It’s tough to manage creatives!

Work by the artist Nancy Willis Smith

“Creativity”, and “innovative thinking”.   We are frequently told how necessary these skills are to successful business.  Yet they bring their own challenges too, especially for leaders.  I guess I shouldn’t be surprised to find that many CEO’s and managers in the creative sector find it difficult to find ways of dealing with difference, particularly when it comes to differences of views.  Clearly this is an issue that affects leaders in all sectors, but when an organisation champions innovative thinking, disruption, and challenge, it is quite likely that it will attract people who exhibit these behaviours and skills.

So what can managers do?  First off, listen.  Listen and explore.  It is easy to focus on the point of difference and conduct an inner dialogue of ‘why this won’t work’.  It is harder to explore the thought process that brought the speaker to their conclusion.  You need to explore different viewpoints.  Without considering alternative ways of approaching a problem, solutions, or new strategies and innovations, as an individual or an organisation, you are not going to grow.  Secondly, try not to equate a different view with a personal criticism.  Too often I have seen managers take an alternative viewpoint as an attack on the quality of their thinking or decision making abilities.  Different means ‘different’, it does not mean that my different opinion is right and your way of thinking is wrong. Leaders of creatives need to prepare to be challenged (this does not excuse the creatives themselves from bad behaviour!  Another blog on this to follow).

Do you know a manager who needs help with leading positively?  How did you approach this and manage upwards?

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