Don’t coach while your team is on the court: 6 Rules in Coaching Creatives

Controlling risk is the job of a good manager. Taking risks is the sweet spot of the most creative people on your team. This means that if you lead a creative you will be best to go against your instinct to control if you truly want the best results. And, managing chaos is the MO of the best creative leader. The delicate balance pushes beyond safety,  displaying a gooey, unstable, and abstract process. It is much like a baby’s birth. Messy. But, powerful. And, miraculous. Only when the creation is complete does it make sense.

This is why the micromanaging of this messy creative process is like coaching a basketball team by walking on the court and trying to control the the team play by play. That type of feedback is best in the locker room or on the sidelines. A lot of leaders fail at the results they truly want because they break the stream of the game. They do this before seeing the final results. After seeing what mistakes created the win or loss it then makes sense to coach your creatives. Is there a need to recast a player? Are there some fundamental’s that need revisiting? What plays were most effective?

What often emerges is a culture where leaders and managers myopically try to clean what is messy on the court as they unknowingly invade a needed process. If one understands a creative process, he will be equipped to empower rather than unintentionally condescend a way of working that actually is productive. If you are making 100,000 widgets you manage one way. If you are creating something that never has existed before, you need to manage another way. If you have casted a creative person properly, you should be able to trust that they will design, draft, or write that never-seen-before worship service, ad spot, or video montage.

The most scary of “coaches” are the ones who think they are actually playing the game themselves. If you are a pastor and you truly have passion to direct the music of your worship team you should come to rehearsals and influence the process. Let us hope you are an experienced and gifted musician! What is better is to develop clear standards and goals and track a way to get there. What is damaging is the often “something does not feel right” complaint. And, an uber-alpha leader feels compelled to prescribe answers. This recipe will develop bland results. On the court, the team will play the game to minimize risk rather than win. Playing “not to lose” is a loss. Playing to win is how you win.

So, get off the court! Here are some tips for pastors or leaders to succeed in coaching their creative leaders, leaving the court up to the players cast to be there and win:

  • Give space: The creative needs a meadow that is fenced, with clear boundaries–not a postage-stamp-sized container. Nothing will frustrate more than creating one inch of freedom then shutting down after a single failure. Allowing room for failure is necessary. Communicating defined fences is the safety net your creative leader requires. Hovering will defeat your creative leader and result in minimized results.
  • Value skill: The fundamentals matter. If you have a younger leader, you cannot assume the skill and finesse to execute a win every time is in place. You have to lower your expectations and invest in this person. It could be that you have a leader who is unable to achieve a result because his creativity is limited with low skill due to lack of training. Helping this leader with skill is a good idea. What books, conferences, and experiences are best? Does your worship leader need voice lessons? How much training time on the software has your video editor logged?
  • Mentor in vision: The more you coach on the vision of the actual endgame, the better. The more you focus on your disconnect with the messy creative process the more you guarantee  conflict and strip confidence of your creative team. How you envision a service, event, or project ending is what your creative leader has on his mind. This is what he expects to be judged. Do you have a clearly articulated “win” to communicate? And, do you answer “why” you are going where you are going?
  • Cast well: Do you have someone who can actually do what you want? If you don’t, how did that happen? Did you cast part time to fill a full time role? Did a group vet your decision? Just because someone is moody does not necessarily make them an artist. Actually, what we see often is a church will hire for “vibe” or “image” and not for talent, skill, or experience in their worship leader. You get what you value. Question your motives. Do you really want someone who over time will deepen the spiritual connection to God through creativity, or do you want someone who fits the image. It is a Saul or David game. One looks like a king. The other actually proved to be a king.
  • Encourage character: Challenge your creative leader in the values, character traits, and other basic issues you desire. Not everything is all about the product. Set standards and ask things like, “How do you motivate for you team members?” There are so many things to coach a creative in that he or she desperately needs that you are the most qualified person to deliver. Have confidence in these issues. It could go a long way and build enormous amounts of trust.
  • Champion the process: The process a senior leader goes through to prepare a sermon in a church is quite different than say a creative director who collaborates with you, a worship leader, a group of musicians, a group of technical leaders, and the congregation members who have his or her ear. Are you aware of the pressure points? Do you help mitigate the politics? The more creative the leader, perhaps the more need for coaching in navigating the leadership landscape of your church or setting. You are in charge because this is where your sweet spot is.

Any more words for the our servant leaders on leading creatives?

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Rich Kirkpatrick

Rich Kirkpatrick

Writer, Speaker, and Musician. Rich Kirkpatrick was recently rated #13 of the “Top 75 Religion Bloggers” by Newsmax.com, having also received recognition by Worship Leader Magazine as “Editor’s Choice” for the “Best of the Best” of blogs in 2011, 2014, 2015 and 2016.

40 comments

  1. Wow, I really appreciate this. 

  2. Wow, I really appreciate this. 

  3. Wow, I really appreciate this. 

  4. Wow, I really appreciate this. 

  5. Wow, I really appreciate this. 

    1. cool! I am hoping this kind of thing will help creatives & their leaders dialog

    1. cool! I am hoping this kind of thing will help creatives & their leaders dialog

    1. cool! I am hoping this kind of thing will help creatives & their leaders dialog

    1. cool! I am hoping this kind of thing will help creatives & their leaders dialog

    1. cool! I am hoping this kind of thing will help creatives & their leaders dialog

  6. Good leaders help creative people understand when the game is over. Did they win? Did they lose? What is the next game? When do we start?
    So much of being creative and managing creatives comes back to the ethereal nature of our jobs. A motorcycle mechanic can turn the key after working all afternoon. When the engine starts up, they know their work is done.

