How NOT to Manage Creative People

The Harvard Business Review published the blog post “Seven Rules for Managing Creative People” by professor Dr. Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic.  And wow, was it wrong! 

The professor starts by over-generalizing and negatively portraying creative people. Here’s how the blog post begins:

“Moody, erratic, eccentric, and arrogant? Perhaps — but you can’t just get rid of them.”

What a way to preframe the readers’ thoughts about creative people.  It continues…

“In fact, unless you learn to get the best out of your creative employees, you will sooner or later end up filing for bankruptcy. Conversely, if you just hire and promote people who are friendly and easy to manage, your firm will be mediocre at best.”

For someone who is an “international authority in personality profiling and psychometric testing,” it’s surprising that he hasn’t met the friendly, easy to manage, innovative, and award-winning creative types that I have worked with.  There are no two types of creatives – decent people verse innovative people.

I’ve worked with hundreds of creatives and if categories of creatives were to exist, the number of categories would be in the double digits.  A very small percentage may be “moody and arrogant,” but the majority are brilliant, kind people.  Many of which I call my friends.

The Harvard Business Review blog post feels like an attack on my friends, on my previous co-workers, on my clients, on the advertising and design industry as a whole, and on me personally.

Dr. Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic might be able to get away with writing something like this if it pertained to teenage private art school students (maybe), but this article is slamming professionals.

And does the professor not know that competition and deadlines push creative people to actually create?  Not only does he state, “The worst thing you can do to a creative employee is to force them to work with someone like them — they would compete for ideas, brainstorm eternally, or simply ignore each other,” but also he goes on to say that creatives shouldn’t have to follow processes or structures.  No competition and no accountability.

Then he advises to pay creative people poorly because the more you pay people to do what they love, the less they will love it.  WHAT?!  But while you’re paying them poorly, make them feeeel important.  And remember, that you should not let them manage others because creative people are rarely gifted with leadership skills.  WHO IS THIS GUY?!

More than 350 people have commented on the blog post asking the same thing.  My favorite comment is: Looking forward to your follow up “How To Survive Extraordinarily High Turnover.”  You see, because if this professor managed creatives hands on according to his tips, he would be fired based on the extremely high rate of creatives running from the building.

The scariest part is that Dr. Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic is the co-founder of, a company that is designed to identify employees’ creative and entrepreneurial potential.  I’d hate to think of how he’d treat those who score the highest on metaprofiling’s creative scale.  As a “leading authority in talent management” according to the metaprofiling website, think of the advice he’s giving to the companies he’s consulting.

As for how to manage creative people (from someone who has managed creative people for years), here are my rebuttal tips – 

Eight Rules to Managing Creative People:

1.  Ask them what motivates them and then motivate them that way

2.  Create the best synergy possible by surrounding the best creatives with the best creatives and encourage competition as well as collaboration

3.  Don’t waste their time and talent on meaningless briefs

4.  Have real deadlines and accountability otherwise little will get created and/or you’ll lose their respect

5.  Pay creative people what they’re worth and then some knowing that creatives are in high demand and no two people are the same

6.  Make them feel important because they are

7.  Give them the opportunity to lead and encourage the growth of their leadership skills

8.  Treat Dr. Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic’s blog post as if it were written for The Onion 

To This Day Project – Animated Video with a Heart-Centered Message

When artists, designers, animators, and all the talented people who choose to work in advertising and graphic design come together to produce something like this…there aren’t words…

It’s human.  It’s real.  It’s beautiful.

To This Day Project

Spoken Word Poem by Shane Koyczan

Animation by Giant Ant

Full Credits



The Top 15 Sayings Graphic Designers Hate

Graphic Designers all around the world cringe when they hear the following:

(in no particular order)


1.  “Make the logo bigger.”

2.  “Work your magic.”

3.  “You can grab all the images you need, like the company logo, off of our website.”

4.  “I need it done yesterday.”

