4 Lessons for Managing Creatives

Everyone loves what creative people do, but many find their lifestyles and behavior a little strange. Just hire an advertising agency or glance at MTV to confirm that there are some pretty odd creative people out there. But for the Church to reach its real potential, we have to learn to maximize our creativity and cultivate our relationships with original thinkers. There’s no question that creative people are wired differently. Their perception of the world, their reactions to events, and even the way they sleep is often dramatically different from most. Therefore, much of that behavior comes out of biological differences. So trying to change their behavior is often a futile and impossible task. 

They even have different priorities. Instead of political battles over a corner office, access to the boss, or a bigger title, creative people are more interested in the color of their office or being able to listen to music while they work. Few creative people care about the same things other workers care about.

Creative people see different ways to achieve the same goals. Most pastors or ministry leaders want to achieve goals, but often they are overly concerned about how to reach the goal. They are interested in rules, procedures, and paperwork. One Christian TV station executive I know has a “flow chart” for the station that looks remarkably like Dante’s journey through hell. Just reading it gives me the chills.

On the other hand, creative people are just as driven, but much less concerned about “how” they reach the goal. That’s why “breakthrough” thinking often comes from creative people. They see the world differently and are more concerned about achieving the goal than rigid, specific ways to get there.

The fact is – if you have creative people in your office, you need to make a conscious effort to deal with them differently. Here are a few suggestions:

1) Within reason, don’t let their habits, appearance, or style bother you. Sure – there are unavoidable office rules for smoking, suggestive clothing, breaks, etc… But if it’s not absolutely critical to the mission of the church or ministry, cut them some slack! Let them have a little fun with their hairstyle or clothes, and you’ll see their motivation dramatically increase.

2) Give them flexibility in their schedules. Who cares if they do their best work at night? In most creative functions, you can easily measure their output and the quality of the work, so worry less about how many hours they put into it. As long as they keep up and are doing great work, what does it matter when they do it?

3) Learn the art of compliments and motivation. Most creative people are easily hurt by criticism – it’s part of their make-up. But if you can compliment and motivate them, you won’t believe how the level of work will improve. Remember – a carrot always works better than a stick.

4) Finally – learn to value creativity. If we’re going to impact this culture with a message of hope, we need the most creative people doing their best work. Can your church, ministry, or organization do things in a more creative way? Are you reaching this generation in a language and style they understand? Are you always on the lookout for creative people to help you achieve your vision?

Learn to manage creative people, then stand back and watch the difference it makes.

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Phil Cooke, Ph.D, is a filmmaker, media consultant, and founder of Cooke Media Group in Los Angeles, California. His latest book is “Ideas on a Deadline: How to Be Creative When the Clock is Ticking." Find out more at philcooke.com.