Yesterday, the Harvard Business Review permitted to be published a truly troll-worthy piece by Dr Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic, a professor of business psychology at University College London in which he outlines what he believes are Seven Rules For Managing Creative People. Given the rather explosive nature of the piece and the fact that it would be all too easy to score cheap points by simply dissecting and invalidating his rules, instead, let us consider how to genuinely manage creative people.
For starters, artists are people just the same as anyone else with skills. Even if they do not have the formal education that many careers provide, require or recognise, they are individuals first and foremost. Giving them the respect they deserve should be the foundation of any business let alone creative ones. Too often the problem becomes systemic within management and workers are treated unfairly. Indeed, workers in manufacturing industries are often viewed as economic units of production rather than human beings. Such views run counter to the long term view of any industry and animation is no different.
Did an artist do a good job? Then tell them! You remember what it was like in school, right? Remember the sense of satisfaction and joy you had when the teacher, honestly and sincerely, said you did a good job? Well what works for kids works for adults. Praise is the cheapest form of flattery you can give and you can wrangle a lot of miles out of it.
It’s important as well to always praise, even if something is the crappiest thing you ever saw, make a habit of finding something about it to praise. Make an effort to focus on the good things and wonders will result. Constantly berating, criticising and chastising employees may achieve short term results, but will incite long term resentment to your detriment.
While praise is a cornerstone of good management, encouragement helps employees to shine. Encouragement is just as cheap as praise, but the results can be spectacular. Does an artist have a bit of bother with a certain style? In addition to finding praise in their hard work, suggest an extra class they can take, or even better suggest they hook up with someone else within (or without) the studio to whom they can be mentored by. See? The praise would only go so far, but the encouragement is what will really spur the desired change.
Encouragement should be seen as a necessity no matter what the level or age of the artist. Certainly not all will attain the top level of the career ladder, but that should not preclude anyone from constantly improving their skills or exploring new ones. Only through such continuous development can artists hope to maintain their focus and interest in the job at hand.
Did I mention you can encourage personal work too? Yeah, that can also help a lot; witness many studios’ in-house exhibitions.
Pay people peanuts and you get monkeys.
So said legendary ad man David Ogilvy. He’s as right then as he is now, even though he’s, uh, dead. You can pay the very minimum of wages and get the job done, but at what long term cost? A low wage will not act as an incentive or even as a motivator for many people. Conversely, a high wage may not act as a motivator for some people. (An important fact to keep in mind.) Do you need to pay people a million dollars? No. But you should pay them a wage that is proportionate with their age/skills/motivation. Naturally, those that are motivated should be paid more than those who are not as an incentive to continually develop in a professional context.
The long term focus should be on the mind of all management at all times. Squeezing the extra out of people may be OK every now and again, but sustain exploitation will do studios no good at all. Mainly because it masks costs, but that’s a topic for another day.
The same goes for interns. They are they to learn, not to produce and if they are, they deserve to be paid.
Praise can work, encouragement can work but sometimes you need to nudge creative people. Uncertainty is natural but only by moving outside of their comfort zone can anyone hope to succeed. For this blogger it meant leaving Ireland to come to the USA. A drastic move to be sure, and it was waaaaay outside his comfort zone, but it has afforded him many opportunities that he would not have had if he had never undertaken it.
Just bear in mind that prodding should be subtle and not an outright demand. The former is more likely to produce results whereas the latter will only invoke that dreaded resentment. By prodding people, you need to effectively and positively, illustrate the benefits to pursuing whichever action is desired.
The Interesting Conclusion To Managing Creative People?
The interesting and fascinating conclusion to the above points?
Their applicable to anyone!
Yes! Creative types are not some weird pseudo-class of person; their just like everyone else! The above points are just as applicable to them as it is to anyone else, in any industry!
So what points would you add? Draw upon your experience and share with others with a comment!