Herding Tigers

Todd Henry gets it. In his book, Herding Tigers: Be the Leader: Be the Leader That Creative People Need, he starts by demolishing five myths about creatives. Not all of them are temperamental jerks with massive egos, but perhaps they’re frustrated at working on projects for hours and days, only to have their efforts dismissed with no explanation. Or my personal favorite, believing creative types don’t understand business. Wrong. Most of us have sharp, analytical minds as part of their process—why not tap it?

The creatives I’ve known were talented, disciplined professionals. Doctors don’t have “doctor’s block,” and there’s no such thing as “accountant’s block.” You come in, do the work, and get on with the assignment.

Having worked as a researcher and writer for several years, I can appreciate a former business owner (thanks, Bruce). He provided some of the parameters Todd recommends, such as a stable work environment, and allowing introverts like me to let ideas percolate rather than being forced to spew in brainstorming sessions.

On page 192, Henry cites one of my key beliefs: “Many people think that the best ideas are ‘out there,’ somewhere. However, the best ideas often emerge by paying attention to our pain points and by making connections between seemingly disparate ideas that are already right under our noses.” Or, going back to the Bible, “There’s nothing new under the sun.” The challenge is to make ideas seem fresh or different.

Much of what Henry talks about can be found in other management books, such as providing boundaries, working as a team, and not being defensive if your team has better ideas than you. Guide your staff, and nip snark and snipping. Still, he has checkpoints and suggestions that new managers of creatives and others can start using immediately.

Finally, one of my favorite suggestions from Todd was to stop saying “We’re all a family here.” While you spend a lot of time at work, no, you are not a family. A manager will need to fire someone, even though there’s a new baby, or someone will lose medical coverage. It’s hard to maintain detachment in those types of situations, but a manager takes the longer view for the company.

How can you guide your team?

Can you allow your creatives boundaries and freedom at the same time?

Can you get your own ego out of the way and let them fail?

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