Get Yourself Organized

One critical element of leadership is management. While leadership and management often get confused with one another, management is really more of a subset of leadership. In order to lead your employees well you need to manage your resources effectively. One of the most important resources you have is time, and if you are not organized, you will waste too much of it to ever truly be successful.

Very often, projects that do not get done on time might as well not get done at all. An advertising campaign for Valentine’s Day does no good if it is ready in time for Easter. A newspaper’s graphic design layout needs to be ready by deadline. Hairstylists make a living not only through the types of services they provide but also through the number of clients they see, so having one client in the chair all day generally means a net loss. You not only need to keep your employees organized, you need to keep yourself on track as well.

You should be guiding your team, not really leading them by the hand but instead tracking their work and making sure it gets done. Know the goals, deadlines, and potential obstacles inherent in the assignments you give them. Keep an eye out for emerging problems so you are not surprised. Help your employees with scheduling — perhaps set the due date and then work backwards, setting milestones along the way. When they send you something for your review or simply as an update, keep track of it and reply so they do not have to keep resending stuff to you. That’s a pain, and it slows them down.

Good communication is critical. Don’t make people tell you something twice, and do not get into the habit of repeating yourself. Organize your e-mails as they come in; your mail program allows you to create folders, and rules for sorting mail, for a reason. Reply to e-mails and phone calls as quickly as you can — perhaps, instead of dropping everything every few minutes, you might set aside a little time every hour or two to respond. Try to limit unnecessary communication — do not say in three e-mails what you can say in one — but deal quickly with people instead of leaving them hanging.

If you need to meet with people about their work, keep the meetings short and to the point. Have an agenda in mind, even if you don’t feel you need one on paper. If you are meeting with someone, do not let other people walk in and interrupt you; an open-door policy is a good idea, but do not let it be abused.

Keep a record of your employees’ accomplishments and problems so you can provide them with regular feedback. You can do more than just help them along with their current projects; with good feedback you can help them develop and improve so they need less assistance in the future and can move along more quickly while still turning in great work. But if you do not keep track of the good things and the bad, it is hard to have a meaningful feedback session.

Handle your Creatives’ administrative details (“administrivia”) when you can. Have a system in place to deal with getting them the supplies they need, taking care of human resource issues, arranging travel…if you have got the support stuff organized, they can do the value-adding things you hired them to do.

Projects are often on a deadline, and even those that aren’t are best done quickly rather than being drawn out over time. The key to speed is organization, and as the leader you have got the most organizing to do. You can keep your employees on track by being on track yourself.

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