with Mark McGuinness

Creative Coaching

Mark McGuinnessWhen creativity is critical to your business success, you need to know how to make it happen.

If you’re in the creative industries, creativity is unquestionably the lifeblood of your business.

These days, it’s not just creative agencies and studios who depend on creativity to achieve their business goals.

The rise of the creative economy means that more and more organisations are having to think different – and act different – to survive and thrive.

And the current economic climate only intensifies the pressure to develop new products, services, business models, working practices and ways of communicating with customers.

But it’s no good just running a few creative thinking workshops, or resorting to cliches like “thinking outside the box” (shudder).

There’s a lot more to creativity than creative thinking – things like motivation, collaboration, work habits, organisational structure and culture, knowledge management and leadership style.

If you really want creativity, it needs to run through your organisation like the writing on a stick of rock. ‘Creative’ shouldn’t be a job description or a department – it should be integral to your culture, systems, and the way you work together.

On a human level, you need workers who are encouraged to contribute their imagination as well as perspiration, empowered to put their ideas into practice, and held accountable for refining their approach until they succeed.

Which means you need leaders and managers who understand the logic of creativity as well as the logic of business.

The lack of this knowledge means many managers are inadvertently crushing creativity in their teams. Often with the best of intentions, they simply don’t know how to motivate and lead creative people to do their best work.

Yet once they understand this, managers can act as powerful catalysts for individual and team creativity – inspiring bold thinking, drawing out ideas and coaching people through the process of execution and learning that leads to success.

That’s where I can help.

As a writer and poet, I understand creativity intimately, from the inside. This makes it easy for me to build rapport with creative people, and to help you unlock their talent.

And as a coach and consultant who has worked across many different industries, with extensive experience of the creative sector, I understand the strategic imperatives that drive your organisation.

I know you are running a business, not an art workshop, and I can help you harness the creativity of your team to achieve your commercial goals.

“Especially insightful.”

Dorothy Byrne, Head of News & Current Affairs, Channel 4

The tabs at the top of this page will give you more details of how I work with clients in practice.

For a confidential, no-obligation conversation about your organisation’s specific goals and how I can help you achieve them, contact me using the form below.

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For Leaders

Whether you’re a manager trying to get your head around creativity, or a senior creative struggling to get to grips with management, I can help you close the gap.

Leaders and managers of creative businesses are faced with an unenviable dilemma: on the one hand, creativity is unpredictable, messy and risky; and on the other, they have to deliver predictable, orderly and controllable business results.

More bad news: managing people is never easy, and creative people are more resistant than most to being managed. Lucky you.

I can help you with both of these problems.

Firstly I can help you resolve the tension between creativity and business, so that you:

  • Keep a firm grip on outcomes, but allow people creative freedom about the means of achieving them
  • Foster creativity and independent thinking, while holding people accountable for results
  • Find the creative possibilities in the constraints (of money, time, resources etc) imposed on you and your team

Secondly, I can help you understand the creative mindset and give you practical tools for motivating, influencing and developing creative workers.

I’ll help you become an inspiring coach for your team, so that you simultaneously raise their performance, develop their skills and earn their trust and respect.

Finally, I’ll show you the tremendous creative opportunity you have as a leader, orchestrator and facilitator of creative talent – to create something bigger, bolder and more exciting than any of you could achieve as individuals.

Senior Managers

I act as a sounding-board for your thinking, providing a confidential space for you to reflect on creative, strategic and leadership issues, and make well-formed decisions.

I can also help you fine-tune your communication and leadership skills, and expand your repertoire of leadership styles.

Mid-level Managers

I’ll help you develop your people management skills, using coaching to raise standards and promote learning, and a range of different motivators to inspire people and sustain their enthusiasm over the long term.

I will also help you find time and mental space for blue sky thinking, and navigate the political landscape of your organisation and industry, influencing your peers and seniors as well as your team.

Specific goals

These are some of the most common areas I work on with leaders and managers – starting with the basics and working up to advanced skills depending on coachees’ level of experience:

  • Creative / strategic thinking
  • Confidence and assertiveness
  • Influencing skills
  • Coaching skills
  • Presentation skills
  • Understanding the mindset of creative workers
  • Motivating creative people
  • Developing creative talent
  • Delivering feedback
  • Managing ‘difficult’ people
  • Time management and productivity
  • Networking skills
  • Business writing skills
  • Business applications of social media

For Creatives

Anyone can come up with a great idea once in a blue moon, but to do it consistently – and to execute ideas to a high standard – takes a high level of professional skill.

