Whether we’re talking about a 5-person team at a small agency or hundreds of creatives at a company like Apple, there are seven key ingredients that evoke potential for greatness.
Over the past 13 years, I’ve seen the gamut—from a solid group of talented people handcuffed by rampant ego and money-hungry leadership to amazing teams empowered to do work that moves the needle. If you’re team sees continued success, I guarantee you’ll find these 7 ingredients at the heart of your achievements.
The most important element of a great creative team is talent. The trick is to attract the best and most inspired creative thinkers, collaborators, writers, designers and artists. Outside creative, spot-on project management ensures the creative people can focus on what they do best.
If you don’t love what you do and thrive on being better everyday, the work suffers. Passionate people infuse energy into the team. They set trends and strive to do something unique. By nature they are driven to create. Proficient and ambitious, they don’t wait around for things to happen. And they don’t just get it done. They make you say, “wow.” Enthusiasm is catchy and compels a team’s synergy.
When focused on delivering the highest-quality work possible, it makes all the difference to know you’re surrounded by people who will push you and help spring you up when you falter. Let’s be real, even the best and brightest thrive with input. The best creative teams are completely open and brutally honest, eliminating inadequacy immediately and helping each other act on creative energy. Trust is at the heart of collaboration. Teamwork is a necessary ingredient that takes the work to the next level if team members trust their leader and each other.
Respect is earned. Nothing entitles you to it. The best teams don’t tolerate egos, but foster an environment of mutual respect. Respect ties directly to accountability—it says that you value each other’s time and space when you do what you said you would do. Respect also relates to the recognition of each other’s strengths and knowing that what you contribute isn’t more important than someone else’s work. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
If company leadership doesn’t put creative first, then the team—no matter how talented, passionate, trusting and respectful—is doomed for demise. Creative people don’t bloom when they’re relegated to order-taking. Great work is led by great ideas and the best results come with creative in the driver’s seat. The team needs to be empowered to make the work the best it can be, as our reputation and credibility are our greatest assets. Creativity is power.
Voltaire said, “judge a person by their questions, rather than their answers.” Curiosity feeds growth. If you’re challenging yourself and learning new things, you won’t get bored. Push yourself and your teammates. If a company has a vested interest in the personal and professional development of the team, the long-term benefits of working relationships really take form. Growth fuels the talent, the trust, the respect, the power and the leadership. Strength and growth come through continuous effort and struggle.
Great leadership starts with a big picture view—making secret sauce from the teams’ collective ingredients and curating the right energy. A great leader has a knack for timing—knowing when to push the team and when to let ideas bake. Henry Kissinger said, “The task of the leader is to get his people from where they are to where they have not been.” Steve Jobs demanded excellence and inspired his team to do better work than they thought they could do.
If you’re team is flailing or you feel unsatisfied, try adding a helping of talent, passion, trust, respect, power, leadership and growth. If you find roadblocks, move on to a place that makes the secret sauce or one that’s ready to whip up a fresh batch of awesome.
April Donovan is a Partner and Creative Director with Blue Collar Interactive, a creatively led, full-service interactive advertising agency with a passion for hard-working ideas.