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Working with artists is an amazing gift. They are some of the most talented people in an organization. It’s also likely they’re some of the most frustrating and messy. It’s like there’s a secret code to getting the most from this class of people who excel. They push our boundaries and challenge the status quo, but these two things also create tension in how we work with them.

So if you’re an artist and you have a manager who doesn’t understand you, print this off and talk it over with them. If you’re a manager and you don’t feel like you’re able to communicate properly with the creative people in your organization, consider this an introductory language class that will help you translate a few of the core needs of your creative geniuses.

  • Start with the vision – Why matters…a lot. Creative people have a deep seeded passion to do something that matters. When they understand the “why” behind a project and can connect to it, they will create their best work. As the project progresses, they may drift. Bring them back to the why behind it all. There’s a seducing energy in starting and a joy in completing, so keep vision on the forefront.
  • Invest the time – Spending time with artists matters…and it matters more than most other departments in an organization. Listen to them. Let them talk. Allow them space to process. Chat with them and answer their questions. When you give artists time, you’ll be amazed at the return it produces. Never be afraid to have a conversation. If things aren’t lining up. Stop and talk – it will work wonders.
  • Know when to give some space – Artists connect emotionally with their projects. When you feel an artist creating distance, ask if they’re okay. If they say yes, give them space. Allow them the ability to create out of their emotions. It’s a necessary dance we do.
  • Recognize & rewardArtists want to be recognized for what they do and rewarded for a good job. It doesn’t always have to be monetary. There are plenty of other ways to reward these teams. Find what you can do and do it as often as possible. It will keep your artists engaged and passionate.
  • Embrace the unique – The creative process may not look how you thought. The clothes, music, spaces, may confuse some people. The approach they take to a project may be different than most. Remember: you hired these people because they are different. Don’t try to conform them. Give them space, set expectations, equip them, and then let them do what you hired them to do…create! If you have an expectation, put it out on the front end and you’ll be surprised how they blow you away. Allow them to be peculiar and you’ll love what they produce…most of the time. Andy Stanley has a great statement that says: “Do for one what you wish you could do for all.” This class of people you hired has to be different. Otherwise, you don’t really need them. Also, they will challenge you to do some things you are not comfortable with. Thats ok. Learn to trust each other because they will stretch you but need you to help guide them as well.

We may be a messy but we work hard, fight, cry, get scrappy, and invest like crazy. We’re probably different and might cause the occasional problem, but it’s not because we don’t care – it’s because we care passionately. So before you throw the paint out with canvas, take some time and try to and embrace all the possibilities that exist when we figure out how to work together.

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