The Care and Feeding of your Creative

Graphic by KROMKRATHOG at
Graphic by KROMKRATHOG at

Creatives don’t have the best reputation. I know, I am one. Fortunately, I was blessed with a logical brain that keeps me pretty grounded. I can’t always say the same for my emotionally driven, creative, kindred spirits though. Some can be real characters and make working with them quite interesting to say the least.

Regardless of the flavor of your creative, there are some fairly universal truths regarding their care and feeding. Whether you are managing just one creative or a whole team of them, these tips will help you keep them on track, productive, and fully utilizing that creative bone.

Tell them what you want then back away.

Micromanagement is not effective when working with creatives, they just don’t respond well to it at all. Your creative will respond best when you hand them a project, provide a creative brief, and turn them loose on it. If they have questions they will ask but as long as you have given them some idea of what you want the finished product to look like they will usually run with it.

Channel the Passion

Creatives tend to have a heavy emotional investment in their work. This is great because they are taking ownership and you can rest assured that because they care so deeply about the project they will give it their all. On the other hand, it is very easy for them to take off in a completely different direction that may not be exactly appropriate for your business. A heavy hand won’t work here so don’t stifle the passion or try to control the creativity. Instead, gently channel it, guide it, direct it back onto the path that will get you the results you need.

Leave the Door Open for Collaboration – and Trust your Creative

A creative’s job is to be, well, creative. Loosen the reins a little, give them their head so they can run. Yeah, the bit is still in their mouth, but go along for the ride and see what wondrous paths they take you down. You may know what you want, but the creative knows how to get there. It is a perfect mix. You give them your vision and let them run. Leave the door open for collaboration so you can work together. Make them feel comfortable offering suggestions for changes or additions. Most of all, trust your creative.

Put them on diverse teams.

Diverse teams are great for boosting creativity but it seems that perspective taking actually kicks it up a notch. While diversity brings a variety of perspectives to the table, perspective taking allows for the proper integration of those perspectives, leading to creative synergy. When they are pulling from various backgrounds, experiences, and viewpoints, the environment is far more conducive to creativity than pursuing a single thought or idea in a group that lacks diversity.

But give them room to work alone too.

There are times when a creative personality just needs to be alone. If they are working in a shared workspace or a benching layout make sure that you provide them with a place to retreat and work alone. If they are working in a virtual workspace, give them their space if they need it. Some creatives like to hole up and hammer out a project in solitude while others thrive on collaboration. Know your creative! Don’t forego your own needs, but try to maintain some flexibility in the process.

Leave room for flexible deadlines.

Some deadlines are non-negotiable and we creatives recognize and respect that. However, some deadlines do have some room for play. There will be times when your creative gets “in the zone” and may require more time. It may be an idea for a new direction or a better way of completing the project. Whatever the case, give them a little room to run and be willing to extend some deadlines just a bit.

Present challenges and maybe even a little healthy competition.

A creative’s mind is always working. They tend to get bored easily if they don’t have enough challenging projects. I know that if I don’t have a good mix that includes intellectually challenging projects I struggle with the more hum drum work that is my bread and butter. Ask for their opinion on various aspects of the project. Even if you don’t use their suggestions you are still keeping them stimulated – but who knows, they may present something to you that blows the roof off of your project. Introducing some healthy competition helps feed that fire as well and it keeps them interested.

As long as businesses are trying to entice customers and make sales, there will be creatives involved in the process. As long as people are reading books, viewing art, and listening to music creatives will have something to do. Working with a creative does not have to be a feared or dreaded event. We’re just like everyone else – except we dream in color.