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 

Why Are Freelance Advertising Creatives Failing?

Why aren't freelance advertising creatives making the money their talent deserves? (photo credit:

Why aren’t freelance advertising creatives making the money their talent deserves? (photo credit:

Freelance advertising creatives – art directors, copywriters and graphic designers – have great potential but often fall short in creating and maintaining a successful advertising freelance business.  Getting enough clients to sustain a full-time, lucrative business is the main challenge.  CLIENTS = MONEY  Freelance creatives aren’t landing clients so they aren’t making money (or enough money to continue freelancing and maintain their lifestyle).

Why is that?  Why are many talented advertising creatives unable to make money as freelancers?

Because of their brains.  Some of the best creatives are much more creative-minded than business-minded, much more right-brained than left-brained.*


Because they don’t connect one on one.  While advertising art directors, copywriters and graphic designers have perfected the art of  connecting with the masses through, let’s say, a print ad, they aren’t experienced in generating client leads person by person.


Because they go straight for the jugular…I mean…sale.  It’s a rookie mistake to pitch your services to a potential client before understanding if the individual and/or business is even interested and if so, what their true needs are.  Imagine pitching a serious brochure when a business wants a funny microsite.  Now imagine overwhelming an individual with talk of social media, web banners and mobile apps when they haven’t the slightest idea of what they want their logo to look like.  Freelancers must understand a potential client’s needs and then communicate how as an advertising creative professional they can meet those needs.


Because they offer everything upfront.  Many creatives can do it all; they can create fully integrated campaigns and they can art direct and write.  Even if they can do everything, there are certain things they do better and enjoy doing more.  The freelancers that are having a harder time making money, are the ones who are offering everything upfront and not specializing.  Whether it’s designing packaging or writing radio scripts, freelancers who market themselves as an expert in an area are sought out by clients who need their expertise.  Once a freelancer is hired for what they’re known for, they can offer the client everything else.  For instance, a designer who is hired because of their specialty with packaging can also recommend he or she designs the business cards, brochures, print ads, landing pages, etc., in the same look and feel.


Because they don’t target their ideal clients.  Ideal clients are the individuals or businesses that the freelancer is genuinely interested in and THAT HAVE THE MONEY TO PAY the freelancer.  As an advertising creative career coach, I primarily coach and consult senior- to executive-level creatives.  While I have a soft spot for helping students and juniors (and I do as much as possible), younger creatives aren’t my target audience. As a business owner, I must market to those who can afford the services I provide.  And currently, more than half of my clients freelance or own their own businesses, which I work with them to grow.

OR many talented advertising creatives are unable to make money as freelancers…

Because they don’t follow up.  Freelance creatives aren’t politely persistent – calling, e-mailing, stopping by in person, etc. – until they get a yes or a no.

As a freelancer, which of these is holding you back?  Post it in the comments below.

The good news is that while inherent creativity can’t be learned, business and sales skills can be learned.  Freelance creatives can succeed if they invest more of themselves in learning that left-brain, business side.


(*Side note: I am almost equally right-brained and left-brained. My creative side is a notch above my business side. Both sides came in handy when I was managing the creative department at Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, and now both benefit my clients as I coach and consult them to get unstuck, reach their goals and finally feel satisfied.)

Urgent Motivation – How Bad Do You Want To Be Successful?

How bad do you want to be successful?

Whether it’s a 6- or 7-figure money amount or that Creative Director title or another level of success, how bad do you want it?  Just as we all define success differently, we all have different motivators and varying levels of motivation.

Let’s talk about that motivation.

In the current 4-minute Spartan Race promotional video, Rap Preacher Eric Thomas reveals what may be a modern day fable with one of the strongest examples of what urgent motivation is.

(The Spartan Race is an Obstacle Racing Challenge that originated in 431B.C.  The Spartan Race website shows races in 2013 scheduled in America, Canada and Great Britain.)

Imagine if your motivation was as imperative as getting enough oxygen.  What if your drive to achieve success was as powerful as your desperation to get air during an asthma attack?

“When you want to succeed as much as you want to breathe, then you’ll be successful.”

In the video, Thomas continues, “You don’t care about no basketball game.  You don’t care about what’s on TV.  You don’t care about nobody calling you.  You don’t care about a party.  The only thing you care about when you’re trying to breathe is to get some fresh air.  That’s it.  And when you get to the point where all you want to do is be successful as bad as you want to breathe, then you’ll be successful.”

Now, take out the parts about breathing from that quote.  The last line becomes, “And when you get to the point where all you want to do is be successful, then you’ll be successful.”

