7 things great creative managers do

The most successful teams rely on a ‘give and take’ dynamic.

Are you a creative manager?

We now know that good design means good business. But in order to actually make that work, you not only need the best talent – you need the best people managing that talent and ensuring that they can flourish and produce truly outstanding creative work. In other words, great creative managers are needed now more than ever and if you’re in that position of managing creatives and continuously aiming to push creative boundaries, here are some tips about what great creative managers do.

1. Great creative managers recognise that it’s not about them

Managing people is fundamentally different than working alongside them. Sure, you’re still a team, but it broadens the scope of the things you need to think about: your own work, schedule and needs, but also the work of others. That means having a clear vision to drive your team, planning their work and providing them with the resources they need – while staying available for all questions that may arise.

2. Great creative managers provide clear direction

If your team doesn’t know what they’re working towards, then you’ve failed as a manager. To truly and effectively manage a creative team, you need to let them know exactly what you’re aiming for and provide guidelines that help them get there. Because design is collaborative and evolutionary in its nature, having a clear sense of direction is essential for creative teams to produce truly outstanding results.

3. Great creative managers aim to create, not just manage

Sure, you’re now a creative manager, but your creative spark never really left, did it? Surely you still want to be able to create yourself, on top of managing other people’s creative work. One good way to do that is to hire individuals who can take non-creative work off your agenda, like an assistant, then you may have the capacity to do as much, or potentially even more, creative project work. It’s good for you – you get to create more and feel better about int – but also good for your role as a leader – you’ll continue having a hands-on approach and understanding the struggles your team may go through their day as well.

4. Great creative managers block out time to truly focus

Imagine you already are in a position where you’re working on your own creative projects, but you just can’t seem to stop one minute and do one thing without being interrupted. Well, the good news is: it’s ok to claim that to yourself and set some boundaries to do your own work. There are various methods to do that, but the mindset is what truly matters: block some intentional focused time to move forward your own projects instead of only supporting people on their activities.

5. Great creative managers sort the best communication channels

None of this means shutting your team out, of course. On the contrary: as a creative manager, it is your job to figure out the best way to communicate with your team. Whether it’s using scheduled meetings and email to update on projects, text or chat for quick questions and smaller problems which can be addressed then and there or Creative Cloud Libraries to ensure your team’s work is constantly updated and readily accessible, all the creativity in the world won’t save you if you don’t have the proper communication methods in place.

6. Great creative managers support their team – within reason

Support is important but so is autonomy. Smart creative managers know how to ask their staff what sort of support they need, but also know that setting expectations correctly is essential so that the team flows effectively through a project. If it’s through daily check-in meetings, consider having a time limit. If email feedback is the solution, make it a priority to reply within a certain time frame. By giving your staff what they need, they have a better capacity to give you what you need.

7. Great creative managers find ways for their team to support them

The most successful teams rely on a ‘give and take’ dynamic. If you support your team effectively, you’ll be in a prime position to get the support you need from them. In short, where you can, do delegate. If someone else can do it, let someone else do it. Design as a collaborative effort means that it doesn’t have to all sit on your shoulders, and that’s precisely what your team is there for – to provide support where it’s needed. There’s no real rules there but rather a strong exercise in empathy – know where you can support and know where you’ll need to be supported, and sooner rather than later you’ll have the right people operating with the right process, in the right platforms.

Creative managers understand the Design Advantage

Being a creative manager means having access to a strong team which uses connected assets and collaborative workflows effectively and, as a result, is capable of producing outstanding design with speed, agility and scale. If you want to further understand the role of creative managers in design-led companies, download our free Design Advantage report or sign up for our Design Advantage Forum event on November 24 in London.

Adapted from 99u’s original article, ‘7 Secrets to Being an Extraordinary Creative Manager’