Your Prescription for Building the Best Creative Team
As you chart new goals and plans, add “building the best creative team” to your list. Follow my prescription below, which includes five must-haves when building effective teams:
Right People: In order to build the best creative team, you need the best people and the right number of them. Three ways to assess if you have the right people is by evaluating technical skills, cultural fit, productivity and team size.
Skills. With any team, you need to begin with the right intellectual assets. This is the science part of team-building. Your job is to ensure the individuals on your team have the right technical skills and expertise (like software knowledge) as well as the right level of experience.
Cultural fit. Can you define what makes a good match for your team and organization? This is the art of team-building. After all, there’s a job description and there’s the right fit. The right fit needs more than the rote skills to execute the tasks associated with the job; he or she must also have the personality and work style to fit in with the culture of the team and company.
Team size. Integral to team-building success is making sure you have the right staffing level. Do you have the flexibility to staff up or down during peak times? Will you be able to maintain your core skill set regardless of slowdowns or busy seasons? Allow yourself the opportunity to staff up or down to meet business needs. Being able to add unique skills as needed to handle elevated work periods keeps teams running smoothly.
Right Process: Having the best creative team means team members are not just passionate and creative, but also productive and efficient. And to be productive and efficient, you need clearly defined expectations. Effective teams have a leader who sets tangible targets, such as deadlines, production schedules and scopes, in order to achieve team goals and expectations, with checks and balances along the way. Creative teams can be brilliant, but you can’t overlook the need for defined process, direction and focus to keep that brilliance on target.
Right Leadership and Leadership Approach: Without a doubt, your creative team leader must have the technical expertise to communicate with the team, but that’s not what will make them an effective leader. The best leaders need to identify and communicate a vision and inspire others to create. They must also be humble, approachable and decisive. A strong team leader should know when to be open to the team’s thoughts and when to stand firm and make a decision. On creative teams, the most effective leadership approach is often one that lacks hierarchy. Avoid being too rigid. Instead, focus on:
Having open communication between team members and management. While there should be rules of engagement, it should also be understood that there are no dumb questions.
Using team-based approaches to solving problems. Don’t just tell; ask how others would handle problems or setbacks.
Fostering a safe-to-fail and safe-to-risk environment. Creativity can’t thrive if risk and failure aren’t an option.
Right Environment: Creative teams need creative workspaces. Inspiration can be hard to come by when teams are divided, isolated or restricted. Find opportunities in your team’s physical environment to inspire creativity. That may mean using a conference room as a collaborative work environment. It may mean structuring desks like a bull pen, with all team members working in open space The right environment might also mean access to proprietary tools and software, even when team members are away from the office. Flexibility to work from home and access information whenever creativity strikes – even in the middle of the night – means your creative team can be effective and productive anytime, anywhere.
Right Vision and Strategic Direction: It’s integral that your creative team understands the bigger purpose of the project, department and company. What’s the mission of each? How do each of those individual missions come together to serve one greater goal? For example, if you are building a website, every team member, from the UX designer to the copywriter to the web developer, needs to be unified on mission, goal and purpose, not just for their roles, but for the final deliverable. This is the core of an effective team – understanding not just your individual contributions, but how those fit into the greater picture.