If you’re a creative professional – such as a copywriter, designer, art director, animator, composer or producers – you’ll be familiar with this pressure to produce inspiration on a daily basis.

Not only do you have to produce the work, you have to sell it – to your colleagues, to your boss and to clients. And you frequently have to defend it and deal with feedback from influential people who don’t completely understand what they are criticising.

These are specialist skills that require specialist professional development. Corporate-style brainstorming and creative thinking sessions aren’t much use to you as a seasoned pro.

That’s where I can help.

As a writer and poet I know the creative process from the inside. I understand the artistic impulse and the drive for perfection.

And as a business coach with extensive creative sector experience, I understand the commercial pressures you are under.

The tension between creativity and commerce will never go away – but I can help you make it a creative rather than destructive tension.

I can help you establish working practices that clear some time and mental space in each day for creative thinking and focused execution.

I can help you deal with the demands and digital distractions of 21st-century working life, so that you are responsive and professional, but without having your work derailed by interruptions.

I can also help you communicate more effectively with your colleagues and clients – in meetings, in presentations, and via email and other forms of digital communication.

My goal in working with you as a coach is to help you get maximum creative satisfaction and professional rewards from your work.

Specific goals

Here are some of the most common goals I work on with creative professionals:

  • Getting in the ‘creative zone’ when you need to
  • Creative work habits
  • Working effectively under pressure
  • Getting past creative blocks
  • Selling ideas
  • Giving and receiving feedback on creative work
  • Improving working relationships – with colleagues, managers and clients
  • Dealing with ‘difficult’ people
  • Presentation skills
  • Time management and productivity
  • Balancing creative and career ambitions
  • Making creative use of social media


I take a creative, solution-focused approach to business coaching, starting with three critical questions:

Where are you now?

Where do you want to get to?

What do you need to do to get there?

Once I’ve established a client’s goal(s) for coaching, the conversation moves to how they can harness their creativity, ingenuity and persistence in order to make it happen.

Over the course of several sessions, clients develop their skills and work towards their goals through a process of discussion, decision-making, action, feedback and learning.

The bottom line is, there’s no point us talking unless the client goes away and takes action to achieve their creative, professional and business goals.

So what happens between coaching sessions – when the client works on agreed tasks – is at least as important as what happens in the session.

Drawing out

Coaching is classically about facilitating and drawing out ideas rather than telling people what to do.

So when I’m in ‘drawing out’ mode, I’ll be mostly:

questions etc.
giving non-judgmental, observational feedback

The great thing about this approach is that it is both highly focused AND open-ended. By focusing on goals, I keep things focused, which is essential in a business context. But by asking questions and listening more than instructing, I create a space for coachees to come up with their own ideas.

While the goal may be clearly defined, how they achieve it is an opportunity to use their creativity.

The drawing-out style of coaching is clearly suitable for senior managers, who have a wealth of skills and experience to draw on. With these clients, I typically act as a sounding-board for their thinking.

And even with more junior clients, I use the drawing-out style of coaching whenever possible, as my aim is to help people get into the habit of using their own creativity to solve problems and achieve their goals.

Putting in

Sometimes coachees can benefit from a little information and instruction before they are ready for a drawing-out approach. For example, if they don’t have the required knowledge or experience on which to draw.

In these cases, I’m happy start by ‘putting in’ some of my own specialist knowledge – in areas such as time management, psychology or social media – to help coachees.

As well as doing this during coaching sessions, I often give clients reading assignments, often of my own articles, ebooks or e-learning modules, so that they absorb information between sessions and maximise the value of the coaching.

And as soon as possible, I move on to the drawing-out style of coaching, to help clients reflect on what they have learned and use their creativity to apply it to their current challenges.

Reading and resources

I usually supplement work in coaching sessions by recommending other resources that will help you continue your learning between sessions, including:

  • My own ebooks, including How to Motivate Creative People (Including Yourself), Creative Management for Creative Teams and Time Management for Creative People.
  • Articles and blog posts
  • Books
  • Training courses
  • Software

How many sessions are recommended?