So, what are you willing to give up?

  • Money?
  • Time?
  • Your Comfort Zone?
  • Limitations you’re putting on yourself?
  • Being Shy?
  • Your Pride?
  • Sleep?
  • Happy Hour?
  • Video Games?
  • Facebook?
  • Softball League?
  • Getting the newest iPad?
  • Shopping?
  • Certain People?

What are you willing and ready to give up in order to own your success?

Did you notice some of the people in the race video were missing arms and legs?  They gave up the limitations either they put on themselves or others tried to contain them with.  How bad must they have wanted the success of crossing that finish line?

When you get to the point where all you want to do is be successful, then you’ll be successful.


In the comments, share what you know you need to give up in order to reach your next level of success.  I’ll start. 

Please share this blog post with others:


Invest in Yourself

“School is never out for the pros.”

This last weekend I was at a conference south of LA.  This weekend it was in the low 80’s with an ideal slight breeze.  The conference was minutes away from Huntington Beach; I could have happily lounged the day away on the sand, hypnotized by the lull of the waves.  Instead, I was in a grand ballroom of an upscale hotel sitting in smack dab in the middle of 250+ people.

It was a training conference with my sales mentor Eric Lofholm, his mentor Dr. Donald Moine (who I’m pictured with above during the conference), and Eric’s coach, Jay Abraham.  You may not recognize these names but in the areas of sales and marketing for small businesses and even some Fortune 500 companies, these men are the millionaire (and multi-millionaire) examples of how to be an industry leader through serving others.

Results from my Sales Certification

The weekend conference was a self-imposed deadline to wrap up my certification requirements (including a written and verbal exam) as one of Eric Lofholm’s Proteges.  Since late November I’ve soaked up the materials on a weekly basis.  The last five weeks I studied on a much deeper level and before my test date arrived, I noticed a change with my one-on-one coaching clients.

Not only was I implementing the “Sales = Service” in my own business model, but also I was starting to teach my clients with advertising freelance businesses sales systems.  I was coaching and consulting on a level I hadn’t before and my clients reaped outstanding results.

Then on the Monday before the conference, I passed the final requirements – both the written and verbal exams – to earn my certification.  The feeling of accomplishment for earning the certification pales in comparison to the joy I get when my clients share their sales victories because of what I’m now able to confidently teach them.

You invest in you.  I’ll invest in me.  Then, we’ll invest in each other.

At the conference, one multi-millionaire stated “School is never out for the pros.”  It was Dr. Donald Moine, and he was right.

While I encourage others to invest in themselves, it’s equally as important that I invest in myself in order to continually give my clients and those around me more value.  As Ben Franklin put it, “An investment in knowledge always pays the best interest.”

What are you doing this summer to invest in yourself?  Maybe it’s a class, maybe it’s reading a book filled with business concepts, maybe it’s jumping on one of the free teleseminars I’m offering this summer (wink. wink.  You can request all the information about my teleseminars for advertising creatives here.)

The Challenge

I challenge you to add one thing to your summer schedule that’s sole purpose is education.

Share the one thing you will do this summer to invest in your own education.  You can leave a comment here; I’ll start. 

Ask For What You Want

Time and time again I’ve heard clients, colleagues, friends and even strangers wish for the most achievable of things.

“I wish I had more money.”

“If only I had a steady stream of income from my freelance business…”

“I wish I had an extra week vacation.”

“Working this much would be tolerable if I sat near a window.”

“I don’t know what to do next because I don’t know where that company is in the hiring process.”

“I wish I knew how So-and-So did it, because then I could be successful like that.”

“I wish I knew what So-and-So had to get that promotion over me.”

“Why hasn’t that person given me what he or she should know I really want?”

Can you relate to any of these?  What do you wish for?

How can you get what you want?

As creatives we often think so far outside the box that we forget the box itself.  What if it doesn’t take the next big idea or an elaborate plan, sweat and hard work to get what you want?  What if all you need to do is ask?  Ask for what you want.

If you want more money, ask for it.  Ask your boss for a bonus or a raise.  Ask your freelance clients for more money, more projects and more referrals.

Ask to sit by the window all day or even part of the day.

Call the company you applied to two weeks ago and ask where they are in the hiring process.  Then ask that company for any next steps you can take.

Ask So-and-So what they did to get where they are.  Ask your boss what So-and-So had to get promoted over you and what you can do to be the promoted person next time.

And please ask – that person that hasn’t given you what he or she should know you want – for what you want!

