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Managing a Creative Team: The How To

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Creative workers are the stars. They are the ones that bring innovation and fresh ideas to the fore.

However, managing a great, sustainable, creative team is difficult when one does not know how to guide them towards better performance. The following are some ways in which you can nurture a great, creative team inside your organization.

Teamwork is key

Cultivating teamwork is important, as it emphasizes unity and enthusiasm towards the same goal and interests. By having great team work, you can engage and explore a greater array of ideas and projects.

In order to achieve this, every member must be open-minded and selfless, for the greater good of the team. This is why teamwork extends further than individual work.

This also means that a team does not burden the responsibility on one person, but every member of the team takes the cake or the fall. It is important to remember that an accomplishment or failure is never guided towards just one player in a team, but rather everyone in the group.

Cultivate the culture of “my issue, is your issue”. Nelson Rodriguez, contributor at Entrepreneur.com, agrees and extends this thought process, by asking “what have we learnt?” and “how can I help?” instead of “who did this?” or “what were you thinking?”, when the team is faced with trouble.

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Let them be independent, rather than restricted

Research shows giving employees autonomy will yield greater results. Daniel Pink, a best-selling author and motivational speaker, said that “we are trying to manage people into engagement, but people don’t engage when they are being managed.”

How and where they work can be changed, to create a more independent environment. Perhaps propose going out for dinner as a group, allowing employees to freely engage in discussions and get to know each other better.

However, one must also realize that independent does not mean giving total freedom, but rather mapping out goals and targets in line with the company’s vision, while still being flexible. When employees are restricted, then they are able to explore new ways to innovate and inspire themselves, so that they perform better.

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Frequent feedback is better

In order to know when an employee does his job well, he or she must be given feedback on his or her work. In many cases, however, companies only require managers to schedule annual or at best monthly feedback from managers, which is insufficient when engaging a creative team, in order to boost their performance. It is better to use the “one-on-one approach”, as Daniel Pink likes to call it.

Instead of feedback, one can also switch to engaging questions like “what do you like most about this project?”, “what struggles did you face?”, and “what things did you hate while working on this project?”

This is especially valuable, because as humans, we want to master our trade, our specialization. By offering frequent feedback and scheduling recurring one-on-one sessions, both employees and managers learn to how and where to improve and also get to understand each other, find out more about their strengths and weaknesses, individually and as a team.

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Improving appraisal methods

Appraisal in terms of money can never be the only answer, especially when talking about improving the management of a creative team. Nelson Rodriguez and Daniel Pink have similar opinions on this.

On the one hand, Nelson Rodriguez believes that it is important to make employees feel appreciated. He urges managers to ask how he or she understands appreciation, as it links to what one’s employees want and what the managers can do about it.

Daniel Pink, on the other hand, suggests a different take on this: show them the end-results! Many creative teams do not know how the customers feel about their products or if they have benefited from them at all.

By giving them the end results, staff members will feel appreciated, because they know that they have contributed both a customer’s happiness and the company’s well-being. He further emphasizes that by doing so, employees feel like they are “either making a difference, a contribution, or both.”

Every organization or company has their own style and culture. This means that the method is not a “one size fits all” method, but a highly malleable one. As such, these tips come to complement a manager’s approach in regards to working with the available pool of talented employees, pushing them to give their best performance.

In nurturing teamwork, independence, on-going feedback and appraisal, you guarantee the chance of achieving greater improvements in performance. But remember – managing changes for the “greater good of the team” also means increased team effort and in the end, it all depends on how big of an effort your team is willing to undergo, in order to break their performance barriers.

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