    But creatives don’t often have tangible results to their work.

    1. Very well said, Marcus. When is the game over for us creatives? Being a creative is not a 9-5 proposition that easily fits on a time sheet. When is a painting ever truly completed? How many rewrites make a chapter ready for publishing? 
      I think all leaders want something that simply works. We all agree on that. How we arrive is where we diverge.

  7. Good leaders help creative people understand when the game is over. Did they win? Did they lose? What is the next game? When do we start?
    So much of being creative and managing creatives comes back to the ethereal nature of our jobs. A motorcycle mechanic can turn the key after working all afternoon. When the engine starts up, they know their work is done.
    But creatives don’t often have tangible results to their work.

    1. Very well said, Marcus. When is the game over for us creatives? Being a creative is not a 9-5 proposition that easily fits on a time sheet. When is a painting ever truly completed? How many rewrites make a chapter ready for publishing? 
      I think all leaders want something that simply works. We all agree on that. How we arrive is where we diverge.

  8. Good leaders help creative people understand when the game is over. Did they win? Did they lose? What is the next game? When do we start?
    So much of being creative and managing creatives comes back to the ethereal nature of our jobs. A motorcycle mechanic can turn the key after working all afternoon. When the engine starts up, they know their work is done.

    But creatives don’t often have tangible results to their work.

    1. Very well said, Marcus. When is the game over for us creatives? Being a creative is not a 9-5 proposition that easily fits on a time sheet. When is a painting ever truly completed? How many rewrites make a chapter ready for publishing? 
      I think all leaders want something that simply works. We all agree on that. How we arrive is where we diverge.

  9. Good leaders help creative people understand when the game is over. Did they win? Did they lose? What is the next game? When do we start?
    So much of being creative and managing creatives comes back to the ethereal nature of our jobs. A motorcycle mechanic can turn the key after working all afternoon. When the engine starts up, they know their work is done.

    But creatives don’t often have tangible results to their work.

    1. Very well said, Marcus. When is the game over for us creatives? Being a creative is not a 9-5 proposition that easily fits on a time sheet. When is a painting ever truly completed? How many rewrites make a chapter ready for publishing? 
      I think all leaders want something that simply works. We all agree on that. How we arrive is where we diverge.

  10. Good leaders help creative people understand when the game is over. Did they win? Did they lose? What is the next game? When do we start?
    So much of being creative and managing creatives comes back to the ethereal nature of our jobs. A motorcycle mechanic can turn the key after working all afternoon. When the engine starts up, they know their work is done.

    But creatives don’t often have tangible results to their work.

    1. Very well said, Marcus. When is the game over for us creatives? Being a creative is not a 9-5 proposition that easily fits on a time sheet. When is a painting ever truly completed? How many rewrites make a chapter ready for publishing? 
      I think all leaders want something that simply works. We all agree on that. How we arrive is where we diverge.

  11. Thanks Rich. Timely reminder as I seek to manage creatives in my time with clear direction AND space.Directive from the Senior Minister is “It is ok to make a mistake”.
    Push the boundaries, review the outcome, learn from your mistakes.
    Our motto: “Pursue excellence, not perfection”
     

    1. Bren, I like the motto “pursue excellence, not perfection” for the creatives who don’t know when to stop! 
      RK

  12. Thanks Rich. Timely reminder as I seek to manage creatives in my time with clear direction AND space.Directive from the Senior Minister is “It is ok to make a mistake”.
    Push the boundaries, review the outcome, learn from your mistakes.
    Our motto: “Pursue excellence, not perfection”
     

    1. Bren, I like the motto “pursue excellence, not perfection” for the creatives who don’t know when to stop! 
      RK

  13. Thanks Rich. Timely reminder as I seek to manage creatives in my time with clear direction AND space.Directive from the Senior Minister is “It is ok to make a mistake”.
    Push the boundaries, review the outcome, learn from your mistakes.
    Our motto: “Pursue excellence, not perfection”
     

    1. Bren, I like the motto “pursue excellence, not perfection” for the creatives who don’t know when to stop! 
      RK

  14. Thanks Rich. Timely reminder as I seek to manage creatives in my time with clear direction AND space.Directive from the Senior Minister is “It is ok to make a mistake”.
    Push the boundaries, review the outcome, learn from your mistakes.
    Our motto: “Pursue excellence, not perfection”
     

    1. Bren, I like the motto “pursue excellence, not perfection” for the creatives who don’t know when to stop! 
      RK

  15. Thanks Rich. Timely reminder as I seek to manage creatives in my time with clear direction AND space.Directive from the Senior Minister is “It is ok to make a mistake”.
    Push the boundaries, review the outcome, learn from your mistakes.
    Our motto: “Pursue excellence, not perfection”
     

    1. Bren, I like the motto “pursue excellence, not perfection” for the creatives who don’t know when to stop! 
      RK

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