Useful Management Techniques

I’m going to be straight up here: I had a sh*tty day at work recently. I’ve spoken about my day job on here before (I’m a manager in a chain women’s clothing store), and sometimes I just think to myself I’m just not cut out for this. And to be frank? I’m not. I’m an artsy-fartsy writer type that would way rather write a 3,000 word essay than give someone a performance review. Unfortunately though, there are lots of situations in an arts career where you’ll have to manage a team of people — assistants, writers, film staff, etc., so management techniques do come in handy.

I’d actually already thought of writing a column on management techniques I’ve picked up, and it seems even more important now that I feel yucky about my day job and can’t wait to quit. Gratitude list, anyone?

Tip #1: Discover your coworkers’ strengths, weaknesses, interests and motivational style.

Here’s a funny thing: people almost always work harder when they’re doing something they actually like. Whether you’re working with a large team of people or just one or two office mates, it will help you big time in the long run to realize that while Sally is really great at social media, Robert enjoys paperwork more.

Your staff’s strengths vs weaknesses are usually a little easier to figure out. Maybe Sally isn’t all that great staying on task, so it will be your job to make sure she stays close to a supervisor or a coworker who is able to gently remind her to get back to work. This part isn’t totally self-serving though — if people are put in a position they’re better at, again, they’ll normally work harder, or at least enjoy themselves more and be easier to work with.

My sister taught me a great way to figure out someone’s motivational style. There are four categories most people will predominantly fall into: Eagle, Peacock, Owl or Dove.

Eagles are goal-oriented, extroverted individuals. They make good leaders but can be difficult to work with if you’re their boss. They don’t always listen, and are direct, confident individuals. They’ll expect you to be direct with them too — sandwich method doesn’t work well with these guys (see below). Since they’re goal-oriented, often you’ll simply need to tell them what you’re hoping to achieve in tangible form (raise $4,000, for example) to get results from them.

Peacocks, on the other hand, are relationship-oriented, extroverted folks. Don’t go about and offer criticism to these coworkers in public; you’ll hurt their pride and your relationship with them. Peacocks like to be the center of attention and since they’re relationship-oriented, paying them attention and being their friend will motivate them.

Owls are goal-oriented, introverted types. I often think of teachers, computer and technical workers and other problem-solvers as owls. They think step-by-step, carefully weighing pros and cons before proceeding. Like eagles, they’ll get a kick simply out of achieving goals.

Doves are relationship-oriented introverts. Sandwich method works best with these guys (when giving feedback, tell them something good, then the bad thing, followed by another good thing). They need to be told when they’re doing well, and will need more cheering up when they’re having a bad day. They’ll often pick up on your moods, so be careful not to take out your bad day on them.

You can google “bird motivation styles” to learn more about the different categories.

Tip #2: Manage how your staff needs to be managed, not how you would like to be managed.

I make this mistake a lot — I will often speak to staff the way I’d like to be treated (I’m a mix of owl and dove, by the way). So, I probably seem too chatty when talking to an owl, or too frank when talking to other doves. If you really need Betty the peacock to hurry up with makeup because you’re an hour behind schedule, make sure you pull her aside, even if you wouldn’t need it. This way, everyone’s getting what they need, and will be much more productive.

Tip #3: Pick your battles.

I feel in the arts industry this is so, so, so important. Did I say how important this is? As an arts professional, you’ll usually be working with other creative folks on a day-to-day basis. It might be really tempting to stick to your guns and keep your “vision” intact, but trust me, you attract more bees with honey. Maybe you don’t really need that extra wide-angle shot but your DoP thinks it’s super important. Why not just do it to keep them happy? Yes, it sounds silly, but no one likes having their ideas poo-poo’d over and over again. Besides, didn’t someone give you a chance to try your ideas out back in the day?

Being a good manager isn’t about control — it’s about getting the most out of people to achieve something together. It sounds really cheesy, but it’s true. And the arts are all so incredibly collaborative that practicing your management skills will pay off in the end.