Recently we hosted the first of our “Good to Great” event series in Amsterdam, which are designed to supercharge the people who run creative teams. We had three amazing speakers each giving their expert advice to take your creative team from Good to Great: Joe Fletcher from RAFT Collective, Birgit Geiberger of Birgit Geiberger Design & Koen van Niekerk from Van Berlo.
Communicate the why
The big picture is easily obscured by the madness of the day. Take the time to remind your team why they do what they do and what the impact is of their work. A team that knows its purpose will work with pride and enthusiasm. Try to get that clarity from your customer also. “If you don’t know what problem you are solving, you rarely get a clear solution”, says Van Niekerk. He lamented that in the design process “vagueness appears to be the rule rather than the exception”.
Everyone on course
Keep your team informed of the course that’s being sailed by the company or project. Remind them too of the part they play. Let people know why they are important in their current role and where they are in reaching their goal. “But don’t slap them on the shoulder and tell them they’re awesome,” says Joe Fletcher. “Name their exact contribution. Say: Your design accelerates the online process by twenty per cent. For example.”
Know what you’re measuring
Do not judge your fishes on their ability to climb trees, when you hired them to swim. Evaluate the work and the people on the basis of which you’re managing them. Do this in 1-on-1’s. Fletcher calls it “painful” when team leaders have no personal conversations with their team members. “You will have missed the opportunity for giving compliments and receiving feedback.” Because an evaluation is more than measuring the result of a project or a sprint,” says Geiberger. “It is a way to measure the role of design in the organisation.”
Get the job ad right
You can only hire the right people when you use the right language in a job advert. Geiberger: “Agile is an ICT development methodology. That is not the same as a human characteristic. What human qualities do you really need? What roles are missing in the team?” Take stock of existing skills and match those with the skills needed in the next project. And look at personalities. New people have to work with existing team members: make your designers part of the selection process.”
Train the team
Ensure there is budget to train or educate the team. Geiberger: “Educating your own people may be cheaper in the long run than hiring (over)qualified specialists.” Training budgets may however be a tricky issue when teams work together temporarily. Is there a joint fund for a limited period of time or does money have to come from different sources? Sort this out before you set up a training plan. Have seniors work with juniors so they can learn from each other. Van Niekerk: “This benefits both. The junior learn from an experienced colleague, the senior gets a fresh perspective on his way of working.”
Bring outside knowledge in
“Designers have a tendency to stick together and close themselves off to non-creatives,” says Geiberger. “Break their little world so knowledge from the big world can come in.” Ask colleagues who attend conferences to share what they have heard and seen with your team. Keep your team up to date with information on the latest developments, trends and techniques. Agencies do this automatically: knowing about ‘the new new thing’ is a USP. Make it your own.
Know the internal values and beliefs
How does your team work? What is important to them with regards to work and people? What are their values and beliefs? Geiberger: “I prefer to believe people have good intentions. Emails therefore rarely anger me, because I assume people mean well.” What is the way in which your team views the world? Van Niekerks advises to ask the members themselves: “In what kind of environment do they function best? What else do they need to perform better?”
Construct bridges and long-term relationships
This certainly applies to international organisations, says Geiberger. “Make sure colleagues talk to each other frequently, that they keep each other abreast of internal developments and politics. Actively work on establishing long-term relationship with people in different offices. People that know each other are more likely to share information.” Also: explain to the organisation what the team does. “We use roles and job titles that are meaningless to others,” states Geiberger. And unknown is often unloved.
Going from Good-to-Great
If you want your creative teams to be even better than they already are, make sure they are loved and appreciated and that they know their place in the big picture. Whether it is in the organisation, the project or the business. Just like their colleagues in sales, tech and finance, creatives want to know where they belong and what the end goal is. Explain what is expected of them and why. Are you uncertain of their role in the team, who does what or what it is they need? Then ask them. It can be that simple.
Thank you to all our in-house experts: Joe Fletcher, Birgit Geiberger & Koen van Niekerk for their great tips. If you need to bounce idea’s around, then just give us a shout and we will be happy to share our experience and advice with you to find a formula that works for you.
Or if you’d like to attend our next event in Amsterdam, then please get in touch!