Becoming a project manager in a creative production studio can be exciting and challenging, especially when managing a team of creatives. In this blog post, we will provide a comprehensive guide on how to overcome the challenges of being direct with your creative team while ensuring that the client’s goals are met. You’ll find tips on how to lead well and strike a balance between being authoritative and maintaining a positive work environment.
1. Managing a Creative Team: The Art of Balancing Authority and Sensitivity
- Earn real authority by being a good leader: Letting the team help build the plan: Empower your team by actively involving them in planning. This will encourage ownership and investment in the project’s success. Hold brainstorming sessions, workshops, or collaborative discussions to gather ideas and input from everyone.
- Listening more than you speak: Develop strong, active listening skills to understand your team members’ perspectives and concerns truly. Ask open-ended questions, provide feedback, and summarize what you’ve heard to show that you value their input.
- Showing competence through efficient meetings and planning: Lead well-organized meetings with clear agendas, objectives, and time limits. Encourage participation and avoid digressions. Also, demonstrate your planning abilities by setting realistic timelines, allocating resources, and monitoring progress.
- Removing obstacles for the team: Proactively identify any roadblocks that might impede the team’s progress, such as resource constraints, communication issues, or external dependencies. Find solutions to these problems and provide support to help your team stay on track.
- Giving the team credit when things go well: Publicly recognize and celebrate your team members’ hard work and contributions when projects are successful. This can be done through team meetings, company-wide announcements, or even small tokens of appreciation.
- Taking the heat when things go poorly: As a leader, it’s important to accept responsibility and learn from mistakes rather than blame the team. Analyze what went wrong, discuss lessons learned, and implement changes to prevent similar issues in the future.
2. Understand the “Foundational 5” for each project:
- Leader’s intent: Communicate your vision and overall objectives for the project. Provide context and explain how the project aligns with broader company goals.
- SMART objectives: Set Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound objectives for each project. This will ensure that everyone understands what is expected and can track progress effectively.
- An effective organizational structure: Establish a clear organizational structure for the project, including roles, responsibilities, and reporting lines. This will help to streamline communication and decision-making.
- Efficient resource allocation and coordination: Plan and allocate resources effectively, ensuring each team member has the necessary tools and support to complete their tasks. Coordinate resources to avoid conflicts, bottlenecks, or delays.
- Clear and concise communication: Maintain open and transparent communication throughout the project. Establish regular check-ins and status updates, and encourage team members to share their progress, challenges, and ideas.
3. Managing expectations:
- Creative work often involves dealing with mismatched expectations. To address this issue, set clear goals and objectives at the project’s beginning and ensure that all stakeholders understand and agree upon them.
- Hold kickoff meetings with the team and the client to align expectations and discuss potential challenges.
- Establish a communication plan outlining how and when updates will be provided to the client and the process for handling feedback and revisions.
4. Be useful, not just likeable:
While it’s important to have a positive work environment, your primary role as a project manager is to ensure that projects are completed successfully. Focus on being a valuable resource to your team by providing clear direction, guidance, and assistance where needed.
- Offer constructive feedback to help team members grow and improve their skills.
- Share your expertise and knowledge to help solve problems or overcome challenges the team faces.
- Provide ongoing support and encouragement while holding team members accountable for their work.
5. Develop strong relationships with your team:
- Get to know your team members personally by engaging in casual conversations, attending social events, or setting up regular one-on-one meetings.
- Remember their names, interests, and strengths, and show genuine interest in their well-being and success.
- Ask about their work and how you can help them, offering support and guidance when needed. This will demonstrate your commitment to their growth and development.
6. Set boundaries and trust your team:
- As a project manager, setting boundaries is crucial and not trying to do everything yourself. Delegate tasks and trust your team to take ownership of their work.
- Encourage team members to ask for help or support while respecting their autonomy and expertise.
- When issues arise, focus on finding solutions together as a team rather than placing blame.
7. Recognize your leadership style:
- Be aware of your leadership style and how it affects your interactions with the team. Reflect on your strengths and weaknesses, and seek feedback from team members or mentors to improve your leadership skills.
- Embrace your strengths, whether in empathy, organization, or strategic thinking and work on improving areas where you may be lacking.
- Adapt your leadership style to your team members’ unique needs and preferences while maintaining consistency in your approach and expectations.
Managing a creative team can be challenging, particularly when balancing authority with empathy. By focusing on being a strong and effective leader, developing clear expectations and boundaries, and fostering strong relationships with your team, you can successfully navigate the challenges and achieve a positive and productive work environment. Remember that while it may not be possible to be liked by everyone, being respected and valued for your leadership skills and contributions will ultimately lead to a more prosperous and fulfilling experience as a project manager.