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10 Tips for Managing Creative People

Today’s workplace is filled with different personality styles. Understanding those differences and how they affect your workforce can make you a more effective manager.


Working with “left-brained” (more analytical) versus “right-brained” (more creative) employees has its own set of rules. Most creative workers use the right-brain style of learning and working, which is a visual, random, emotional and somewhat impulsive style of learning, according to data compiled at Western Michigan University. Right brain people like to work with sound in the background (note all those earbuds around the office), like to move about while thinking about concepts and generally start with a big idea and narrow it to the details. Left-brained workers and more verbal and logical, like things in order and prefer a formal workplace.


Take a look at your staff, when most are graduates from a design programme. How many right-brain workers are in the room? My guess it the number is pretty high among designers. Here are a few tips for managing your creative people in a way they can relate to.


1. Develop Ideas

Start with a collaborative environment. Work with creative people to develop concepts but avoid specific, detailed instructions on what a project should look like. Explain parameters clearly – such as the feel or look a project should have – and let the designer go to work.


Check-in often to see how the project is going and help in its development.

The creative personality is not one to just follow a set of rules; that is one trait that makes them successful in creative and design-oriented fields. Give them room to develop concepts without constant observation.


Coach workers rather than dictate a set of rules to them. Avoid planning out everything that should be done in advance; give employees freedom to make choices so they feel some creative control over projects.


2. Brainstorm, Brainstorm, Brainstorm

Much of the creative process is organic and creative people like to think and imagine. Because a characteristic of a right-brained thinker is to process information in sometimes random and varied orders, brainstorming sessions can be beneficial. Toss out many ideas (follow the “no idea is stupid rule”) and keep quick notes of concepts that are workable.


Encourage workers to brainstorm with each other. You don’t have to be present for good ideas to emerge. Tracy Collins, a newspaper manager, offered this advice in the 2008 edition of Design Journal: “Help them develop brainstorming alliances that will strengthen teamwork within the visual group, and have that group present their ideas to you.”


3. Foster a Creative Workspace

A row of grey cubicles will not foster creativity. Litter your workspace with color and items that will inspire workers. Look for interesting artwork or showcase some of the work your company has done. Is the room silent? Think about playing music at a certain time of day. Let the employees pick the tunes.


Rearrange the workspace to facilitate communication and collaboration. Paint a white wall orange and add a piece of artwork to it. Set aside an area with couches and tables to employees to relax and chat. One of the world’s top companies, Google, is known for its super-modern workspaces which feature lots of color and modern “cubicles.”


Be flexible with work schedules if possible. Maybe some of your workers would benefit from a schedule that does not fit in the 9-to-5 mould. Try to accommodate shift variances for people to optimize their skills. This is especially true for staff in digital roles like coding, digital marketing, etc.


4. Provide Feedback

Let your employees know how they are doing. It is easy for someone who primarily uses a right-brained style of thinking to become attached to their work emotionally. During critiques, keep the focus on an employee’s work. Choose words carefully.


In any creative field, much of what “works” or does not can be a matter of personal preference. Weigh this when critiquing a project. If you do not like a creative piece look, ask yourself several questions. Does it work for what the client wants? Does it follow our guidelines of the style and is it technically sound?