How do you manage the Da Vincis?

Managers often complain that creative types are difficult to handle. They are often somewhat indisciplined and loath to follow routines and do “boring” work, they can be idosyncratic and most important, you can’t get the best out of them if you do not give them the right environment for work. As talent wars hot up across the economy, managing creative people well can, more often than not, give organizations a clear edge over the competition. This article provides some tips on how best to manage the creative soul.
In itself, managing creative people may be difficult, but if you can do the job well, it can be very rewarding as well. All employees are actually creative since any work requires some degree of creativity, but you have to take special care of a few things when dealing with self-declared Da Vincis. Here are a few tips for managing them in the workplace:
*Create a conducive environment:*
Cultivate an environment that induces creativity. Give all employees the space for their creative talents to flourish. Some people work well when left alone while others find working in a team far more stimulating. Make it a point to identify when people do their best work and treat them accordingly. Do not impose any single formula for all.
*Be flexible but ensure some structure:*
Creative people can be somewhat indisciplined and be reluctant to follow rigid rules. You have to make sure that there is enough structure to ensure that they remain on track and follow time lines but not so much as to stifle creativity. Keep reminding them when they have to complete a task and move on to something else.
*Allow time for dreaming:*
An atmosphere of crisis and tension kills creativity. Creative people need downtime to recharge so always give them time to dream. Make sure that you staff are given time and space to ruminate, to go off the handle and explore new things, to doubt and challenge handed down ideas and even to play and laze around. A situation of constant stress does not let new ideas to flourish. As leader, how you behave will set the tone of the workplace for everyone else.
*Constantly remind the need for balance:*
Creative people need to be constantly reminded that balance is important. If you don’t, many right brain thinkers would trend to neglect the less interesting, routine aspects of their work. But some run-of-the-mill tasks are important too – work must be documented in reports, paperwork must be completed, customers must be attended to. Hence, while it is important to be flexible with such people make sure they get the relatively boring work done as well. Make them appreciate that some of this work also needs to be done to keep the business running.
*Have faith, give a long leash:*
Have faith in the process and do not try to micromanage their work. While routine tasks are important, you have to give people the freedom to think out-of-the-box and work out what may seem wild ideas and creative people. Constantly overseeing their work and reporting about their progress can prove counterproductive. Sometimes their ideas need to be shielded from the sharp knives of practical reason, especially when ideas are incomplete or untested. This will create conditions for new ideas to flourish.
*Lead them to tackle real problems:*
Creative people must be guided so that they use their natural skills to deal with and think about the real problems your business is facing. The right kind of communication with your staff is crucial. They must be given enough information and direction so that they get a holistic picture rather than get stuck with less important details. You will be surprised with the results kind of you will get if you let your creative souls pounce on a real problem that your business is facing.
*Dole out praise in big doses:*
It may seem that creative people get all their satisfaction and rewards from the work that they do but they need emotional support as much as anybody else. Never take such people for granted – they are like any other employee – they too need praise and appreciation for a job done well.
*Be inclusive:*
Try to ensure that all employees get a chance to contribute, to feel challenged and motivated. Have a system for allowing all memebrs of the staff to give their suggestions and share their ideas.
*Create a team:*
Employees want to be respected by their peers. Recognition by peers and the power of working in a team are great motivators. Develop ways to ensure that the people who work for you get the opportunity to earn the respect of their peers. If needed use group pressure to hold people accountable for their work. Never make the mistake of measuring productivity merely in terms of the hours of work. Instead develop more meaningful criteria for evaluating performance and productivity.
*Be receptive to new ways of working:*
To the extent possible, creative people should have the freedom to work on their own terms and on their own schedule. Many companies even allow their employees to spend a certain part of their working hours on their own projects. Give them the opportunity to behave responsibly. This does not mean there is no accountability, but the accountability is not necessarily measured in hours hunched over a desk. Instead ensure accountability through quantifiable results — that brilliant new idea, a mind-boggling new design, or anything else they can conjure out of thin year merely through their creativity.
Many Indian companies are poor managers of creative people and they get away with it because in a large country such as ours there are always quick and easy replacements. But with the talent war hotting up things may not remain so easy anymore. The best will bid you good bye if you are not up to the task of getting the best out of them!