We dream big, set goals, and then work, work, work to achieve them. But we soon learn a simple truth: we can’t do it all by ourselves. We need help and accepting help often requires a dose of humility. I push myself to stay humble by building teams to make my work as efficient as possible.
When we build teams, we become responsible for inspiring our individual teams while keeping them on task and on track. Creativity can offer a huge source of inspiration. But what if team members are stressed and emotionally drained? They can have a hard delivering their best work if they deliver anything at all.
The team that is working with us on The Startup Equation understands those stresses and the need to decompress. Here are three ways I keep my teams inspired, engaged, and creative.
1: Create Conversations
Running a team is project management, pure and simple. I find my team members consistently deliver high-quality work on deadline when they can tap into their creative thinking before we launch a project. I set goals, assign tasks, and implement my plans. But before the action items start rolling I meet with my team to talk and, more importantly, to listen. We use Slack as our virtual office and create designated channels to help keep different projects on track. These channels also make it easier for team members to share ideas the make the project and the work better.
As entrepreneurs, sometimes (O.K., maybe a lot of the time) we think we have it all figured out. We think we just need to bring in the right people to do x, y, and z. That’s not a true team. True team members get to have their ideas voiced and taken seriously. I like to meet with my team over coffee (or wine) to share my vision, hear their ideas, and figure out a better way to get the job done. And guess what? These conversations create a spark between team members with ideas flying back and forth. Some ideas don’t fit the current project, but others are brilliant.
2: Institute A Think Tank
At the beginning of any project, I look for ways to trigger my team’s creativity. Discipline keeps the creativity flowing during the weeks and months to come. I build checks-and-balances into our action items. During our weekly Think Tank, team members present any project issues or problems. The team then works together to find solutions.
Sometimes, we can learn a lot as a team by writing. I recommend aiming for 750 words and write whatever comes to mind. It’s also known as stream of consciousness writing. The results are then shared with the team and can lead to sparks of inspiration for the Think Tank. I also recommend the Workflowy app or MindMeister for personal brainstorming to help you track and manage ideas as they emerge.
3: Play Often
A positive work environment is crucial to long-term productivity. I use strategic play to break up the monotony of everyday tasks. The most creative members of our society — children — already know the benefits of play. If we’d let them, children would play all day long.
I like to give my team members whiteboards and markers. They can turn abstract ideas into visual ones and capture what they see as the future of our shared project. A lot of people start drawing logos. Some make flow charts. As long as they keep at it, after about 10 minutes their minds are opened and the creativity flows.
I also like to include non-work related games. I’m particularly fond of disc golf. There’s nothing like an afternoon in the sun, traipsing through the wood in service of friendly competition to get the creativity juices running. When you bring a bunch of coworkers together they tend to talk about one thing — work.
It’s not surprising that they start riffing on ideas without even realizing it. And while CrossFit or skydiving doesn’t appeal to me personally, whenever I find out that two or more team members share an interest, I encourage them to “play” together. The ideas inspired by jumping out of a plane can be downright jaw dropping.
You’ve got a vision and you’ve built a team to manifest it. Now you need to keep it on the creative track. With a simple strategy of creative conversations, Think Tank sessions, and some time for play, you can do just that.