Empathizing with your creative team


Background: 7 findings from previous research

In a previous article on my research of creative professionals, I shared 7 findings about management of teams of creative professionals. I'm excited to learn it was well-received, and I to continue this research. Although the sample interviewed reflects 4 continents and numerous companies, the sample is not stratified enough for universal suggestions.

What now? 
Ask yourself and your team these questions.


  1. What are the personal and professional values of each of my team members? 
    Note that this question isn't "what values does my team share"? This may require a series of time-consuming organizations, but the time spent repairing the damage of poor assumptions is far more.
  2. What are the real values my organization actually upholds? 
    This is not the time for sentimental values that aren't actualized in the company's work. The goal is to answer the question "What does my organization prioritize in order to succeed? What will they never (literally, never) compromise on?" This list may be short, but it must be honest.
  3. How is the answer to #1 and #2 seriously impacting the team’s quality of offerings?
    Be honest with yourself: people are different, and that is ok. "Alignment" doesn't mean forcing people to enjoy working with each other. It means understanding how people will negotiate with each others' different values while still providing the impact needed to succeed within the organization.
  4. What activities am I doing weekly to ensure I know what my team needs?
    In many situations, performance reviews and informal interviews aren't uncovering the real needs and feelings of a team. Team Members may feel uncomfortable sharing their feelings, leading to problems going unsolved.
  5. What are the tasks performed by each of these employees?
    Lists are a manager's friend. The list may be long and detailed, but it's necessary for getting a holistic understanding of the employee performance.
  6. Of those tasks, what do team members current enjoy doing? 
    Words like "engaged" and "passionate" may be romanticized ways of describing the condition where an employee enjoys parts of their work enough to overcome the less enjoyable parts of their work. The more these terms are romanticized, the more you risk confusing employees.
  7. Why do they enjoy it? What are at least 3 specific examples of tasks they enjoy? 
    Ask them. Don't assume. Ask why as frequently as necessary until you feel you understand what the employee perceives as the payoff for this hard work. Aside from providing clarity, examples also make for more fluid storytelling.
  8. What makes a task un-enjoyable? What are some examples?
    As before, ask them. Don't assume.
  9. Where do each of these tasks fall between "enjoyable" and "un-enjoyable"? 
    This is a visualization activity, but it contextualizes "the work." How you visualize it is entirely up to how you wish to distribute the content.