What if others should know what you want?

Many times other people simply don’t know what we want, what we’re wishing for, what will make us happy.  To put it bluntly – they are too busy wishing for themselves and doing everything else that they have going on in their lives to stop and consider what you may be wishing for.  Or, worse yet, they may assume you are wishing for the same thing that they want.

For instance, I’ve seen it happen all-too-often, advertising creatives reach a certain point in their career where they don’t care as much about the money as they do their vacation time.  Yet, employee review after employee review they end up unsatisfied because more money was thrown at them instead of that time off that they so desperately desire.  And why?  Because they haven’t made it clear to the decision-makers that they value vacation time the most.  They don’t get what they want because they never asked for it.

What happens when you ask for what you want?

When working with my clients one-on-one, we create a clear plan on how to best ask for what they want so not only do they have the confidence to ask but also 9 times out of 10 they get what they want.  (There are best practices when asking and things you can do to improve your odds of getting what you want.)

Can you guess what the #1 response is when my clients ask for something from someone?  What do you think that someone says?

“Oh, you could have had that sooner if you’d only asked.”

Imagine you had what you are wishing for.   Now, go ask for it.

If you’d like to share, please post a comment.  






Happiness in Advertising?

Advertising People are Leaving Agencies

Research shows that 30% of advertising employees will leave their agencies this year. (This is one of the main reasons I’m working with advertising agencies through presentations and high-level career coaching.)

Driven to Help Advertising People

When I saw the question, “How Much Do You Utterly Despise Working in Advertising?”, I immediately wanted to reach out to miserable advertising people, GRAB THEM BY THE SHOULDERS and tell them it doesn’t have to be this way – THEY CAN BE HAPPY! I know the vicious cycle too well; I lived it and I have the solution. I can help whether it’s through an agency presentation, agency-sponsored coaching program or working directly with an advertising art director, copywriter, designer, ACD or CD without the involvement of his or her agency.  It’s my passion.  It’s my purpose.  And it’s also my biggest frustration to know that there are people in the advertising industry that don’t want to go to work in the morning and don’t know that they can change that.  When I get all fired up (e.g, this very moment), I have to remind myself that I can only help those that want the help (like my past and current clients)…oh and those that know an advertising career coach like me exists. And with that, I’ll end this public rant of sorts (which can’t quite compare to the intensity of the rant in the video below created by Deutsch LA) and get back to telling the industry I exist and I want to help.

Cannes Session

It’ll be interesting to see what Deutsch LA proposes and what they share about their “ownership culture” during next Monday’s (June 18, 2012) Cannes session “Ending The Agency Talent Rotisserie.”  Deutsch LA created a series of videos as a teaser including the video above, which were included in the AdFreak article with the subtitle Deutsch wants to make you happier.

What I Do – Money and More

Yes, turnover is costly to agencies and money is important to a business, but it’s not all about money.  Keeping talented creatives is a must.  Attracting talented creatives is a must.  And a certain level of happiness is a must if you want to create great ads consistently.  Deutsch LA recognizes that, “this agency talent rotisserie has real costs, on recruiting, creative excellence and business development.”

I push my clients to make substantial shifts toward employee satisfaction (custom to each agency and  advertising creative individual’s needs), so that each can be fulfilled when they were previously stuck.  So they can dramatically slow down or stop the agency talent rotisserie.  I guide them to the balance of efficiency with palatable culture.  They go from talk to action.  They go from their employees leaving to their employees being happy to work there again.




Group Coaching

This year’s ACT & YOU SHALL ACHIEVE Group Coaching Call Series has reached its half-way point and is steadily crescendoing. The members’ goals range from those involving art to real estate, time management to finances. It’s incredible to work with a diverse group of people – from the west coast to the east coast – and to facilitate them helping themselves and helping each other achieve their goals. There’s a certain synergy when a group like this one comes together, and it’s wonderful. Whether it’s career coaching or life coaching, planning or prioritizing, acknowledgement or tough love that they need during our group coaching calls, I’m with them every step of the way.

Achieving Your Goals Despite the Issues of Time and Money

What has kept you from already achieving your goals?  What is in the way of making the changes you desire?  If the answer is either time or money, I challenge you to dig deeper.

How much is your time really worth?  Would it be worth it to you to rid yourself of the guilt or disappointment of not achieving your goals?  And how much time do you spend dwelling on the fact that you have these unresolved goals?

If the goal’s outcome is truly worth it, then neither time nor money are the issue. The cliffhanger is…what is the issue?