5.  “My wife had some thoughts…”

6.  “I don’t know what I want, but I’ll know when I see it.”

7.  “Make it pop.”

8.  “Take it to the next level.”

9.  “Think outside the box.”

10.  “Make it edgy.”

11.  “Make it sexy.”

12.  “Can we fill all the empty space?”

13.  “I started the design already; I’ll send you the Publisher file.”

14.  “Don’t spend much time on all these changes because we don’t have the budget.”

15.  (At revision round 9) “Can we go back to what you showed in the first round?”


And to get the bad taste out of your mouth, here’s the best thing a Graphic Designer can hear:

“I wish I had thought of that!”

(especially when coming from someone in the industry)


Post the sayings you love or hate to hear as a designer in the comments.

Creative Deadlines – Jack White Uses Them

The Music

It was mid-March 2011 and Austin, Texas, was already sticky hot.  My then boyfriend (now husband) and I travelled from San Diego to enjoy the music of South by Southwest.  Many of my advertising creative friends attended the interactive week of SXSW and left merely hours before we arrived.

I wasn’t there for advertising though; I was there to get lost in the music.

SXSW attracts musicians from all over the world.  Every stage, every parking lot, every possible space becomes a venue.  (I first listened to one of my favorite bands Onward, Soldiers in the parking lot of an ice cream shop.)  The talent is unbelievable.  The creativity astounding.

Surprise shows pop up at a moment’s notice.  Jack White of The White Stripes performed an acoustic set during one of these moments.  With no possible way of knowing about his improv performance other than being in the right place at the right time, we weren’t – we missed it.

Jack White uses Creative Deadlines

Much like creating this surprise show, Jack White creates his own deadlines to enhance his creativity.  He uses tension to fuel his creativity.

During the filming of the documentary “Under Great White Northern Lights,” Jack White said, “Book only four or five days in the studio and force yourself to record an album in that time.  Deadlines and things make you creative.”

Advertising is a deadline-driven industry.  I’m sure you don’t need more deadlines there.  Notice though, when deadlines and schedules are set, you get things done.  How can you take that into your personal life?  How can you use that model to reach your goals outside of work?

How to Schedule to Reach Your Goals

One success strategy that helps my clients and me personally is to designate blocks of time to work toward a specific goal. Those blocks of time serve as deadlines which force your creativity to come out to play.  Maybe that’s four or five days every month.  Maybe that’s 15 minutes every weekday morning.  Maybe it’s 90 minutes every Wednesday.

Whatever you decide, put that time on your calendar and treat it like the very important meeting that it is.  That block of time – or “meeting” if you will – will get you closer to what you really want.

If you block out that time from say 7p.m. to 8:30p.m. for the next four Wednesdays, and you find yourself this Wednesday at 6:48p.m. waiting for the clock to change to 7p.m., just start.  Write down what time you started and go for the 90 minutes you committed to.  You know how good it feels to get something done early.

Your success will come from putting the blocks of time on your schedule, protecting those times and moving into action during those times.  If Jack White can set aside a block of time to record an album and make it happen, then you can set aside blocks of time for your goals too.

If you like this blog post, please share it with others via Twitter, Facebook, e-mail, however you like to be social.






Creative Week 2012 Highlights


One Show Interactive Awards

Enjoying the company of my long-time friends, Creative Recruiters from GSP (Linda Harless and Zach Canfield) and DraftFCB (Rafi Kugler) was a personal highlight during Creative Week 2012. Here we are the final night of Creative Week at The One Show Interactive Awards.

