How To Lead Creative Teams When You’re Not a Creative

Dark background with circle image showing three people reviewing creative staffing requests How To Lead Creative Teams When You’re Not a Creative

Leading a team of creative professionals when you’re not in a “creative” role yourself can require a delicate balance. The creative process is not always linear and often requires more flexibility and experimentation than other types of work.

If you’re wondering how to brilliantly lead a team of creatives, guiding them toward a shared vision without stifling the processes that help them succeed, this article is for you. Read on for seven strategies for non-creative leaders managing teams of creatives to help imagination flourish and productivity thrive.

Challenges of Managing Creatives

Managing teams of creatives comes with unique challenges—and understanding them can help you successfully lead your team while maintaining a productive workplace.

  • Understanding creative processes. A manager used to leading a different type of team might find it challenging to appreciate the nuanced and iterative creative process.
  • Brainstorming and fleshing out ideas. Creative team members will likely need to explore different ideas during the development process.
  • Balancing freedom and structure. Some creatives are more productive when they can explore and innovate. Managing creatives often means finding the right balance between autonomy and structure.
  • Fostering collaboration among diverse talents. Creative teams are often made up of a mix of skills, talents, and personalities with different processes or communication styles. Facilitating collaboration and harmony among a varied group is essential.
  • Supporting risk-taking. Creative professionals often need to take risks to ideate and innovate, but not all risks pay off. How can you create an environment where safety in failure is part of the process?

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7 Strategies for Managing Teams of Creatives

Leading a team of creatives requires a blend of empathy, understanding, and strategic thinking. Here are a few strategies to consider as you navigate this management landscape.

Embrace Open Communication

Establishing clear and open lines of communication helps build trust and bridge understanding between different perspectives. Encourage your team to share their ideas and concerns and ensure they feel heard.

Learn the Language and Process of Creativity

Take some time to learn the creative processes that work best for your team. As you become more bought into their creative process, your team can deliver better results—or you may discover ways to streamline and enhance it. You don’t need to become an overnight expert, but becoming conversational and aware of it all will have an impact as you get more and more invested in their output.

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Lead With a Creative Vision

Business and marketing goals will need to be built into your team’s creative vision—and the more your team can align with and pursue them, often the better. Your best strategy will depend on your style and team. However, it’s often impactful if you distill your message into a few clear points.

You can guide your team by helping them understand how their work contributes to and fits in with the organization’s larger objectives. Creative managers need to be able to see the big picture and provide guidance without stifling their team’s creativity and help them see the through-line to their impact.

Balance Autonomy with Defined Objectives

While creativity can thrive in freedom, creative professionals also need clear goals, KPIs, and timelines. Set specific project objectives while leaving space for creative exploration. A robust and collaborative project management tool can support your team in meeting deadlines.

Where it makes sense, giving a team the autonomy to make decisions related to their creative work can build a sense of ownership and help them feel more passionate and committed to the work.

Foster a Strong Team Culture

Promote a great team culture that values collaboration. You cultivate an environment that fosters innovative solutions and out-of-the-box thinking by encouraging team members to build on each other’s ideas.

Your team’s diversity is one of its greatest assets. Each member brings unique skills, experiences, and viewpoints that can enrich creative projects.

Part of cultivating a robust and productive creative team is making it safe for them to take risks, even when their ideas don’t always lead to success. This involves encouraging brainstorming sessions, open discussions, and an acceptance of diverse viewpoints.

RELATED: How a Strong Team Culture can Build Productivity

Provide Helpful, Actionable Feedback

With a creative team, you want to learn how to provide helpful and actionable feedback. When focusing on the positive aspects of creative work, being specific about what you like while gently guiding improvements can lead to richer, more varied creative output.

It can also help to reflect on completed projects, discussing what worked well and could be improved for next time. Would it be valuable to also seek feedback from your internal stakeholders and clients on how it was to work with the team on the project? The goal is to learn from the process and grow as a creative unit.

Be Patient with the Process and Celebrate Successes

The creative process doesn’t always adhere to a strict timeline; it can ebb and flow or even struggle, and then fall into place. Provide the encouragement, tools, and time your team needs to produce their best work.

Recognizing and celebrating successes, both big and small, shows your team that their creative efforts are valued and impactful. When you do, it’s important to acknowledge and appreciate the effort and thought that goes into the journey and the result.

Maximize Your Team’s Creative Potential

Successfully managing a creative team, especially as a non-creative leader, is a challenge and an opportunity. It asks you to have empathy, be patient, and step out of your comfort zone to understand the dynamics that drive creative individuals.

The first step in a high-performing creative team is to find professionals with outstanding creative skills who align with your company’s culture.

At Insight Global, we have a nationwide network of exceptional creative professionals and the expertise to find the right candidate for your team. Connect with our team today to get started.