Creative but Unorganized Team Members

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They’re brilliant, and they’ve got great ideas, but when it comes to deadlines, creative but unorganized team members often fall short.

On one hand, you can sympathize — creativity often doesn’t align gracefully with scheduling. But when the boss comes down on the project manager (you) because a creative person didn’t turn in a vital piece of the project, sympathy can dwindle.

How can you take advantage of a co-worker’s creative prowess without dealing with the madness that will come if that person’s disorganization creates problems — what do you do?

Cheat on the deadline, that is, give an earlier one to “the creative mind,” hoping the person will come through by the real deadline?

Do you send frequent reminders? Do you look for someone who perhaps doesn’t have the same style and flair but has the subject-matter expertise and always meets deadlines?

All of these are certainly viable options, but if you really want the “troubled artist” to execute a portion of your project, there are a few things that might help.

First of all, don’t blow a gasket when he or she behaves true to form. It’s likely you knew what this creative but unreliable co-worker was all about, otherwise, you wouldn’t be reading this article.

You can’t expect a cat to bark, so don’t expect that this time will be any different from the last time this team member left the project team in the lurch. That means don’t wait until a day before the deadline — or the actual deadline — to expect the necessary materials in your inbox.

Consider giving the creative person project pieces that aren’t deadline-sensitive. You might have to check in with him or her frequently to keep that person progressing and on track, but at least the project won’t stall if that piece comes in after deadline.

It’s not ideal, but if you’re under the gun (or exasperated and ready to drop the artist on his or her keyboard), tell the person to turn in his or her best work, and you can finish it.

Additionally, mentor the creative — sometimes, all it takes is a little training and metaphoric hand-holding to infuse a creative mind with enough discipline to keep your project flowing smoothly.

This training should not occur in the midst of a project, however.

Before you broach the idea of training, communicate clearly that you, the project manager, respect the artist’s value and contributions. Offer coaching to help that person develop the organizational skills necessary to focus, execute and deliver in the real world of deadlines.

Also, consider time management classes, calendars and other tools to help the creative mind set and keep priorities.

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