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How to Manage Creative People

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One of the objectives of a manager is to ensure quality output from employees (talent source) using consistent managerial skills.

Consistent management seems to work better when supervising those whose jobs are relatively well defined and can be measured using sales targets, number of documents processed, or products manufactured per assembly line.

Now what about managing those involved in creatives? What kind of management approach should be applied?

Left Brain, Right Brain
Managing human talent toward productivity and performance is very challenging. This is so because human talent is affected by personality, moods, commitment, thinking, attitude, and behavior, to name a few.

Consider, for example, working with a left-brain employee (systematic, logical thinking) versus a right-brain one (more creative, flexible thinking).

Creative individuals usually use a right-brain style of learning and working, which is visual, random, emotional, and impulsive, according to psychologists.

Right-brain people like to work with music in the background, like to move about while thinking of ideas, will generally begin with a big idea, and then will narrow it down into the details.

Left-brain employees are more verbal and logical, like things in order, and prefer a formal workplace.

This differentiation, by itself, means the manager must be flexible and adaptable to the employees, managing them with the right chemistry and initiative.

Creative Work
Right brains are usually found in creative endeavors. These include copywriting, design, painting, dance, music, and theater. In business, they can be found in advertising, publication, cinema, broadcast, and design companies.

Being creative is not a mere position or title. Rather, it is a continuing process that requires the exercise of creativity and innovation, which is then seen in an employee’s work. The output can be a design, an article, an illustration, an advertisement, or other execution media.

What makes this challenging is that creative outputs are expressions— and so cannot be boxed into, say, an immediately measurable benchmark.

Likewise, it takes some time to get creativity to flow in the mind of an employee. The more challenging or differentiated the project is, the more time—and space—is needed by the employee involved.

How to Deal
Can quality management of the creative employee be practiced? Can consistency in quality management be achieved? The answer to both is yes. But this requires an understanding of certain rules of engagement.

1. Appreciate and acknowledge the creative process so employees realize that management understands their need for creative space and creative thinking.

2. Extract ideas instead of dictating. Focus on guidance, support, suggestions, and brainstorming to get the employee to start the creative process and work on the assignment.

3. Give clear and constructive feedback. Avoid personality issues. Instead, concentrate on the creative work, the execution, and the results.

4. Encourage creative communication. Practice the habit of continuous quality communication instead of just talking at the employee. The difference is the quality of information exchanged between manager and employee, which goes beyond the frequency of updates.

5. Have them articulate/explain their thoughts to non-creative people. Apart from just focusing on the dialog between manager and employee, a good practice is to have the employee explain their thought process in executing the job given them.

6. Set clear parameters without curtailing creativity. There should be guidelines and protocols between the working relations of a manager and an employee. This is necessary for a more professional approach versus just being strict.

7. Be a customer advocate. The employee should understand that the manager only aims for the best interest of the employee. So the employee should be open-minded about feedback, taking these constructively.

Workable Criteria
The manager can use the following check points in managing quality performance:

1. Timeliness in the delivery of creative work. Deadlines should be set early since creative work needs time to be executed.

2. Appeal in terms of what a customer/client would expect from their point of view. The manager should understand and provide insight on the external customer, and then explain this clearly to the employee.

3. Completeness of content. Just like any project, there should be pre-agreed milestones to define points of the creative work. For example, in a print ad there would be a headline, body copy, a creative illustration, a promise, and a closing statement.

At the end of the day, the manager will need to emphasize to the creative employee that the ultimate decision- maker would be the client—the person who pays.

Every creative output will be judged by the viewer who saw the show, the reader who came across the article, the listener who heard the music, and the audience who experienced the performance.

Print ed: 10/13


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