It’s so difficult to let go and trust the process. Especially when it comes to managing creatives and projects. There is not one way that works for all when it comes to unlocking your (or others) creativity. The most you can do as a manager is to make sure your team has all of the resources and information that they need. And from there, you have to take a few steps back, give time and space and let the creatives be creative. Here are some ways in which I try to set guidelines or parameters to keep the project on task and on time while still giving my creative team the freedom to work within their process:

  1. Have a formal kick-off meeting no matter how big or small the project is. It helps to set the tone of the assignment and give it importance and meaning behind it. It also is a good chance to make sure you are organized and have all you need for your team to get started. More times than not it’s a reality check for me that I myself need more information before I can expect my team to execute on the project deliverables.
  2. Give context. I used to shield more of the minor – what I thought was useless information to the the designers or developers on my team. But I find that it helps to give the team more information on maybe the personality of the client themselves or why the project is so important (maybe it leverage for the sales team to upsell on a bigger scope of work.). It makes the project feel more personable and gives the creative more intel/investment on a personal level.
  3. Get to the main points. I try to be as concise as possible with information I am outputting to the team. I think it’s so important to keep client emotion out of client comments when passed to the team. You’re expecting these team members to absorb so much information so do not give them anything more than is needed – that is your job as a manager to weed that out.
  4. Check-ins are great in a non-micro-managerial way if done right. This is key. Checking in internally throughout client deadlines is a great way to watch the project evolve and see the process iron itself out – but they can turn into a hovering helicopter if not done right. I try my best to ask my creatives to schedule any check-in reviews. That takes the pressure off of them feeling like they have to back into some date and time that forced them into. It also gives them the chance to make the decision as to when they feel their work is ready and good. I find that there are a lot fewer excuses like… I ran out of time, I didn’t get to that yet, well, you’d set the meeting, etc.
  5. Compliment and challenge the thinking. I don’t think that one can live without the other. There is no chance you walk into a review after some time has gone by and cannot find at least one great thing that was accomplished in the project – even if it happened to derail the main objective. That’s where challenge comes into play. I believe you need to acknowledge the process and work that went into something for better or for worse. And then from there once you have established that you appreciate the thinking and work that was done then you can come in with the challenge. I prefer to challenge the thinking than give harsh one liner directives. That never lends itself to the good conversation that can lead to even greater thinking and solutions.

So, all in all, it boils up to five things: proper formalities, giving context, concise information, check-ins and thoughtful critiques.

Photo Cred: unsplash-logoSteve Johnson