I’ve always considered myself somewhat of a “Managing Artist” — a lofty creative type with a healthy dose of obsessive compulsion. So when I started working as a project manager, it was easy to recognize the gap between the two ways of thinking.
But finding the common ground between the two? That can be tricky. How can I diffuse that sometimes powder keg relationship – project management vs. creative?
Below are a few tips that I’ve found help make my life as a project manager a little easier and creatives a little happier.
Col·lab·o·ra·tion (say it with me) – Collaboration is the key to happiness and minimal weeknight alcohol consumption. Look, you aren’t married to your teammates, but in a sense, that’s kind of the deal you’ve entered. So strap in. Being in tune with a creative’s perspective will save everyone a lot of frustration and time. You don’t need to be a mind reader, although it’d be nice, but being able to gauge the temperature of what’s happening around you, and being flexible will benefit you in your role as a project manager.
Set Expectations with the Client
Do you want to see someone go from zero to red zone in 0.253 seconds?
Assign a task with little to no direction, and expect it back within the hour.
All’s fair in love in war, but that generally applies to the enemy. Creatives are on your side, so don’t bombard them. It starts with your client relationship. By giving them a reasonable expectation for a deliverable timeframe, you alleviate the pressure of quick turnarounds for creatives. Do this, and the creative department will praise your name and lay a bed of roses around your desk – Okay, not really. They just won’t hate you.
Practice Friendly Feedback
When it comes to feedback, it’s all about the delivery. Creative output is an investment of time and thought. So, when a client has revisions to make, knowing how to phrase things in a way that doesn’t destroy a creative’s confidence is key. Don’t sugarcoat it, but don’t lace it with strychnine, either. Choose your words carefully and remain calm. Client feedback, sometimes, needs to be run through the wringer a few times before it’s ready to be delivered. Finesse, finesse, finesse -- If the feedback is on point, so too will the revised deliverable.
What’s the One Thing?
Keeping your creatives happy is just as important as keeping your client happy, and the relationship is all about give and take. Putting this idea into practice—even just a little bit every day—could benefit your entire agency and bridge any leftover gaps.
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