10 Things About Running A Creative Team

by Steve Klinetobe

#10 I’d rather have to reign the work in than push it forward

Encourage your team to fly higher and challenge the expected. You can always pull it back later. The first pass should be the dream state.

#9 Stop with the “Ta-da!” moments

In a collaborative creative environment, there shouldn’t be the need for big reveals. It’s a set-up for sad face creatives.“Look what I did!” they say.“Meh,” I say.

Sad face. Grumpy face. Job search. A leader should be a facilitator of ideas, not a panel judge. Check-in frequently. Allow the feedback loop to loop.

#8 Fences, freedom, and a slight bit of pressure

Without boundaries, creative teams will turn into roiling blobs of anxiety.

Without freedom, creative teams will wilt to half their power.

Without pressure, creative teams will spin and spin and spin.

#7 Don’t trust the robotsI’ve literally been yelled at for this one, but I stand by it.

The marketing and retail industries have fallen under the control of robots. Big data drives every decision, which is great… to a point. Extreme optimization leads to extreme sameness. Robots love sameness; people love comfort. And, often, brands confuse the two. Beep. Boop. Fizzle.

Every project needs a data-driven foundation but, more importantly, an emotive layer that connects, sparks, dances, and endures.

#6 I’m Almost Always Wrong, and that’s Good

The trait I value most in the workplace is self-awareness. Know your limits, share your shortcomings. Your team is there to fill the gaps. If I assume I’m always wrong, it leaves me open to better ideas and lets the team grow and shimmer.

#5 Creativity is not Exclusive to Creatives

Creatives can be territorial. Peeing on the whiteboards in the conference room. Snarling at account managers. Flaunting iPads. All this creates an antagonistic and one-dimensional workspace.A great idea can come from anyone.

An extraordinary creative team has open borders and is eager for fresh perspectives. Invite the bean-counters, the brand managers, and, shudder, even the clients.

#4 Kill Your Darlings

Ruthlessly prune, and your creatives will learn to depersonalize their work and see simplicity always has more volume.

#3 Chase Dreams

Creatives are sad.

They want to write books, throw paint, make movies, and knit little fuzzles. Yet, here they are, channeling their creative energies into Amazon listings and insurance ads. So sad.

Help them. Openly discuss projects. Let them pursue their craft on company time. Let them access the agency’s resources. They will repay you in loyalty and inspired performance.

#2 Fix One Thing at a Time, All the Time

When a team tries to solve all their problems at once, they solve nothing. Choose one, focus, collaborate and fix it. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.* Bonus Tip: As much as you think you’re going to solve your project management software problems…you won’t.

#1 Give a Shit

Initially, this one read, “Don’t be an asshole,” but that seemed so rudimentary. Seriously, in 2022, that’s something you should already know. Stop yelling. Be nice. Respect the people around you.

Teams, especially creative, thrive when they bond. Imagine glowing threads connecting hearts and minds. It’s beautiful. As a leader, you can strengthen those threads by listening. Hear your team’s stories. Understand where they’ve been, where they want to go, and what’s happening at home.

Help where you can, give space when it’s needed, and advocate on their behalf. Genuinely give a shit, and they will do the same for you.

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