Leading Creative Teams

Leading Creative Teams - blog post by Michael Wader

Your organization has given your department the job of solving a complicated, long-standing problem, and as the manager of this department you need to lead this effort. You have decided to put together a team of your workers to try and come up with a workable solution. So, as you make a list of requirements needed for the team, the very first item, people, has you stumped.

Who do you have that can be on this team? Who will want to be on this team? Who will be the “best” people to be on the team? Who can you afford to give up to be on the team? When will they meet and where? How are you going to explain the problem in detail to them? How long should you give them to give you a solution? How will you measure their solution to see if it will work or not? So many things to think about and so little time to get started. Where is a manager supposed to start? Here are 5 critical steps that I suggest you follow.

Some of Your Best People Having Fun

You will want to pick some of your “best” people if you want good results. But also, you should consider those employees that are always questioning your directives, and keep asking “why, why, why…” You will want four different groups represented on your team: men, women, someone who has been there for 10 years or more, and someone who has been there less than 1 year. Also, if you have a culturally mixed group of employees, try to get different cultures into the four groups mentioned before. As their leader you need to think about how you can make this a fun and productive experience for everyone.

“The best executive is the one who has sense enough to pick good men to do what he wants done, and self-restraint enough to keep from meddling with them while they do it.”

— Theodore Roosevelt

Challenge the Team with a Declaration for Innovation

Provide a clear vision to the team as to what the solution should solve. DO NOT impart your ideas of what the solution should be, onto the team. Explain the importance of this effort and how it will help the individuals and the company grow and be better. Set a high goal or expectation for an exceptionally good result that can be implemented. DON’T ask for a little, ASK for a lot!

“Some people see things as they are and ask, ‘Why?’ I see things as they have never been and ask, ‘Why not?’”

— John F. Kennedy and George Bernard Shaw

Give Them Freedom to Think Outside the Box

As their leader, you need to remove barriers that keep the team within boundaries for the solutions. Old paradigms of how things should be solved need to be thrown away. Seek ideas and solutions that were not in their minds before they gathered, and solutions that do not include compromises or cause other problems. Make sure they have adequate time, materials, and place to work undisturbed. Allow them to select their own internal team leader and recorder. Ask them what other resources are needed that will help foster creativity and fun for them team.

Note: Surprise them, by having a trainer, or co-worker not on the team, play a game or exercise that makes them laugh; is fun, and causes them to use their brains to solve a puzzle… (warm them up) before they start working on the real problem.

Ask this question that was first posed by the futurist Joel Barker:

“What can we not do today, but if we could, it would change the future?”

— Joel Barker

Give Them the Factual Data That Is Available

The team may need to have some facts about the current situation to know how bad it is or how far they want to take the solution. Be sure these are the facts and not just someone’s opinion, or old historic data. They will need fresh factual data. Make a computer available to them that they can use to retrieve data from across the organization that may provide direction or details to answer their many questions. Inform other managers about the importance of answering their questions as soon as possible with factual data and giving them the support needed.

Never Forget to Celebrate

When the results are in and the team has a solution, make sure you celebrate. No matter how large or small the victory is, be sure to celebrate. Acknowledge the team’s efforts, give them appropriate rewards if that is your company’s culture and give all team members recognition. Failure to celebrate or recognize their hard work will make it harder next time to get people to volunteer to be on your next team.

Remember that Your Attitude Determines Your Altitude and almost any problem can be solved with a positive attitude and the mixing of minds that are motivated and have a clear goal.

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