What advice can you give to a non-creative leader to coordinate and motivate creatives?

Jorge Dieguez
9 replies
My past experience has allowed me to coordinate teams of many different areas. However, in my current role, I am coordinating creatives, and I've found them to have different expectations regarding collaboration, leadership and motivation. ANY advice is appreciated. Thanks!


I would start by not framing it in the context of creative vs non-creative. In doing so you're already creating a barrier to empathy and understanding. Your job title doesn't determine your ability to be creative. I love the idea of getting everyone in a team to talk about HOW they like to be managed. It's not about managing a team - its about managing individuals. Get to know each of them and what motivates them, how they like to receive feedback, how they like to be managed, identify their strengths and understand where they tend to have blockers. That will be a great start. Ensure you have a feedback loop open so they can also tell you what you can do better.
Max Spitsyn
Creative types are quite hard to manage to be honest. In many ways it feels like herding cats :) Practically, it ventures in the same realm as celebrity management - meaning managing their egos in the first place. Traditional management tools don't work - seriously, take a look at how pre-school and elementary school is governed - use the same approach (few common house-keeping rules that everybody agrees upon, a lot of praise for basic accomplishments and building a culture of accountability). And many 1-on-1 talks to let them express themselves!
I agree with @abadesi - her response resonates with a book I read a lifetime ago called "The 360 Degree Leader". One of the things that stood out for me from that book was the notion that regardless of your position in an organization, your role is to lift people up. In order to lift people up, you have to understand each and every person around you - who they are, what makes them tick, how they thrive, and what their short/long-term goals are. Then you can create an environment for each individual that facilitates their self-directed success. We all want autonomy, mastery, and purpose. Explicitly articulating your interest in giving these things to each and every one of your team members could be a great first step towards earning their trust, their emotional investment, and their comfort in disclosing their deeper motivations to you in a way that allows you to cater to them.
Jorge Dieguez
Thank you @eve_hammond ! Appreciate your orientation about this. Autonomy, mastery and purpose: I'll make sure to write that down!
Jordan Davis
Think of things in terms of interesting problems, and let the creatives create the solutions. The way feedback is delivered is really important - not because they are 'sensitive' but because you want them to do their job. For example, instead of saying "Make this bolder" say "this sentence should have more emphasis" or "stand out more". There's a lot of different ways to tackle it creatively if the issue is communicated as a problem that can be solved instead of an instruction to be followed.
Jill Barletti
I'm an author and would consider myself to fall into the category of creative. That said, I don't think we're harder than any group to manage, unless maybe you're not used to working with creatives. Keep in mind that being a creative is hard -- Everyone loves Apple's beautiful designs, but no one wants to pay for the photo for the hero image on their website, and people just love going to Fiver for cheap blog posts. Creatives spend a ton of time honing their craft, and while great and even good creative work is held in high esteem, less frequently are people willing to pay for it. That is our reality and it helps shape who we are, how we think, and how we interact with others. I 100% agree that we want autonomy over our work; that's one of the reasons some of us do what we do. So if you've done a good job hiring, you should be able to give your creatives the project overview/scope/instructions + timeline and let them create. Most don't like to be micromanaged, and that includes creatives. If you do have to play the role of art director (or the like), I do think you should choose your language carefully - not because we're "overly sensitive," but rather because creating requires that you make yourself vulnerable. And as a result, critiques can sometimes feel like attacks. Also, think about this: If you have to edit my work, is it because you didn't give me better instructions? If the piece didn't turn out how you wanted, (1) work on giving more intelligible instructions, and (2) be explicit in your critiques: that you wanted paragraph two to describe the customer's main pain point / that while you like the color scheme, you envisioned the product description page to have more "white space" and apologize for not making your vision more clear because from our perspective, you clearly made the mistake, not us. (Yet we have to fix it!) The last comment I have regards deadlines. Creatives aren't lazy. I can (and do) sit down and force myself to write when uninspired. But my best work comes when I am inspired. I think it's great to have a project timeline (with check-ins if it's a big project that will take a long time); bonus points if you let me see how my piece fits into the bigger picture -- I often forget this when I'm managing creatives -- It really helps keep your project on track/time because people see how they'll derail the entire project if they miss a deadline ... because they weren't "inspired."