How To Lead a Creative Team

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I’ve never run a pre-school daycare, but for fifteen years I was the boss of ten multi-Emmy Award winning comedy writers, which amounts to pretty much the same thing. As the Executive Producer of Seattle’s sketch comedy TV show, Almost Live!, it was my job to keep a highly creative team motivated and productive. I learned a lot of things along the way, but primarily I learned that a creative team needs two seemingly incompatible things in order to thrive: ...

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Stop Waiting for First Class

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Everything is better in first class. Right? I mean, that’s why they call it first class. It puts you ahead of the rest. How many times have you been sitting back in steerage (the airlines call it “economy”), seen the people in the front of the aircraft being served foie gras and vintage champagne and thought to yourself, “Everything will be great once I get into first class”? For that matter, how many times have you thought:

  • “Everything will be great ...
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Why Most People Miss the Brilliant Idea

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I’m tired of hearing people talk about “quantity vs. quality,” as if the two were mutually exclusive. [You: “Really? You’re tired of that? You’re hearing this conversation so much that you’re actually tired of it? What kind of lame parties are you going to, man? I never hear people talking about ‘quantity vs. quality!'”] Well, perhaps I hang out with a more erudite crowd than you. But the point is this: quantity and quality are not mutually exclusive.

In fact, when ...

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Are You a Real Leader? Here’s One Test

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For fifteen years, I produced a sketch comedy TV show in Seattle, Washington. And for fifteen years, I was routinely asked the question, “What, exactly, does the producer actually do?” Many times, this question was asked by my mother. My stock answer was this:

“The producer is the person who apologizes the following day.”

As hilarious as this answer might be [How hilarious? On a scale from 1 to 10…about a 4], it’s only partially in jest. The producer is the person ...

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Can You Answer This Basic Question?

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“What do you do for a living?”

That’s a question that far too many people dread, because they don’t have a good, compelling answer. They say something like, “I’m a lawyer,” or, “I’m a financial planner,” or, “I’m the drummer for the Beatles,” and then wonder why everybody quickly walks away. (Okay, they’re probably not going to walk away from that last one, but you get my point. And by the way—Ringo, if you’re reading this, give me a call. I ...

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Do You Know What Your “Real” Business Is?

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A couple of nights ago I made sauteed chicken breasts for dinner, with a white wine pan sauce to make it a little more interesting. Briefly, here’s how you make a pan sauce (and yes, I promise this is going somewhere): you add a quarter cup of wine and a quarter cup of chicken broth to the pan, perhaps with a bit of mustard, and then boil it until the half-cup of liquid is reduced down to a total of ...

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The #1 Skill Warren Buffett Says You Need

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I just finished watching a town meeting with Bill Gates and Warren Buffett that was taped at Columbia Business School last month. The entire meeting was immensely illuminating, but I was fascinated by one thing Warren Buffett said. Before I get to that, let me say that both Mr. Buffett and Mr. Gates were exceedingly optimistic about the future of our country and our economy. [You, at your cynical best: “Yeah, I’d be optimistic too if I were worth $50 ...

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Are You a Leader or a Coward?

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I hate to be the one to point this out, but most of the corporate businesses in America are run by cowards. [You: “Wait a minute, Stainton. I run a corporate business and I’m not a coward!”] Really? You think not? Then answer this question—honestly: What drives most of your decisions? [You: “Well, let’s see. There are many elements: the profitability of the company, the cost/benefit ratio, consumer expectations….”] Bull. It seems to me that most corporate decisions made in ...

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Are You Passionate About Your Work?

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Let’s see, what’s Paul McCartney been up to lately? Well…

  • He just kicked off a new European tour with an energetic three-hour show in Hamburg.
  • He just spoke to the European Parliament about climate change and healthy eating.
  • He just wrote a new song for the new Robert De Niro film.
  • He just announced that he’s been writing lots of new music, and will have a new CD out in 2010.
  • Oh, and he’s also planning a major U.S. tour for next year.

All of this, ...

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Are You In the “No” Business?

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There’s a little Italian restaurant near my home where I go when—well, when I want to eat Italian food. Duh. So I was there the other evening (because I wanted to eat Italian food), and the hostess was seating an elderly couple. I wasn’t really paying attention, but apparently they asked if they could be seated closer to the window. The hostess very nicely explained that that wasn’t possible, for some reason that I didn’t catch. But the owner, who ...

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