There’s nothing quite like seeing a finished project in motion—your graphic re-posted for the millionth time on Instagram; your branding splashed across the homepage of the website; your script bringing life to the message roll-in video; your copy dancing across the published pages of a new brochure…
Finished projects make our eyes sparkle and hearts pitter-pat with pride.
And yet sometimes they don’t.
Sometimes, a finished project is met with a sigh of relief, blood, sweat and tears…and a whole lot of coffee to mask a whole lot less sleep.
We’re all human and, at times, we don’t best partner together. Sometimes we don’t listen well to project expectations or don’t receive clear instructions in the first place; we miss deadlines because we procrastinate; we feel like we’re under a microscope due to micromanagement; or we are too embarrassed to ask for help. And at other times, we just get discouraged as a byproduct of unintentional leadership.
When first asked, “What are five ways leaders unintentionally discourage creatives?”, I wrestled with how to answer. Truly, there are always two sides to discouragement—what we bring to the table ourselves and what others bring. Regardless of the second half of that equation, we can always control how long—or short—we stay discouraged. One of my favorite sayings shares that while we can’t control what happens to us, we can control what happens in us. Regardless of how we’re led, we can always lead ourselves better.
We are all becoming who God made us to be, we’re all learning, and we’re all always growing. That being said, there are a handful of ways leaders can at times unintentionally discourage creatives simply by how they lead.
Lack of clarity.
Have you ever been given a project and the instructions seemed a tad vague? Just use your creativity…I know it’ll be great! Similar statements leave creatives feeling overwhelmed, unsure of where or how to start. Essentially, a creative’s role is to bring to life what the leader has envisioned—if we’re unsure of where the leader is going, we can’t best partner with our leader, setting him or her up to win. To combat this, leaders can best partner with creatives by clearly identifying their big idea, the direction for the project, and outlining expectations.
Creative roles aren’t always “catch all, do all” roles—there are specific nuances to creative roles that, when overlooked, can leave creatives feeling frustrated and discouraged. For example, when a website designer is expected to shoot and edit the weekend host announcement video, or the audio engineer is asked to design the next series graphic, projects can get messy and people can get frustrated easily. And here’s the thing: not every organization has individual roles in place for specific creative nuances…and that’s ok! It’s very normal! What’s ultimately frustrating to the creative in this field isn’t the lack of a full team, but the expectations to deliver the finished, glossy, perfect product that a fully developed team can deliver. Here, leaders can lead best by sharing their full vision while embracing the reality that the end product may not look like it was produced at Disney…and that’s ok!
While project clarity and realistic expectations definitely set creatives up to win, micromanaging quickly deflates creatives like popping a balloon. And I get it—creatives at times can be…well…flighty, not super detail-oriented, and just a tad disorganized. To counteract this posture, leaders check in…every. five. minutes. Rather than speeding up the process, it actually slows down the creative process by simply irritating the creative. Leaders, take a deep breath, set the expectations on the up-front sharing when you’ll be checking in, and then hold the creative accountable to what you shared.
Swoop & poop.
At Catalyst One Day, Craig Groeschel shared the concept of “swoop and poop”—a leader “swooping” into an environment, “pooping” his or her thoughts on the project and then leaving. In this situation, the creative left behind is scratching their head wondering, “What do I do now?” It’s normal for a leader to be moving fast; one of the best ways to partner with a creative who’s knee-deep in the process, is to check out the project and share constructive feedback—rather than sharing a quick opinion and bolting out the door, offering a tangible next step.
When the project has been checked off the list and published, one of the best ways to encourage and energize creatives is by simply thanking them…they brought the leader’s idea to life! On the flip side, thanklessness can leave creatives feeling unappreciated and devalued.
There are always two sides to every discouragement story and as creatives, we must always keep at the forefront of our minds that no matter how we’re externally led, we alone lead ourselves—our emotions, thoughts, attitudes and actions. What we do next with discouragement is important.
And to the leaders of creatives—we love you! You’re why we’re in the business of creativity…bringing your ideas and dreams to life is our dream. When we partner together in healthy, uplifting, empowering ways, we can go further, faster together.