Picture this situation: Your company leader just held a town hall meeting and announced that your company has been awarded a new piece of business. A new team will be formed from various departments, and you will be the lead project/account manager to get this business up and running. These employees haven’t worked together before and are diverse in terms of their background and skill set. The company is relying on you to pull the team together.
So, how do you get this diverse group to work together? More importantly, how will you personally help foster a nurturing environment for these employees to grow and deliver the best end product to the clients?
Great team leaders know how to form a cohesive unit. What I’m about to share with you are some of the insights I’ve gained over the years on how to manage a successful team.
Red, Blue, Green—All Turn to Grey
There’s one shared truth in the agency world—everyone works on a team. Whether you’re an introvert, extrovert, or somewhere in between, your daily tasks and career successes are directly tied to your project/brand/corporate teammates. Knowing and supporting this concept of team interdependence will increase your success—and that of your agency, too.
A good team leader needs to know him/herself and how to be part of—but also independent from—the working team. I’m sure you have all taken one of those personality tests once or twice. You know, where a color summarizes your personality traits and drops you into a personality color bucket. While these self-identifying tools are useful, to build a successful team, you need to understand yourself and how your own personality could help or hinder the team dynamic.
What are the connectors and commonalities? Consider the specific traits of your team members. We all get type-casted by our team role (copy, art, account, etc.) to some extent, but take a deeper look. Who has more of an analytical approach to problem solving? Who can pull out client insights from a teleconference? Play to your team strengths and group like-minded skill sets together. Work to separate clashing personalities by giving specific swim lanes to those team members. Developing a clear understanding of each of your team members’ strengths is critical in the early stages of working together. By recognizing, celebrating, and leveraging these individual strengths, you will build trust and comradery among the team as a whole.
I + You = We
Creating a safe space for idea and team growth. Making sure your team feels free to contribute new, innovative ideas without judgment will ultimately promote a more collaborative environment. Hold weekly or monthly team innovation meetings or host an office collaboration session to share fresh thinking and team ideas. Empower each team member to think outside their departmental swim lane and help empower change from within. Ensure that all team members, regardless of their title or department, have the opportunity to contribute to the growth of the account. You never know where the next big idea will come from.
Listen to the “surround sound” of your team. These are team characteristics that don’t show up on paper or will not be included in the next draft of the manuscript. How do people communicate? Does your team value face-to-face time? Are they visual learners? Does your team focus and work better later in the afternoon/morning/after hours? Structure your team’s day to maximize their time of highest concentration. Noticing that team members like to be heads down in the morning? Schedule all internal meetings and reviews in the afternoon. Push to structure your working environment as soon as possible to create comfort and stability.
Ownership of work. Personally, this is where I’ve seen even the most talented teams fall apart. Regardless of the role each member on your team played, make sure the entire team shares in the successes and failures of the work. Good leaders communicate to their clients, and the agency, the team who made the project successful. All team members deserve a seat at the table and time to shine. Remember that your growth is tied to your team’s growth.
Explaining the “why.” Direction and to-do’s fly in from all directions, especially on new assignments. It can sometimes be overwhelming for our day-to-day staff to prioritize and handle direction changes. Try to provide the meaning behind the ask. How does the change in direction enhance the end product? Perhaps it’s based on recent market research insights that make the brand more believable or new clinical findings that necessitate a change in market positioning. Giving your team the full picture makes them feel connected to their accounts and the work.
After all, we are here to help employees and brands grow. Taking proactive measures to nourish your team will result in the best possible work for your client. And there’s nothing more important than that.