4 Non-Negotiables In Leading A Creative Team
As some of you know, I lead a team of creatives at the church that I’m on staff for, Calvary Omaha. Our creative team has about 20 people that are all volunteers in our organization. I’m learning a lot about how to lead this team effectively in order to see them grow personally as well as deliver an excellent product that benefits our audience that consumes it.
Here are four things I’ve learned about leadership through this team:
1) Pray for your team.
I’m not just leading a group of warm bodies that can make graphics and manage an Instagram account. I’m working with a group of volunteers that sacrifice time out of their lives to serve at our church. They are souls that I am accountable to God for caring for well. Praying for them by name is a crucial application of that care because it requires me to sacrifice my own time, too, particularly when nobody’s looking but the Lord.
Obviously, with a team of about 20 people, praying for people by name is manageable, and as the team grows I’m not sure how realistic it will be to pray for each person individually, but for the time being, I can, and I must. God can lead them, grow them, shape them, mold them, care for them, and provide for them better than I ever could, so it’s my responsibility to seek Him on their behalf behind a closed prayer-closet door.
Without vision, people perish. It’s my job to communicate the vision of what we’re trying to accomplish so that the team knows where we’re going, how we’re getting there, and (often times most importantly), why we’re doing it the way we’re doing it. I need to take initiative in communicating these things and never assume that they already know it all, and just to make sure I was understood, I need to communicate again. I can’t be afraid of having my team annoyed with me because I’m consistent in my communication and re-communication to the point where it’s perceived as over-communication. As Dave Ramsey says, “Its unkind to be unclear,” and it’s much better to be annoying than to be unkind.
Part of that communication that’s necessary is feedback, as hard as it is to give constructive criticism. As the leader it’s YOUR JOB to make sure that your team knows whether or not they are hitting the vision. If you don’t do it, you’re not only doing them a disservice, by you’re doing the rest of your team a disservice. You’re insulting the rest of your team’s efforts by not lovingly bringing correction where correction is due. You gotta put on your pants and have the hard conversations.
Under that same banner, it’s also important to consistently communicate encouragement to your team members. Again, they’re making a sacrifice to bring your vision to life. Bless them with your words, especially when you can see they’re doing an amazing job. As Pastor Craig Groeschel says, “If you think it, say it.”
On top of that…
3) Err on grace.
Again (see “over-communication”), these people are volunteering to serve under your leadership. You can’t treat them like somebody you’re paying. If they drop the ball on a deadline or don’t create a product that meets your standard of excellence, don’t chew them out, and don’t throw them away. Meet them where they’re at, encourage them, and coach them to the place where you see them heading. It’s your job as the leader not to command them there, but to carry them there. Also, you’re going to make mistakes as the leader, too. Humble yourself when you do, and you will create a culture on your team of fearlessness to try something new, even if they fail in the process.
However, grace shouldn’t be sloppy. As the leader you must also…
4) Set a standard of excellence.
Take what God has given you to steward seriously. When you’re a creative director, you have the unique privilege of using artistic expression to build people up and to inspire those who are hopeless with the content youre producing. Unfortunately, there’s plenty of people in the world who are using their creative gifts for all the wrong reasons, and they’re causing more harm than good in the culture. Don’t just let evil and negativity win in the creative field. Get competitive. Take your work seriously, and share the heartbeat with your team about why killing complacency and giving the best that you got matters. Celebrate the small victories, absolutely, but don’t get comfortable in the ground that you’ve taken. Pray for more vision, cast it to your team, model what it looks like to fight for that standard of excellence, and then coach your team to dig deep themselves.