God has been so kind to allow us to work with some fantastic churches, artists, conferences, and organizations in our life. One of the greatest gifts in my life is walking with and developing alongside really creative people. From the 20 something kid who doesn’t know how talented they are to the 50 something seasoned vet who is desperate for that jolt of adrenaline. At the end of the day, I love the heart of a leader and the spirit of an artist. They approach life, work, and relationships differently. The way artists act, react, process, and move through life are different than the rest of the world. And you know what, that is a gift. It’s how God designed us and why we feel forced to create and lead differently.
Not everyone can understand these unique gifts. In fact, a lot of times these gifts frustrate others in our organizations. Artists, whether we like it or not, are peculiar. So if you look at the creative people on your teams and wish you could figure out how to connect with them on a different level or understand them, here are some things you should know:
Invest in relationships with them to the degree they are comfortable. – Don’t force it. Take time. This is a marathon, not a sprint. Allow time to build the bridge. Look for common interests and ways you can show you care. Artists are not aliens – treat them like people.
Permission emotion – Allow emotion to flow. These emotions good, bad, ugly, and sometimes even inappropriate; help them connect. Create safe spaces for people to feel.
Provide guidance – Once the emotion has passed, provide clear guidance. Artists want to know expectations and goals. Don’t confuse a lack of perceived order as a lack of caring. Direction offers a canvas from which artists create.
Don’t allow crutches. – Sometimes the hard way is the best way – and the way with the most original return.
Be inclusive – The more involved artists feel, the more ownership and quality that can be produced.
Brag and correct. – Brag in public and correct in private. Art is personal to artists, so treat it that way.
Understand the power of motivation and inspiration. – Rules, systems, and processes are all necessary, but make sure to frame them the right way. Lead with inspiration and motivation as much as possible as opposed to leading with regulations and formula. It doesn’t mean there isn’t order, but it puts vision before function.
Don’t expect the process to look the way you would do it – Artists are going to do things differently. Once the expectations have been set, get out of the way and let the process unfold. Sometimes it may scare you or not make sense, but the data proves itself in the final product. Artists frequently get hired because they’re different – but it’s also why they get fired. Provide space and trust. If the final art is not right, talk about it.
Give space to communicate – have open, honest, and hard conversations. Do it often and lead with WHY. Artists usually have a reason for WHY, but maybe it doesn’t make sense.
Take time. – Artists will want to feel. Give them space to explore. Artists will have questions. Let them ask. Artists care profoundly and will want to talk about what they care about. It may not always be cognizant, but it will be worth it.
Celebrate the wins with the same passion and frequency that you coach through the losses. – This one works for everyone, not just artists.
Now, my artist friends, don’t take these things for granted. We have a responsibility to not “be creative just for the sake of being creative.” Don’t be weird just to be weird. Be who God created you to be. Share your gift passionately, but remember – we are not more significant than the mission or organization. Honor and respect where you are at today. It’s not about you or your gifts. We get to be part of this fantastic thing, and we need to make sure we are helping move momentum forward and not bottle-necking the ability for our organization to be its absolute best.
Lastly, I think we have all had a fear of coming off as a know it all or worse, passive-aggressive and it has kept us from sharing valuable information. Have you ever experienced that awkward moment where you read a post or blog and think: “man, I would like to share that with my friend, my boss, my co-worker…but it might come across as I think they aren’t doing a good job in these things?” Let’s remove that tension. If someone has forwarded you this list, it’s not that they think you’re not treating them right – it’s just a chance to share some thoughts. Okay, now that we’ve covered that let’s make amazing things!