Many of us seem to be fueled by renewed energy as we emerge, somewhat, from lockdown with fresh ideas and focus, our creative priorities aflutter. Much of our work, and thusly our teams, will remain online and remote. Sure, we’ve figured out how to make the most of video calls and collaborative platforms for problem-solving, brainstorming, and documenting—but can we truly engage our teams to do creative and innovative work?
Yes. Yes, we most certainly can.
Set the Tone with Basics
Since The Great Pivot (aka Our Pandemic Year+), work teams have made big shifts, and quickly, out of necessity. Creating robust workspaces online requires even more from the tools and tactics we’ve already been using.
Now more than ever, managing projects and teams means:
- setting agendas and deadlines;
- assigning roles and tasks;
- taking notes and recording meetings;
- charting progress and remaining flexible and;
- communicating directly and transparently.
High-functioning teams become quite adept at these skills. We learn how to balance skillsets within groups (and, if not, we move on to other projects, positions, enterprises—or get pushed out).When structures that keep us focused are in place, we can continue to drive our work forward effectively and keep the creative focus alive.
Remaining enthusiastic, especially when there are unexpected roadblocks, is a challenge, yet we can keep inspiration alive.
Creativity Rooted in Values
The real business that attracted many of us in the first place is that creative spark and its potential to ignite terrific solutions to our clients’ business challenges. We want to be proud of our work, deliver on our promises, and stay engaged throughout.
When teams connect a project’s vision to core values, there’s more chance of energy remaining high. This could be part of any project kick-off—discussing not only logistics and calendars, but connecting creative vision to establish team member buy-in. When everyone sees how a project’s completion solves a problem with creativity top of mind, passion and energy have a better chance of sustaining. And, as you already know, our work shines brighter when that vision is achieved. (ProTip: Make a point to include discussion and/or some visuals about each project’s vision in your team’s regular check-ins.)
Communication is key.
It’s important to set the tone on how often your team will directly discuss project components, and it’s equally important to make time for the fun elements, including brainstorming new pivots, not just the deliverables schedule. The creative spark is what got us here, so we have to make an effort to keep that spark in view by giving it fuel. (ProTip: Sharing ideas is that fuel so be sure to make time for team members to share new insights and aha! moments and see what might be transformed.)
Space is the place.
When we give our projects room to breathe, develop, and percolate, we offer space to ping into new sources of creativity. Sure deadlines loom large, clients require (sometimes unreasonable) demands, life prohibits forward movement; but if we’ve learned anything this past year, we can shift schedules, practices, deadlines, and still deliver solid work. (ProTip: Building in time for people to share a bit about other projects they’re working on—or riff—is a great way to build camaraderie but also spark creativity. Only a few minutes of this a week can jumpstart productivity, too. It’s totally worth it!)
Agency propels contribution.
Meaningful teamwork is activated when every member feels their contributions are considered. Establishing a climate where ideas are respected and team members are celebrated does so much good, and builds trust and worth and respect—feelings that last beyond separate project deliverables but that truly help fuse a creative team to work optimally for the long haul. (ProTip: Co-develop a practice for not only sharing work and ideas, but acknowledging team member contributions, attributes, successes. It feels so good, and when people feel valued, they’ll stay engaged.)
Discovering what propels your team forward in positive ways can also include:
- inviting true collaboration rather than working in a silo and patch-working individual parts before project pitch time;
- sharing insights along the way rather than just plowing through the work;
- keeping project vision top of mind;
- understanding what’s already happened with the work to date;
- remaining nimble to go with the flow;
- looking at what proves effective to retain focus on a potentially terrific outcome.
What sparks your best teamwork? What contributes to overall project creativity? Which collaborative practices have you held on to, making a stronger team experience? We want to know!