How to build a great creative team

Building a great team means more than just matching requisite skill sets to the job at hand. It takes vision and a broad life experience to enable any team to fully realize a creative vision.

Part of the Influential team filming a commercial. (Image Copyright 2011 Justin Schuck. All rights reserved.)

I started my first creative agency at age 19. When I was hiring designers and art directors at the time, I was relying mostly on narrow skill set matches. I focused less on life experiences and more on whether the prospective employee could manage the task at hand. Ten years later when I was launching Influential, I was moved less by the portfolio, and more by the diversity of a candidate’s background, their personality, and their other talents.

As an employer/team-builder, it’s important to ensure that every candidate meets the basic needs of the job. But, after a more than a decade of traveling the globe myself, and meeting real people from all backgrounds, seeing new things, I realized how important it is to have people on your team who have lived a life different from everyone else. Diversity not in the typical racial/gender roles, but in life.

Some questions I like to ask in interviews:

  • What is the most beautiful thing you’ve ever seen?
  • Where have you traveled, and how have those travels changed your perspective on life?
  • What are your two biggest passions that have nothing to do with your work?
  • If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go?
  • What’s the weirdest job or side-hustle you’ve ever had, and what did that teach you?
  • What is the most difficult or most wrenching emotional experience you’ve had in your life that helped shape who you are and where you want to go in your life?
  • Is there a cause that really motivates you? What’s your volunteer experience?
  • If you could invent something that would change the world or make your life easier—regardless of whether or not a business case can be made for such a product—what would you create?
  • If you could have any job for the rest of your life, independent of its perceived earning potential, what would it be? Assume all your basic needs are cared for, and you’re living comfortably.

That last question I think is the most important. Great employers and great managers should take note of what the employee really wants in life so that she can create a space to better align work life with life dreams. And, even if it’s something like “I want to be a professional volleyball player,” the manager could create an Agency vs. Clients volleyball social. What fun that would be, no? I’ve done just that, and the rewards were immeasurable.

I want to work with people who have a completely different perspective on life. I enjoy having my beliefs and ideas challenged. How else can we as humans actually grow and progress? How else can my work improve? [Just bring your A-game folks!]

Great employers and great managers should take note of what the employee really wants in life so that she can create a space to better align work life with life dreams.

I’ve experienced some amazing ups and downs in life—both personal and professional—but these life experiences have shaped how I view the world, and they inform my sense of social justice. That in turn informs my work. Traveling the world seeing unique architecture, art, and meeting amazing people has helped me grow creatively and spiritually.

Asking the right questions is important when interviewing a candidate for any position. Taking into account a diverse life and employment background is just as important as relevant skills. This is how great teams and great organizations are built.

What do you think makes for the best employee?