When it comes to leading an organization to success, managing your “creatives” can prove to be one of the most daunting tasks.

Now, when I say “creatives”, I’m referring to anyone from developers and graphic designers, to photographers and writers. They’re confusing, probably wear too much plaid, and roll their selvedge denim jeans at the ankles. Yeah, you know exactly who I’m talking about, and you’ve probably got someone in mind right now. If you don’t understand how to lead these individuals it can make or break the launch of your startup or paralyze the growth of an established company that’s pivoting with today’s ever-changing market.  The problem is that, up until now, companies have never had to rely on the artsy, non-conforming type of employees that every company desperately needs in order to succeed in today’s market and culture. My move into learning how to manage these types was not a comfortable one, though. I happen to be one of these types, but I had to trudge through all of the corporate bullshit, because I had a family and bills that needed to be paid. I had to learn to suppress my inner artistic side enough to appear conformed into the person that all the Suits wanted me to be. But, one too many times, I could not keep my true self contained and found myself kicked out of the corporate jungle, never to be let back in, no matter how hard I tried.

At the time, I thought it was the end of some great things I’d grown accustomed to, like food and a place to live. You know, the important things. But it ended up being the best thing that could have ever happened to me. After a few failed attempts, I learned how to bring artistic people into teams to produce some incredible products and ideas that have showed outstanding results! After helping hundreds of companies harness the power of these mis-fits, I’ve discovered that there are a few simple keys to keep in mind if you want to successfully manage your creatives.

1. Restraints don’t work! You hired this person for their creativity, but putting them in a small cubicle, with nothing around for inspiration, causes every creative juice they have to just evaporate. Especially because the good ones are usually ADD to the extreme. Give them room and space (and maybe a couch), or you’ll end up with a hopped up, depressed, emotional, crazy-person. 

2. Make goals clear and achievable. Creatives want boundaries, but movable ones. If you want them to move in a specific direction, do not make it 90 degrees, let it be a sweeping curve. Give them freedom to bend where needed, while still staying true to the objective.

3. Give affirmation in small doses. If you affirm too much they’ll start to get a big head and begin having all-day Kumbaya sessions, listening to the Grateful Dead, and thinking they own the place.

So the next time you’re on the verge of pulling out all of your hair, trying to come up with ways to restrain your resident artíste because he may have been twenty minutes late to work, remember they abide by a different set of rules! 

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