Creative Week 2012 was a whirlwind, an incredible whirlwind.  Each day started with a breakfast presentation at 8:30a.m. and ended with parties that lasted until 3:30a.m.  (Note: That’s 19 hours of inspiration, networking and good times, and it’s impossible to do it all for 5 days straight.)  Here are some whirlwind highlights:

  • The people that think the Big Idea is dead are outnumbered.  No one is arguing about the Big Insight (as a replacement) yet.
  • Curate the funny.  That’s advice from Ron Faris, the Director of Brand Marketing for Virgin Mobile USA.
  • When an audience full of want-to-be authors are asked if they’ve ever wanted to write a book, 2 people will raise their hands – the guy who’s written a book and me.
  • Adobe’s VP of Experience Design, Michael Gough, never mentions the word “creativity” to his people.  For Adobe, it’s about the alignment of 10,000 people and getting them all moving in the same direction.  Imagine the “creative” alternative…
  • Every 7 to 10 years puppets become viable again.  The people of Jim Henson’s Creature Shop believe we’re on the onset of that.
  • The best networking happens after the events.  While business cards can be exchanged during pre-scheduled networking times, the most natural, genuine (and fun) networking takes place when people are hanging out because they want to.
  • The concept of “collaboration,” with its best of intentions, continues to be the black sheep in discussions on creativity.
  • People want to work with cool people and do cool stuff.
  • If phone chargers are gold, finding an outlet to use in Manhattan is platinum.
  • 72andSunny sat on a panel for provocative advertising and then swept The One Shows (yes, plural, both the advertising and interactive awards) with their provocative ads.

Coming soon: Advertising Week the first week in October 2012.

Progress not Perfection







A white page.  A blinking cursor.  A blank stare.

Where to start?

I know I want it to be incredible.  I know I want to give you value.  I know I want to post content regularly.  And yet, as with most beginnings, I don’t know how to start this blog for the new year.

So I jump.

I type about this struggle in the most transparent of ways, because we are all human beings.  We all – at one time or another, with one project or several, and for whatever reasons we may have – we all have had a hard time starting.  With this blog post as an example, I challenge you to start with the concept of “progress not perfection” in mind.

This is the start.


Creativity shows up when you invite it

CreativityRecently I wrote an article around claiming your creativity.  As I wrote I could feel passion bubbling up inside of me.  I am creative (one notch more creative than business-like in the left-brain/right-brain test), and I am my happiest when I am surrounded by creative people.  “Who are creative people?” you may ask. Years ago I would explain the answer with specific examples of graphic designers, art directors, writers, painters, musicians and so on.  Now I tend to simply say, “Creative people are those who say they are creative.”  Notice, it’s not enough to know you are creative, you must admit it.  You must say it outloud.  You must claim your creativity.

Several weeks ago I connected with a creative group on  Please understand that I am the type of person who only joins a group when I am confident that not only I want to commit to it but also that I have the time, energy, resources, etc. to jump right in.  So after being an assistant organizer of a music-related Meetup group for close to a year, I joined the creative group.  As I read the group’s description, a book that is on my to-read list was showcased.  The book The Artist’s Way has come up three times in a matter of weeks, so I took that as a sign to join the group (and bump the book up to the top of my list). After filling out my bio in which I first said,

“While I love art, design, music, and specifically singing and playing the ukulele, my real passion is coaching & consulting creative people so they finally feel satisfied even when they have previously felt stuck,”

I found out that the organizer of the group is also a coach!  Yesterday, we met for tea (for her) and coffee (for me) where we must have sounded like giggling teenagers with a crush (only we were discussing coaching, business, marketing, and creativity).  Stories were spilling out of me almost faster than I could say the words, and I was absorbing her experiences as if I were watching a movie trailer.  As with many times throughout this last year, the fact that career coaching is what I am meant to do was blindingly evident.  Her passion for helping others find or reignite their creativity was refreshing, and I couldn’t help but think about the final line in my article, “When you claim your creativity, you are powerful.”

The more I focus on my career coaching business’s niche market of graphic designers and advertising creatives, the more creative my thinking around my business has become.  It’s no coincidence that as I invited creativity to take center stage in one of my articles that it has begun to show up more and more in my work and life.

With that, I encourage you not only to claim your creativity but also invite it to be a part of every aspect of your life.  If you’re like me, you’ll feel more fulfilled than you even thought possible.