Like most of us, I took management courses in university. I was a retail supervisor, a customer care manager. I understand how to organize, lead and motivate employees – but all that changes when you’re managing creatives.
Luckily for me, in addition to those management courses, I specialized in visual communications. I studied communications, practiced design and learned photography and videography. I went to graduate school for public relations, and was the director of integrated marketing for PRLab, so I have already have a solid foundation for managing creatives. I speak their language, understand their processes, and have a general idea of their needs. However, there is one question I ask that allows me to be the best creative manager I can be.
Why is managing creatives properly important?
Do me a favor, think of the worst boss you’ve ever had. Maybe they micromanaged, maybe they took credit for your work, or maybe they yelled and screamed when they didn’t get their way. No matter their characteristics, I’ll bet you dreaded going to the office and hated doing your work. How well did you accomplish what was expected of you? How often did you go above and beyond in your work? Were you motived? A self-starter? Probably not. However, those small acts of rebellion are less noticeable in many industries and jobs.
Now imagine if a creative person isn’t motivated. If a photographer isn’t inspired, or a designer takes no pride in their work. This will show in every single aspect of their work, and it will be detrimental to your organization as well.
1 Question Made Me Better at Managing Creatives
That’s it – one simple question. “Why?”
I know, that sounds obnoxiously simple. However, I’ve found asking “why” has made me better at managing creatives in many different ways.
First, the obvious. You learn. If you’ve never been trained in design, photography, cinematography or anything along those creative lines, you probably have no idea why certain features are necessary. Asking why your designer outlined the call-to-action in red, or why your photographer didn’t center the subject will leave you with nuggets of information you never had before.
More importantly, however, it promotes strategic thinking. If a creative is great at their craft, they can only get better when they think about their work strategically. That’s why, with every idea presented to me – a video concept, a redesign of a newsletter, a page added to the website – I ask why? It isn’t enough to want to use a color just because it looks nice. Why will this be important to our audience? Why is this a good idea? Whether their idea fits or not, asking why reminds your creative employees to step back and think strategically about their ideas.
Don’t get me wrong, there is way more to managing creatives than asking why. But, helping them think strategically will not only benefit them, but it will help you accomplish your goals as well.