At one agency, we hired a traffic manager to coordinate the tasks given to us in the Creative Department by the client managers. In his first week, I got angry with him for some suggestions he made about our work.
Our creative director spoke with him about the incident and then told me what he’d advised. He had told the traffic manager, “If you make Drew angry, no big deal, that guy gets pissed quickly. But if you make Todd angry, you’ve done something wrong because he doesn’t have a quick temper. You’ve got to manage different people differently.”
It was one of the best lessons I’ve ever learned about management. The creative director was dead on. The issue that upset me wasn’t something that we could easily dismiss. My anger would have alerted him it was a big deal but he didn’t know how to read the situation.
This lesson has come in handy in more diverse teams where I’ve worked with people of different experience. I would never advocate micro-management but some people need specific tools to become accountable. Some employees need complete autonomy until presentation time.
In other words, you’ve got to be open in your management style. One size doesn’t fit all. Hard skills alone aren’t effective to manage creative employees. Emotional intelligence — sometimes dismissively called “soft skills” — is critical in a manager.