Leading Creative Teams

May 16, 2022 by Eileen Wirth

Grab your whistle and prepare to draft and lead your creative dream team! Start by analyzing the combination of talents you need. I suggest:

  • A wildly creative person who suggests crazy ideas that might just work.
  • A practical big picture thinker to refine and shape these ideas.
  • A detail person who knows how to make things happen.
  • A devil’s advocate who can anticipate objections from higher levels.

Be sure that each of these people also can contribute writing, graphic, or number-crunching skills and that they play nice with other team members. Avoid people who are either domineering or passive-aggressive. They will clash and make life miserable for everyone, especially you. 

Ideal team leadership involves a practical big picture thinker working together with a detail person who gets things. It doesn’t matter which is chair and which is assistant chair as long as they form a partnership to balance each other.   

If you are either wildly creative or a natural devil’s advocate, you probably aren’t cut out for team leadership.  Wildly creative people are ideal for sparking ideas but usually not for carrying them out, while devil’s advocates are often too negative to get people excited. 

Organizations need all types, and it’s better to admit that some roles aren’t for you. 

Teams of five are big enough to include diverse mindsets and skills but small enough to work efficiently. If teams are too big, it’s hard to schedule meetings and get everyone involved in discussions.

As a leader, interview potential members individually.  What can they contribute and how much time do they have? If someone seems hostile, toxic, or incompetent, thank them for his or her interest and find a better fit. 

After you have drafted your team, bring everyone together to develop a joint vision of the project and draw up a work plan. It helps to have everyone share their backgrounds and interests as they begin working together. You may have a favorite ice breaker or you can have everyone take a strengths finder’s test and share results. 

Run meetings on time and make them fun. Unhappy people seldom produce great work. Give credit to everyone and do a lot of the dirty work. Your team will love you.

Also, chocolate does wonders for creativity. Feed your people – and let me know if you want my awesome brownie recipe. Some people came to my meetings just for the sugar high it provided!

Got a question or topic on creativity you would like Dr. Wirth to address for The Greenhouse Journal? Shoot her an email at EILEENWIRTH@creighton.edu.

Eileen Wirth

Dr. Eileen Wirth is a professor emeritus of journalism at Creighton University and is an author specializing in Omaha history. She was a reporter at the World-Herald and a PR Writer for Union Pacific before joining Creighton in 1991. Eileen’s books include The Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium, Historic Omaha Houses of Worship and From Society Page to Front Page. She is on the board of History Nebraska and a member of the Nebraska Journalism Hall of Fame, the Nebraska Women’s Journalism Hall of Fame, and the Omaha Press Club Hall of Fame. She also has been active in numerous groups particularly the Omaha Public Library.

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