Managing a creative team can be overwhelming, challenging and, for some, frustrating. Burnout, impatience and lack of control, tight restrictions, are only part of the problems you'll be facing with a design team. The remote working environment makes this situation even worse, making it harder to monitor your team to ensure their wellbeing.
On top of that, a creative team often includes a team of one or a more designers. Depending on the size of the company, you may have a team of 50+designers or worst, having to work and manage designers across many departments, i.e. marketing and product teams. Bigger teams may include a wide range of different responsibilities and skill sets making it even harder to manage their work in a streamlined process.
In spite of all these challenges, it is still possible to work with a design team effectively with the right management approach.
A design manager’s role will be to support and empower the employees they represent while ensuring they are working together effectively to realize the company strategic objectives.
A common misconception of a new or inexperienced manager is that they should be very authoritative and that they need to always have all the answers. That's hardly the case and that realization comes with experience.
However, the best design leaders are servant leaders. They understand that the design team is comprised of people too and they're more than just numbers in the cogs of the corporate machine. They understand that they are working to serve the goals of their team. They recognize that they are not the experts in everything and empower their team to make decisions about their product, and have no place for self-righteous leadership ideology. They feel like allies and coaches instead of bosses.
You could think of effective design managers as spokespeople for the company. While there will continue to be deadlines to meet and many projects to launch, this is no excuse not to treat employees as professionals. Great design managers provide opportunities to grow and create a conducive environment that promotes growth and enables their employees to sharpen their skill sets, not hinder them.
The transition to a new design leadership role is going to be tough one. Like any other leadership role, you'll be moving from daily execution into a mentoring and management position. While there aren't going to be any guardrails or handbook on how to do your position well, fret not. Help is here.
These are five things you need to remember when managing your design team or any team for that matter.
Your new duties are now spent mainly on managing the bigger picture component of the business, which can only be done by supporting your team members in completing their design tasks. You can monitor the work of your organization’s designers as they work on projects but don’t get involved in their day-to-day tasks. You got to learn to let go and delegate to others. While we’re talking about daily tasks, here’s a follow up.
The only way you can manage your work properly is to clearly define what falls within your job scope and what doesn’t. The key here is to structure your work in a way that can help the team as a whole. Figure out what the expectations are for you and how you can meet them with the support of your team. Knowing this early on will help you learn the ropes and become an awesome leader quickly.
That’s right. Your performance isn’t based on your solo achievements. Your progress indicator hangs on the performance of your team. Your job is to inspire your team to deliver and excel in what they do.
Explain to your team what your responsibilities and let them know what you’re working on. The flow of communication should go both ways. Provide them with updates the same way you’d like for them to update you on their progress.
You’ll also want to let them know what your plans are and how you can work together to achieve them. Give them the “why” that can motivate them to provide great results. Team members will appreciate knowing how their work impacted the overall company goals. Speak with your team about potential new clients, profits, and plans for the nearest future.
Transparency is key to good communication. Listen actively and address issues when they arise. Provide constructive feedback and meet these problems head on. No point keeping silent and bottling it up when poor performance affects the final ultimate outcome. This is where you can show empathy and accommodate your employees.
Great communication is the cornerstone to building trust and strong relationships. By being able to be open to communication where reporting mistakes are not penalized, your team will be more willing to speak with you and to find a solution on the problems they found together. That’s what real team effort looks like.
Be your team’s cheerleader and biggest advocate. Give them credit when they’ve put in good work and show them support when they really need it. Keeping office morale up is a big part of good team management. For the sake of yourself, your team and your company, keep morale up the way they want you to.
Your role as the manager of the team is not to lord over everyone. As a design manager, you need to ensure that your designers are thriving, motivated and have a good state-of-mind. Their wellbeing is essential to the success of your business. Create conditions that helps them develop, improve, and strive for excellent results. With a safe and respectful environment, your design team will be capable of incredible things.
Looking to get some design support from a great design team? Get in touch with Mad Creative Beanstalk and we’ll deliver amazing results that your brand deserves. Great team management is one of our superpowers and we’d love to help you slay giants with it.