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Do the people working for you seem to spend all their time working on smart, creative projects—but just not the smart, creative projects you hired them to do? That can be frustrating. As a leader of a creative team, it’s your job to make sure your people are all moving in the same direction. That takes leadership — explicit leadership — especially in a creative environment where divergent thinking is both cultivated and celebrated. Because, fair warning, divergences can lead us down paths that sure, are interesting, but not necessarily “on target.”

How to deftly execute leadership without being heavy-handed and serving as an impediment to forward motion?

Good question! (Nobody wants to be seen as a micro-manager who stifles creativity!) I’ve got some answers:
First, be clear on what it is that you are trying to achieve. I recommend defining two key areas:
  1. Operating Standards: your rules of engagement, the values that steer and guide your work.
  2. Directions or Objectives, presented in whatever timeframes are relevant.
Operating standards are the way we conduct ourselves, the way we go about our work, the way we treat each other, and the way we treat clients, customers, and vendors. Being explicit with these standards, being consistent in the sharing of them, and being inclusive in the creation of them, will go a long way to ensuring your culture is the one you want.

Directions or Objectives are the end states we are looking to achieve in particular time frames that are important to the prosperity of the creative organization. These could be profitability, number of projects produced, or number of accolades received, for example.

Don’t be afraid to set big goals for your team. Sometimes managers are hesitant to set a big audacious goal for fear of “failure.” But, goals aren’t there so that you can beat yourself up if you don’t achieve them. They serve to influence your moment to moment decision-making so that you are focusing your attention appropriately, and taking actions that increase the likelihood of success.

“But, Wayne” – you might be thinking – “creating all this, cultivating it, reviewing it… sounds like it’s gonna take so much time?

You bet! It does take time. And you’ll always want to make sure it is not in the way of work getting done. However, avoid the mistake of allowing constantly cascading projects and deadlines from preventing you from making sure this is a part of your culture. Without it, all sorts of problems can erupt: unexpected behavior, less than optimal performance, and generalized funk.

Do you have a success story to tell? Or is your team particularly challenged in this ARENA? I’d love to hear from you! 

Please email me at [email protected]