If you are responsible for getting the best out of a team of creative professionals, my new e-book Creative Management for Creative Teams is for you. Feel free to download and share it (here are the terms of the Creative Commons licence).
The e-book is a compilation and revision of my business coaching blog series.
Introduction to the E-book – Why Coaching?
As a creative director, business owner or manager of a creative team, the chances are you already coach your people to an extent – and you may be better at it than you realise. But there’s also a fair chance that you have received little support in developing your people management skills.
In the creative industries, so much attention is lavished on creative â€˜talentâ€™ and the products of creativity that vital aspects of the creative process are often overlooked. Such as the massive influence (positive and negative) managers and creative directors have on the creativity of their teams. While many individual managers are doing an excellent job of managing and developing their teams, there is little wider recognition of people management in the creative sector.
Itâ€™s hard to develop a skill that goes unrecognised. And you don’t need me to tell you that managing temperamental creatives can be one of the most challenging jobs going.
So how do you meet the challenge? I’m willing to bet that you find most books on management a bit of a turn-off. You’ve probably left or avoided the corporate world because it’s not an environment you feel comfortable with. I know how you feel. As a poet who moved from consulting for large organisations to specialising n the creative sector, I can clearly remember the day I walked into an ad agency and instantly felt at home. Call me superficial, but given the choice between cubicles and suits, or a colourful studio with electric guitars and table football on standby, I know which I prefer.
But creativity needs more than bean-bags and Playstations. And if creativity is your business, you know there’s a lot more to it than ‘thinking outside the box’. For one thing, you probably have to think inside a few boxes – such as the budget and brief, and your client or audience’s tolerance levels. So while you need to encourage blue-sky thinking and risk-taking, you also need to make things happen on time, on budget and to keep the end users happy.
Give people too much creative freedom and they may have a blast working on the project – only to end up frustrated when the client or audience ‘don’t get it’. But if you play it too safe, your creatives will feel constrained and everyone will be underwhelmed by the final result.
Not an easy balancing act to pull off. Even before you factor in a few creative egos. Plus the fact that creative people are not satisfied with just doing the job – they want to be challenged and inspired on every project, every day. They want opportunities to learn and hone their skills. And if they don’t get them in your team, sooner or later they’ll start to look elsewhere.
A lot of it comes down to what you say and do with people day-in-day out. How well you listen. What questions you ask. How you deliver tricky feedback. How well you find the right fit between people’s talents and motivations and the task in hand. How easily you pick up the subtle signals that alert to you to problems before they blow up in your face. In short, how well you facilitate the idiosyncratic creative process of everyone on your team.
Now ‘business coaching’ may not sound like the most inspiring activity in the world, but it does offer you an effective approach to managing and developing creative people. It’s not a miracle solution, or a step-by-step model, but it provides practical answers to the following questions:
- How can you allow people creative freedom while keeping a grip on deadlines and deliverables?
- How can you develop people’s skills while keeping them productive?
- How can you stimulate creative thinking in others?
- How can you avoid the temptation to micro-manage people?
- Why don’t people do what they’re supposed to do?
- How can you keep people motivated while giving them bad news?
- How can you be yourself while adapting to others’ needs?
- When is it better to keep your mouth shut?
This e-book introduces the core principles and skills of business coaching. It considers the role of the manager and how coaching complements other management styles. It describes the most common model for structuring coaching sessions. It also challenges you to think about coaching as an informal process, in which every workplace conversation becomes a coaching opportunity.
The e-book also touches on ways a coaching consultant can help you and your colleagues develop your effectiveness as a management team – but I don’t assume you need a consultant to get started. After all, you’ve probably done a lot of great coaching already, without necessarily putting that label on it. Hopefully the e-book will raise your awareness of your existing skills and encourage you to do more of ‘what works’ in future.
Some of the material in the e-book is similar to that found in other books on business coaching (a few of which I recommend in Chapter 13). What is different is my emphasis on the specific challenges facing leaders of creative teams, and how coaching can develop the individual and collective creative talent of a business.
I hope this e-book gives you some food for thought about the challenges you face in managing talented creative professionals – and some ideas that will make your job a little easier and more rewarding.