’s due.
Additionally, look out for your team’s best interests, such as making sure a creative brief is well-thought-out and automating repetitive tasks with a template bank.
As a leader of a creative team, your job is to encourage and empower creatives — not just manage them.
Give creatives a break
After working on the same project for what feels like forever, sometimes our creative well runs dry. Staring at the screen isn’t likely to produce an award-winning work. Give your creatives a break.
A break can mean getting away from the computer, hopping over to another teammate’s project, experimenting with a different creative style or a fifteen-minute yumcha break — just so the team can keep their creative juices flowing and revisit their work with a fresh set of eyes.
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