It depends what you’re looking for.

If you want to make a decision or prepare for a specific task, e.g. an important meeting or presentation, it’s possible to do valuable work in just one or two sessions.

This is partly because I take a solution-focused approach to coaching, and partly down to the fact I’ve been doing this for over 15 years, and can get to the heart of the matter fairly quickly.

Bigger goals take more time. Because coaching is a highly practical process, it’s important for coachees to take action in between sessions and use coaching conversations to reflect on their experience and learn from it.

So I usually book coaching in blocks of 4-6 sessions – long enough to achieve something meaningful, and short enough to keep us focused. We can of course book more blocks afterwards, to build on what we achieved in the first series of sessions.


Most sessions are one-to-one conversations between the coachee and me. I can also coach working partnerships and small teams.

2 hours is recommended for the first session, and 1-2 hours for subsequent sessions.

Coaching sessions are ideally face-to-face, at least to begin with. However coaching by phone or via webcam can also be very effective, and allows for greater flexibility in scheduling.

In the past 12 months I’ve worked with clients on five different continents, so if you’re reading this from outside the UK, it’s perfectly possible for us to do good work together.

For a confidential discussion about working with me to develop the creative talent of your team, you can call me on +(0)1707 644 665 or contact me via the form in the ‘Book’ tab at the top of this page.


Mark McGuinnessAs a writer and business coach, I can offer you a unique perspective on the business of creativity and the creativity of business.


I understand the creative process from the inside, as a poet and poetry editor, the writer of two popular creative business blogs, and the author of a string of successful ebooks.

40,000 people a month read my blogs Wishful Thinking and Lateral Action, and my ebook Time Management for Creative People has been downloaded over 100,000 times.

Since 1996 I’ve coached hundreds of creative professionals to achieve their creative, career and business goals – including novelists, actors, graphic designers, visual artists, classical and popular musicians, DJs, composers, copywriters, film directors, programmers, architects and entrepreneurs.

I’ve also created and delivered a series of live workshops and e-learning programs for creative professionals.

All of which means I can understand the mindset of creative people, establish a good working rapport with them, and help them create amazing work.


Since 2000 I have provided coaching, training and consultancy to many organisations, including the BBC, Channel 4, Transport for London, The Institute of Practitioners in Advertising, TBWA Media Arts Lab, Dare Digital, ASOS, Magnum, Econsultancy, Gist, Vodafone, BT, Servier Laboratories, The Orchestra of the Age of Englightenment, The British Library Business and IP Centre, The Cultural Industries Development Agency, The Arts Council, The Cultural Leadership Programme, Arts & Business, Spread the Word, The University of Warwick, King’s College London, and the University of the Arts, London.

This, combined with the experience of running my own business for most of my career, has given me a keen appreciation of the logic and pressures of the business world.

I’ve also studied creativity, creative business the creative economy at Master’s level, for the MA in Creative and Media Enterprises at the University of Warwick.

If you’re looking for a combination of sharp thinking, in-depth knowledge and practical assistance in developing the creativity of your people, I’ll be happy to help.

Training + coaching = applied learning

As well as providing one-to-one coaching, I am an experienced business trainer, on topics including coaching skills for managers, motivation, presentation skills, time management and internet marketing.

I’ve found that the combination of live training with one-to-one coaching is a powerful way to equip people with skills and knowledge, and help them apply these in practice in the workplace.

See the Training section of my website for details of my most popular training programs.


I hold an MA in Creative & Media Enterprises (with distinction) from the University of Warwick. My BA is in English Language & Literature, from Oxford University. I am also a qualified Psychotherapist, holding two postgraduate diplomas as well as various certifications.

I am a Fellow of the Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (RSA) and a Registered Member of the UK Council for Psychotherapy (UKCP).


For a confidential discussion about how Creative Business Coaching can help your people succeed, contact me using the form below or by calling +44 (0)1707 644 665.

If you’re outside the UK – I work with many international clients via webcam and telephone. I’m also happy to travel for extended coaching and training assignments.

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N.b. This form is for enquiries about coaching for companies and organisations. For enquiries about private coaching, please see the Creative Coaching page on my Lateral Action website.