Inside Tips for Managing a Creative Team

Posted on June 23, 2024 | Updated on June 27, 2024

In my years of managing a creative team and learning how to best delegate tasks, I’ve discovered some tips that make the entire process run more smoothly. You may have years of experience in graphic or web design, but understanding which items to assign others and how to manage a project takes practice. 

While some of the most crucial parts of managing a creative team include meeting deadlines and delivering a superior product, you’ll also encourage younger artists and learn to be more productive along the way. I can save you a lot of time by sharing the lessons I’ve learned along the way. Hopefully, you’ll avoid the same missteps. 

1. Assign Roles

The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates around 881,300 project managers (PMs) work in the United States. The career growth is around 6% annually, making it one of the fastest growing jobs. The truly successful PMs know the importance of everyone having a job and understanding what tasks they must complete.

Whether you are managing a creative team for one project or ongoing, the first step should be to figure out everyone’s strengths. Once you know what each person in the group is skilled at, give them tasks that align with their knowledge. 

2. Find a Mentor

Even though I’d headed up projects before being promoted to PM, I still had a lot to learn. Some things are hard to know until you’ve faced a situation with a client or ran into a bottleneck in the project. Fortunately, I had a more experienced project manager at my company who was willing to offer advice when I needed it.

Finding a mentor can help you avoid the missteps you’d make without their knowledge. If you run into a roadblock, you can ask for their advice or at least brainstorm some solutions with someone who has already dealt with similar issues. 

3. Choose the Right Tools

Finding the right project management tools for your team requires a bit of trial and error. You’ll want something to handle projects and keep everyone on the same page. Improving productivity leads to better time management to meet deadlines and happy clients. 

Before beginning a project, look at the various options for PM tools. Which one best matches the needs of your team? You may find you use different tools for different assignments. If a client wants a website redesign, for example, you might want PM software that allows the client to view concept files and add input. Another project may only need chat features for your team. 

4. Listen to Input

Leading a team of creatives on a project requires a lot of determination. People who are highly organized, self-starters may think they have everything planned perfectly. However, if you fail to listen to the input of your team, you may alienate them and miss out on excellent ideas that would improve the project. 

Train yourself to listen, ask for time to absorb the idea and come back with questions. You may find the initial idea is less helpful than a brainstorming session with the entire team about the concept. 

5. Set Your Leadership Style

When I first started managing creative teams, I needed growth as a leader. I would start more strictly as a taskmaster, listing all the deadlines and must do’s. Then, when people pushed back against my strict policies, I tried to be lax about deadlines and try to be the warm, understanding manager everyone loved.

A shifting leadership styles creates confusion and frustration. I spent some time researching different ways to lead a team. I finally settled on a coaching-type leadership style, where I grow people for future projects. Ideally, my team will stick with me through years and we can develop a rapport along the way. 

6. Build a Diverse Team

Creativity lives in the unique minds of each team member. When you build a team with diverse backgrounds, interests and skills, you’re more likely to come up with fresh ideas no one has thought of before.

Some of the ways you can diversify your team include adding people from different generations, cultures and even various personalities. You might include someone with a more analytical mind as they’ll see things differently than an artist or writer. The more viewpoints you can include, the better your finished product will be. 

7. Share Goals

The entire team should know your goals in the short and long term. When I first started as a project manager, I made the mistake of listing out tasks but not why we had to complete all of the items in the order I’d listed them in.

We ran into a major snafu when a few people began doing tasks out of order, because those items appealed to them more. Suddenly, I had bits and pieces that were excellent visuals and content by themselves but did not have any cohesion as a whole. 

I had to back the team up and do a lot of editing and extra work we could have avoided if I’d only shared a vision at the beginning of the project and explained the importance of going in order and checking with the team about concepts. 

Regular group meetings can help avoid going off the rails into different territory. When managing a creative team, meet with them weekly for an update on each person’s list and their vision. 

8. Celebrate Wins

Big projects can seem grueling at first. The list of tasks alone can drive your team to exhaustion. Take time out to celebrate when you brainstorm a great idea or the client is happy with a concept. 

Doing excellent work is often about creating a good work/life balance and keeping everyone’s spirits high. Train them to look at the big picture rather than little failures. Keep the entire group focused on client satisfaction and retaining customers. When the team feels they are a vital part of the company’s success, they’ll work harder and be happier in their roles. 

Be an Example

The best project managers set an example for their creative teams. They open the lines of communication, so everyone feels valued and encouraged to share their ideas. When someone starts feeling burned out, they offer a day off or a few hours on a different project as a change of scenery at work. Put yourself in their shoes and you’ll have a team that loves working together and runs like a high-efficiency machine. 

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About The Author

Eleanor Hecks is the Editor-in-Chief of Designerly Magazine, an online publication dedicated to providing in-depth content from the design and marketing industries. When she's not designing or writing code, you can find her exploring the outdoors with her husband and dog in their RV, burning calories at a local Zumba class, or curled up with a good book with her cats Gem and Cali.

You can find more of Eleanor's work at

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