How to Lead Creative Teams to Do Their Best Work
How can you overcome the unique challenges of managing a team of creatives? Creative people are known to be imaginative, curious, risk takers, challenged by deadlines and restrictions placed on their creativity. Here are a few tips to keep your creative team happy, healthy and productive.
Understand your team
Creating things as a team requires trust, and an understanding of each other’s unique strengths, weaknesses, and quirks. Invest time in getting to know each of your team members individually, and encourage them to get to know each other better too. Learn what excites, motivates and inspires them, and provide it as you develop your team culture.
Facilitate their best work
Your role is to empower your team to create their best work, not to micro-manage. Be clear on expectations from the start of a project, provide a general roadmap and then let them figure out how they want to travel it. Agree in advance the points where you will be checking in, but also be clear that you are available at any point in the journey if needed.
Give them a break, even when they think they don’t need one
You will often find your people absorbed in their creative process, unable to step away, or trying to create under pressure of a looming deadline. By getting to know people, you will learn which it is. While interrupting the creative process may not be a good idea, encourage your team to take breaks even when they think they don’t need it. Even taking five minutes to stretch, re-hydrate, or get outside will benefit not only their wellbeing but their creativity, and the project will benefit from people returning to the work with fresh eyes and minds.
Prioritise their wellbeing
It’s your job as a leader to make sure people are looking after themselves, and priortise their wellbeing even when they might not. When deadlines are close, or the goalposts are constantly moving, break time is one of the first things to be let go. Keep a check on breaks, and encourage people to stop work when you can see it’s getting to much. Check-in either individually or with the whole team, to see how people are coping with extra pressures. Do stress-busting activities together, and have a strategy for when people are struggling.
Allow them to design their own work environment
To do their best work, to create, they have to detach themselves from the surroundings and absorb themselves in the process. Trust your people to always be doing their best, and if they ask to work from home, let them. Enable them to change the workspace, work outside, put headphones on, find a place by themselves, or whatever they need to create their best work for you. Don’t question it, and don’t allow others to question it either. Show your team that you understand their need for their own creative space.
Get out of the way
We’ve mentioned it before, but it can’t be stressed enough. If you’ve hired the best people, let them get on with their job. Be clear on expectations from the start, ensure that everyone understands exactly what the project requires and what the objectives are. The nature of creative work is that goalposts are moved, details are changed, and as a leader, you can support your team with how they manage this, then trust them to get things done. If you have agreed on check-in points throughout a project, and you are available when needed, then you can step back and let them do their thing. If you are finding it hard to let go of control, then this is something for your own development and not a reflection on the abilities of the team.
Enable them to build relationships
Team relationships, communication and trust form the basis of a great culture. Creatives often spend a large percentage of their time locked into software programs, in their own space, and disconnected from each other. Make time for team building efforts, even if this is just lunch together once a week, or a few drinks after work. Develop a way of working that enables open conversations, bring people together to talk about projects, challenges, and aspirations. Not only will this make your job as a leader much easier, it will help to keep everyone, happy, healthy and connected.
Ruth Randall is a Life and Leadership Coach, and Team Development Specialist. Ruth works with teams to help them to build trust, develop strong working relationships, manage stress, and increase productivity and job satisfaction. She also coaches individual clients who want to make changes in their lives, careers and relationships.