It’s 4:30 p.m. on the day that all graphics files are needed by the printing company for the big, upcoming customer event. The designer is heads-down and focused. From your office, you suddenly hear the CEO saying something to him about having a fun idea to give premier event guests custom golf shirts. Could the designer whip up a design? Now?
This type of request – from last minute business to personal requests a booth design request for a vice president’s daughter’s Girl Scout cookie sale comes to mind) – originate from around the organization, but when they come from leadership, it’s difficult for a designer or writer to say no. As a manager of a creative team, how do you reduce last minute and less-than-urgent requests while still maintaining your reputation as a team that provides the best service?
Establish a process that involves a point person, such as yourself or a project manager, who collects all new project requests. Communicate the process to the organization at every level, including leadership. Then, address the issue from within the team: ensure team members are reinforcing the process by providing them with a polite response to errant requests ("Yes, I can do this, but can you stop by my manager's office first so she can put the request into our project plan?"). This puts the onus on you to communicate the team's work load and negotiate a reasonable deadline, taking the pressure off of your team members.
The new "Do Not Disturb" process will come with tangible benefits, including:
A central project plan for the team’s requests
The ability to balance work across team members, resulting in greater productivity
A better understanding through the organization of the creative team's workload
Feasible deadlines for all involved
And, most importantly, a more organized, less stressed creative team
After this process is established, consider these additional tips for igniting and acknowledging the creative spirit:
Provide quiet workspaces. Keep their desks out of major traffic patterns. Creativity requires concentration.
Set a service level agreement on emails and phone calls. Let the organization know that the creative team will answer emails and phone calls within a certain time frame, but not necessarity immediately. If something is urgent, employees can contact you.
Get them out of the office. At least once a week, remove them from the structured business environment and let them work elsewhere for inspiration's sake. In addition, ensure they are sent to relevant conferences to stay current and energized.
Involve them in brainstorming. Allow them to participate in campaign, event and program development brainstorming so that they are part oof the evolution of an idea, and can provide knowledge on its feasibility (Will this concept work for a commercial, digital and a billb.oard?)
Give them time to digest ideas and respond. Build time into the creative process for thought. A writer or artist's first response to an employee's idea may be hesitation, but the following day, they usually come back with a much improved approach.
Acknowledge them in results. Campaigns, events and programs do not succeed without compelling copy and graphics. Make sure your team knows the outcomes of their efforts, and that the success of the efforts is attributed, in part, to them. This should be clear in results presentations, management reports for leadership and annual performance review documents.
“Do Not Disturb”and the tips above will lead to greater productivity and creativity. And as a manager, protecting, nurturing and valuing the creative spirit within your team will help you develop a relationship of mutual respect. Need help establishing new creative team processes? We can help!