Managing a creative project can be challenging, and we can always stand to have a few extra tricks up our sleeves. Here are a few that can help you get unstuck, keep on track, or manage your next project a little more smoothly.
Don’t get caught out without talking it out
When you’re managing a project, it’s always good to err on the side of more communication. That way, if there are ever any issues, no one can blame you by saying “well, you never mentioned it!”
Without communication and guidance from a management level, your team is likely to make up their minds on their own when faced with high-level decisions on project scope and direction. At a minimum, this makes it more likely you will spend additional time and money clearing up errors. In a worst case scenario, you could end up turning something over to the client that is completely out of scope or otherwise incorrect and embarrass the team and your creative agency as a whole, potentially ruining future business.
If there’s ever a question as to whether you should bring something up, the answer is usually a resounding ‘yes’. Even if your team rolls their eyes because you’ve already mentioned this topic, be glad that they now have been reminded about things instead of going in blind.
After talking, be sure to back it up
If you talk the talk, you’ll also need to walk the walk. Go the distance, both in discussions with your team and when you’re actually performing your duties. Your team will learn quickly that you are going to take care of them and that you put your money where your mouth is.
For example, maybe you drove things home regarding a very specific aspect of the project scope. Then, the client changes their mind mid-stream, after your team has already begun work on this specific portion of the project. Obviously you want to deliver the project as the client desires it. But, if your team has already sunk time and expenses before the scope change, your best move is to make sure the client is aware of the effort spent so far. Perhaps it’s a deadline extension, or a budget increase. But if you can return to your team with a good news/bad news update, instead of just the bad news, your reception will be much warmer.
On the absolute other side of the coin, it’s also up to you to keep in contact with the client. When there are scope changes, you want to know quickly, rather than when they get around to letting you know.
The frequency of your communication changes based upon the client and project. If it’s a new client, or an especially difficult and complicated creative project, it’s best to follow along the internal communication guidelines of more talk. On the other hand, you can get away with less frequent check-ins if you’ve been delivering projects to your customer for years, and the framework is familiar to you and to your team.
Again, err on the side of more communication. But tread a little more lightly with your client than with your team. Use your best judgement as to how often might be too often to talk, as you don’t want to have them answer the phone or read an update from you with “here we go again” under their breath. In short, stay in touch but don’t become a burden.
Express some genuine personal interest in your team
You have a business relationship with your team. But that doesn’t mean you can’t be happy for them when they hit a personal milestone, or concerned when they struggle. Don’t be overt about it, but express your interest in how their lives are going outside of work.
This should be a simple and easy thing to do, but be sure to do it genuinely. If you force it, it will become noticeable. But if you are truly engaged with them about something personal, you’re more likely to receive both personal and professional respect in return.
If you’re not already, consider working some of these tricks into your management style. It doesn’t have to be complex, but you’ll probably notice a bit of a boost within your projects. Good luck!