Do I think you have to have worked as a creative designer for years before you can lead them? Yes, I do, obviously. We are a different breed, and you need to fully understand the nuances of being a designer of any type before you can lead them. There are so many aspects on being a creative leader, mentorship, project management, teaching, hand holding, decision making, below find some of my thoughts, tips and strategies on something I am absurdly passionate about, working with outstanding creatives, and helping them to product their best work, and love it.
I’m a big believer in cooperative creative brainstorming. Whether it is an online creative idea bucket, a creative round table, or just a random conversation. I also think it is important to invite non-creative co-workers into a brainstorming session because chances are, you aren’t developing a project for creatives, you are not the demographic. I welcome ALL ideas, there is no such as a dumb or silly one. Some of our best projects have come from the most random of places.
Make your team comfortable
A lot of creatives tend to be introverted, not all, but a lot. They are not going to feel creative and inspired if they are uncomfortable, feeling self-conscious, or distracted. Everyone’s ideal work environment is going to look different, and it’s important to recognize and respect that.
The 9-5 is not always conducive to creative productivity
I’m an annoying early bird, I currently start my work-day at 6am, I’m not always productive after 3, my brain just works better in freakish hours of the morning. Sometimes people need to take a break, to take walk, do yoga, do something creative that is not related to the job at hand, and I encourage it, always. I’m told there are night owls who have genius ideas at 2am, I don’t understand it, but I respect it. Sometimes you get in your head too much on a project and the only option is to walk away and work on something else and come back. I believe that my team needs to do what they need to do to get in that magical creative zone, and it might not look like a normal corporate day.
I think I’m currently managing about 50 creative projects, multitasking is important, but not to the detriment of the quality of work. Quality over quantity, always. I always try to assign projects a person will be interested in. So learning my team members’ favorite types of projects is key. Is it always possible? No, but I try to about a third of the time. Keep people happy in the work they are doing, build their passion as much as possible. I also try to manage the expectations of clients, it is my job to protect my team from getting too overwhelmed, manage their priorities and push back when the workload is getting to be too much.
Working with other teams
I LOVE a good collaboration. I enjoy learning how other teams work, what they do and about a different aspect of the company. I encourage my team to reach out to other teams constantly, don’t be afraid to ask questions, and work together. It is vital for every company for all employees to work well together. Is it always going to be rainbows and butterflies? No, not even a little bit, there will be differing opinions, clashing personalities, but above all, RESPECT. Treat everyone with respect, understand they are just trying to do their job, and we all have an untimate common goal.
There is no such thing as a failed project
Does a design always work out? No. Does a video ad hit the mark? No. Does a new page, UX or UI result in improved conversions? Nope. That doesn’t mean it was a failure. Because we learned something from it, and it leads us to the most important question. WHY? Why didn’t it work? What did work? Where do we go from here? Be like a 4 year old who doesn’t stop asking questions.
When I review someone’s work, I ask questions. Why did you make this choice? How will this benefit the project? Not only do I want to understand, I want the creator to think about those decisions. I don’t want to tell people what isn’t working and why, I want them to come to that conclusion on their own. It will benefit everyone in the long run. Creatives can get very defensive when it comes to any kind of criticism, it is so important to show them how to give and receive it.