Leading teams that are struggling with productivity or efficiency issues often can be resolved with some fairly straightforward business-oriented solutions. However, when it comes to creativity, in particular, you can’t expect to simply make a few changes and magically get that spark back.
If you manage a marketing team that is creatively bottoming out, here are some tips and tricks to help breathe new life into your innovative efforts.
Listen to Your Team
Often the solution to stalled creativity can be found in the simple act of listening. Practicing leadership through active listening can cultivate empathy and imbue your team with self-worth simply due to the fact that they’re being heard. This, in turn, can give a new sense of purpose and responsibility (more on that further down) which can spur your team members to return to the table with fresh, new ideas.
It’s important as a leader to take the time to actively listen to your team, whether you meet in person or remotely. If you work in the same office, sit down with individual team members from time to time and see how they’re doing. If you run a remote team, drop each member an email or a personal message every once in a while in order to check in with them and hear what they’re thinking.
However you choose to go about it, make sure to actively solicit your team member’s opinions and check in on how they’re doing on a regular basis. Chances are you’ll find out multiple ways to help them get over those creative blocks whenever they pop up.
Empower Your Team
Micromanaging a team is a sure recipe for failure. It can lead to issues concerning:
- A lack of flexibility.
- Exhausted leadership.
- Turnover within your team.
The habit of hovering over your employees and dictating their smallest actions is a sure way to stifle their creativity. If you feel a need for a creative boost, consider letting go of some of the cares and concerns by empowering your employees with more creative responsibility.
Let them take charge of projects and give them the opportunity to shine on their own. Success will be rewarded by happy, healthy, inspired team members, and even failure will likely spur them that much more to prove themselves.
Bring Your Team Together
Sometimes the best way to rediscover your creativity is by taking off your shoes — metaphorically speaking, of course — kicking back, and spending some time working on good old-fashioned camaraderie. One of the tried and true methods of accomplishing this is by finding activities that your team will enjoy together.
If you work in close proximity to each other in an office or another workspace, consider finding some entertaining group games to play, like human knot. If you have a discretionary budget, consider taking your team out to lunch or to the movies.
If your team is remote, there are still ways to come together and rest from afar. Try having everyone join an online game like Words With Friends or Rummikub. You can even consider watching a movie “together” by throwing an online viewing party. Have everyone start a movie or tune into a show at the same time and then set up a Slack channel to talk as you watch together.
While you need to be careful with this one, establishing team goals isn’t just good for increasing productivity. Sometimes gently pushing your team towards clearly communicated goals can be a good way to resume that creativity as well.
The important thing is that you use empathy and soft skills as you go about setting up objectives and benchmarks for your team. Aim to create sensitive goals geared towards encouraging rather than further stifling creativity.
For instance, simply setting a deadline for a stalled out project is a bad idea. However, setting the goal of “coming up with five slogans for the 2020 social marketing campaign” might be a good way to refocus your team and get them moving in the right direction again.
Look for Inspiration
Sometimes the missing ingredient isn’t something your team or even your company can provide. If you’re feeling dried up, creatively speaking, try looking elsewhere for inspiration.
Give your team some time to search through social media, create Pinterest boards, and read articles that might give them inspiration. Look to other companies that are creatively succeeding for inspiration. Sometimes all it takes is a little creative energy rubbing off from a perpetually creative company like Space X or Oculus VR in order to refuel and get your team up and running again.
Prioritize Your Projects
Managing creative types can sometimes feel a bit like herding cats. If you add a plethora of marketing projects, plans, and responsibilities into the mix, things can get downright overwhelming. If you feel your team is creatively spinning their wheels simply due to the fact that they have too many ongoing projects at any given moment, take some time to prioritize things.
Consider what goals you’re trying to accomplish at the moment. As you step back and bring the bigger picture into focus, create a dependable project management timeline for your team’s responsibilities, and then share it with your team.
Providing not just a vision but the actionable steps to accomplish it can be a great way to lead your team out of their creative rut. As you begin to get a handle on the situation, make sure to prioritize each project and responsibility as you go. This will allow your team to put less important things onto the back burner and focus on the more pressing items without distraction.
Plan “Wasted” Creative Time
Sometimes you need to stop the clock to free the mind. If you’re leading a team that is struggling to create, consider spending some time doing specifically creative activities that aren’t related to their work.
If you’re overseeing writers, have them take turns practicing their storytelling by writing short stories and then voting on whose is the best. If you have artists on staff, have them draw pictures and then take turns coming up with captions.
Consider it an alternative to a brainstorming session. Whatever kind of creativity you’re trying to jumpstart, try doing so without the pressure of production behind it. The freed up atmosphere tailored towards innovation and invention will help to inspire your team in no time.
Communicate With Your Team
This one is obvious, but it needs to be said nonetheless. If you’re not properly communicating with your team, you’re going to struggle to reignite your team’s creativity. Good leaders need to always be aware of the quality of their team communication. If things break down, especially in a marketing scenario, creative failure will certainly follow. Each member will turn to their own isolated thoughts and ideas, and then discover that they don’t correlate when brought together.
If your team is struggling to properly communicate, take steps to remedy the issue as soon as possible. In an office, this can be fairly easy. Remote teams, however, must make an extra effort to make sure that everyone stays on the same page. They can do so by utilizing things like video communication and social spaces to maintain healthy contact with one another.
Upgrade and Organize
If you’re creatively stalling, don’t necessarily assume the problem stems from your team. It may be their tools and systems. Are these helping or hindering their creative efforts?
If your team is remote, do they have the proper equipment to stay connected? If they aren’t, take advantage of cutting-edge platforms like Slack, Trello, and Asana to make sure that everyone is working together smoothly.
When it comes to creativity, in particular, you’re going to want to check things like how your team catalogs, organizes, and develops their projects. What systems, apps, or equipment do you have in place to make sure that a germ of an idea uttered in a meeting can be properly recorded and eventually turned into a successful marketing strategy? Are you utilizing apps like Evernote, Dropbox, or Google Drive to make sure everything is accessible to your team at any given moment? In other words, make sure your team is being creatively helped and not hampered by their tools.
Investigate the Environment
Consider the environment that your team is operating in. What is their workplace culture like? Does it need to be improved? Is it dull, unimaginative, or uninspired? Try to think of ways that you can improve their environment with an eye towards sparking creativity.
Even if your team has an excellent place to work in, sometimes the key to fresh innovation can simply be changing things up. Try rearranging your team’s workstations (if they’re up for it) or have them work from home for a day or two. If your team is small, try looking for a bustling coffee shop to escape to from time to time. The point is to look for positive ways to shake up their surroundings.
Leading the Way to Creativity
Whether you’re participating in an event together, changing your work environment, upgrading your equipment, or improving your communication, there are numerous ways to try to spark creativity within a team.
The important thing is that you practice active listening and pay close attention to the needs of your team as you go about implementing changes. Remember, you’re not simply trying to boost productivity or find more efficient ways to operate. You’re talking about jumpstarting creativity, which is about as far from an exact science as you can get.
There are no formulas or proven systems for this kind of leadership. What is required is an empathetic leader who is willing to tune into their team’s needs and try to meet them in the best way possible.
Ainsley Lawrence is a freelance writer that lives in the Northwest region of the United States. She has a particular interest in covering topics related to good health, balanced life, and better living through technology. When not writing, her free time is spent reading and researching to learn more about her cultural and environmental surroundings.