Every project needs a strong leader. This is even more apparent when today’s teams involve many free-thinking individuals who have a lot of different ideas. The overarching goals for a team leader should not just be to keep the team organized, but to also make the tough decisions when the team is divided on any issues.If you’re in charge of a team that puts your leadership skills to the test, it’s important to make sure that the project doesn’t get derailed by strong-minded contributors. Here are three tips to stay on track and keep your creative project team headed in the right direction.
Maintain Confidence from Start to Finish
A leader is someone who can provide insight into any portion of the creative project. But that insight is taken much more seriously when it comes with confidence. Your team will learn to respect your decisions when they are made with a firm and authoritative stance.
That being said, don’t just exude confidence without any showing of contrition when things don’t go your way. If your team starts noticing a pattern that you confidently charge headfirst into any situation, but those situations usually end with you walking back your position or needing to adjust your strategy, they’ll see your confidence more as just being foolhardy.
While too much confidence can be harmful, it may be even worse if you don’t have enough. Your team can sense that you are not firmly planted when making decisions, and attempt to sway you from your position. Keep yourself in a position of leadership and respect by showing your team that you have ownership of your decisions. Be confident in your choices, and in your statements, and your team will follow suit.
The best way to inspire confidence in your team is to have it yourself. So when you’re facing an aggressive timeline for the next deliverable, your confidence can rub off on your team. Just remember to temper that confidence with some foresight and planning before attacking a problem, so that your confidence rests on your strategy, not just in your ability to think on your feet.
Encourage Free Flowing Ideas, But Own the Decision Process
Within all creative projects, ideas are the substance that drives productivity. So when your team approaches you with a new and innovative way to attack a common issue, hear them out! Don’t quell their creativity - after all that’s what they’re being paid for!
The flip side is to make sure you’re still in charge when it comes to making the decisions. Be appreciative of the input from your team, and acknowledge those who contributed, but make sure that whatever direction the team is heading, you’re the one steering the ship.
Again, this comes down to confidence. If you have an open forum for discussion on major decisions, it allows your team to give feedback on what did and didn’t work the last time you were in a similar position. But it’s up to you, as the leader, to ultimately make the decision and stand by it.
When dealing with the creative process, it’s up to you to decide how much involvement to have in the actual work, and how much to stand back and let the team flow. Being too involved runs the risk of never giving your team the creative license to think freely. On the other hand, if you let them run wild, you could come up horribly short for the next deadline if they spent too much time thinking and not enough time doing. The key is to know when to check in, when to offer advice or give orders, and when to stay out of the way. This knowledge comes down to experience and awareness, and varies from one leader to the next, and one team to the next. No two situations are identical.
Remember that Respect is Earned, not Demanded
Finally, the easiest way to lose respect is to demand it. It’s okay to get upset over things, but don’t lose your cool with your team, and if at all possible avoid anything but smooth emotions when you’re around them. Alone in the office? That’s the time to let things go and vent a bit. Around your team? Maintain a professional demeanor. The easiest way to lose someone’s respect is to act in an unprofessional way.
So what’s the best way to earn respect? You can earn your team’s respect throughout the creative project by standing by your word and maintaining order. Simply put, be open to new ideas and help from others, but confident at the same time.
When you’re in over your head, ask for help, whether that’s from a team member or subordinate, or from a supervisor or peer outside of the department. You’re showing that you recognize that the situation is too large to handle without outside help.
Likewise, if you are confident in yourself and your abilities, you’ll be far more respected than a manager that second-guesses himself on every major decision. Leaders have to be able to make tough choices, so when you have all the information in front of you and can make the educated decision, be confident that you’ve chosen the right path. If others question your judgement, that’s their prerogative, but don’t let their doubts sway you.
Combine these three easy tips to successfully lead your next creative project. You shouldn’t be surprised to find that they are quite interconnected. By having confidence, you’ll earn more respect. And by listening to other’s ideas, you can have confidence that you have all of the information you’ll need.