Making Ideas Happen by Scott Belsky – 5 Better Practices When Leading a Creative Team-Business Book

Generating ideas is easy. It’s executing them once they’re exposed that’s challenging. For six years, Scott Belsky, creative industry guru and entrepreneur, studied prolific creative professionals. He found that those most successful used a structured business approach. This seems counter-productive for a group of professionals often whimsically stereotyped. He details his findings in his new book entitled, “Making Ideas Happen: Overcoming The Obstacles Between Vision & Reality.” Following is the seventh article in a series highlighting Belsky’s message. Here, the focus is five better practices when leading a creative team.

Share Ownership of Your Ideas. The more people attuned to thinking about your idea, the better. Historically, creative leaders struggle to relinquish control over their ideas. The challenge is compounded when your name is on the end product, such as fashion designers, architects and photographers. Once you forego control, empower team members to advance your idea. Allow them to make decisions, even ones you might have made differently. Successful creative leaders recognize that the cost of variation from their own vision is often outweighed by the benefit of shared ownership and the scalability that results. As long as the desired outcome is achieved, controlling how it’s accomplished should be down played. Avoid the impulse to micromanage your product.

Leaders Should Talk Last. Visionary leaders are often revered by others; and convince themselves that they’ve seen it all before. They’re apt to talk first, act quickly, and fail to engage others. Emerging creatives often leave agencies or abandon projects when they feel their ideas aren’t being heard. A creative team’s purpose is to generate, refine, and execute ideas. Fail to capture insights from each team member and you lose value. Challenge yourself to ask questions before making statements. When you’re not talking, you should be listening. Even leaders who validate talking last, sometimes fail to listen while they’re waiting to speak.

Judge and Be Judged Amidst Conflict. Only when things go wrong can we truly see what’s happening beneath the surface. Conflict, while never pleasant, provides an opportunity to judge the leadership capability of others. Admired leaders use conflict in two ways. First, is to evaluate the reasoning and patience of their partners and/or superiors. Second, is to build confidence and earn their team’s respect. Many accomplished leaders attribute the greatest leaps in their careers to a crisis they solved. Their conflict resolution skills were viewed more important than the actual deal or decision made. Thought leaders use conflict as an opportunity to align and strengthen their teams.

Develop Others Through the Power of Appreciation. Belsky attended a storytelling conference to hone this form of artistic expression. While there, each participant was critiqued with “appreciations” after telling their story. Appreciation is a unique form of feedback that helps creative professionals develop their strengths. Having just shared a story (or a presentation or idea), all participants comment on the elements they most appreciated. The exchange of appreciations helps build upon your strengths, rather than obsess over your weaknesses. Appreciations aren’t about being polite. The ability to recognize and share appreciation may be more difficult than offering constructive criticism. Humankind is critical by nature. Incorporate a round of appreciation-based refinement with your team before your formal critique process. Your project and colleagues’ skills will be shaped more organically, resulting in improved output and enriched team chemistry.

Seek the Hot Spots. Many companies emphasize hierarchy, but it’s less important when it comes to making ideas happen. Organizations have a handful of people scattered throughout who act as the “go-to” people, depending on their expertise. Successful leaders focus less on hierarchy and more on who has the best information. Quality information leads to quality decisions. Belsky discusses famous business author, Malcolm Gladwell; who references “social power.” People with social power have the ability to connect others en masse. “Hot spots” are people in an organization with social power. They’re easy to identify if you ask the right people and look in the right places. Once known, listen to, and empower them. Give them more influence and responsibility.

“Sound leadership in the creative world is all too rare,” says Belsky. Successful, admired leaders are able to share ownership of their ideas, operate amidst adversity, and identify and develop potential team members. To succeed, “you must develop your capacity to manage a creative team through the long, challenging pursuit to make ideas happen.”

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