3 Lessons on Leading a Creative Team

Work-life-balance is a myth. Sometimes the scale tips toward your home and family, and sometimes it will tip toward work and employees. Rarely do both sit side by side. I’ve accepted that’s not a negative thing. My top priorities right now are learning to be a better parent and learning to be a better creative director. The lessons I learn as a parent of young children, can be applied as a manager of creatives (and vice versa). I mentioned this to our associate art director this week (and – I could see in her face she was concerned with being compared to my children), so I wanted to explain the comparison. I also discovered, I am not alone.

Parenting and leadership both focus on dealing with behavior and growth. Learning how to grow in our skills, discover new things, learn from mistakes, develop emotional intelligence and increase self-awareness are behaviors we start learning as children and should continue to study well into adult-hood. Development (personally and professionally) is a two-way street – both the teacher and student, the parent and child, the creative director and art director, the account supervisor and account executive can learn from each other.

Here are three lessons that I’ve learned that apply to both parenting and leading a creative team.

Adapt your approach.

No two individuals are the same, so your approach should never be the same. Out of fairness, in your home or at work, rules and processes should apply to all. But the way in which we communicate those guidelines or enforce the rules can be different for each individual. If an individual learns best by being hands on, let them roll with it. If they need time to talk about things, sit down with them, explain and be patient with questions. If you want your employees to excel, they need to be treated like individuals.

Positive reinforcement.

In my daughter’s music class, the teacher recommends that when a child does something they are supposed to do (for example, putting their toys away) to respond with a “you did it” instead of “great work!” This provides positive communication they are doing the right thing without the sense of entitlement. Employees and children benefit from positive feedback. Confidence comes from support and guidance. Also, leading does not mean telling others what they should do. Leaders show the way.

Discipline and accountability.

Whether you are in the work place or at home with your family, it is important to follow through on expectations. Inevitably, children talk back or misbehave. The same thing goes for the workplace. Just as children like to see what they can get away with, some employees demonstrate the same type of behavior. Accountability goes a long way. Give them confidence to make mistakes, but if a mistake happens, allow for time and opportunity to learn from those mistakes.

To wrap up this post, it’s important to remember that employees are not your kids, nor is work your family. They are different and require very different levels of responsibility and attention. However, employees and children are both inspiring. How we treat each other, how we teach, how we grow as professionals and individuals, how we learn and adapt – those are continuous and relevant parallels in our lives with lessons that can be discovered and applied at every stage. This is simply my stage right now.

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