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Shane Shanks

Coaching in-house teams

6 common mistakes in managing a creative shop

November 9, 2015   //   Shane Shanks

Want to deserve that World’s Greatest Boss mug you drink from every day? Don’t make these management mistakes:

Mistake 1

Pulling the leash too tight

Big organizations build elaborate processes because they want to receive the same results every time. But for truly creative solutions, the processes need to be able too bend a little. Give your team some elbow room that creates a space for unconventional thinking and innovative solutions.

Mistake 2

Setting deadlines that are too short

Small-scale quickie projects can be fun and surprisingly creative. But complex projects like ad campaigns and website redesigns need time for ideas to percolate. If projects are handled in a mad rush, it’s the strategic phase that usually gets short-changed. And who wants that to happen?

Mistake 3

Prioritizing jobs ineffectively

Crack creative teams can breathe new life into any project, even lowly campus flyers or event meal tickets. But is your group applying its brainpower to the right projects? The challenge for managers is to clear the decks of pud projects that don’t make a strategic difference (staff picnic invitations, theatre department posters) to make time for things that do (branding campaigns, recruitment packages, fundraising campaign materials).

Mistake 4

Not teaching the team to “sell” its ideas

The sad truth is that brilliant ideas and great creative aren’t always celebrated — or even recognized. Creative team members need to learn how to sell a great idea and relate it back to the strategy or desired results that decision-makers value. By demonstrating that key creative decisions were driven by an audience-centric strategy — not some out-there whim like, “I was inspired by the etchings of Salvador Dalí” — creative staffers build reputations as problem solvers and communication experts. Spend time teaching everyone on the team how to sell his or her work.

Mistake 5

Forgetting to demonstrate that you value the creative enterprise

Individual creativity isn’t that hard to nurture. Institutional creativity is a different beast. Be sure that as a manager you create an environment where creative solutions are recognized and valued. That means not saying things like “Don’t think about this, just do it” or “Just dump it on the web.”

Mistake 6

Never raising the creative bar

Many creative people thrive off the great work of others. The trick is to coach your team upwards by teaching staffers to spot great solutions — and to create them in future applications. What can you do? Point out why things work, celebrate inventive thinking, call attention to extraordinary solutions to ordinary problems. You can highlight something as obvious as a striking viewbook cover or as subtle as a twist of phrase that breathes new life into a higher ed cliché. Then ask your team: Can our next project be even better?

Learn More

Want to get the best work from your creative team? Read our Coaching for Creative Teams white paper.

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