Producing Results Blog

The What and How of Leading an Innovative Team

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If you've ever led a creative, innovative team, you know it can be challenging! Here's a tip that I learned when leading MY highly innovative team.

If you're a video person, I lay it all out in the video below. If reading is more your thing, skip the video and hop straight to the transcript below!

Hey there, Bill Stainton here with Turning Creativity into Money™, and today I want to share with you something I learned quite a while ago about effectively and successfully leading a creative team, an innovative team.

And if, if you've ever tried to lead a creative team, you know that it can be a challenge. Leading creative people can be really difficult at times.

Here's something I found that I think is going to help you out a little bit. It's...just remember this simple phrase, and i'll explain it a little more later on, but here's the phrase: Give them the "what;" let them surprise you with the "how."

Give them the "what;" let them surprise you with the "how."

I'll tell what i'm talking about, I'll give you an example.

So, years ago, I led an incredibly creative team of comedy writers—I produced a comedy TV show. And I had some phenomenal writers. And, one day, we were given the opportunity to do some taping with Michael Jordan. This was when he was at the top of his game, playing with the Bulls and everything, and he happened to be here in Seattle, where we produced our show. And, but here's the stipulation.

We only had five minutes with him, and it had to be done in his hotel room.

So what did I tell my writers? Just that, the "what." And what was the "what"?

Comedy sketch, Michael Jordan, five minutes, that can be shot in his hotel room.

That's all. And then I let them go to work, I let them roll up their sleeves and get their creative juices going so they can figure out the "how."

How we're going to accomplish this? These, this is a stipulation—how are we going to do this?

And they came up with great ideas.

We picked one, it was, it was a fake promo, TV promo. And it was, it was really cool, it was really good, and he was a really nice guy, was great doing that.

But imagine if I, if I tried to give them the "how" also: "And here's what it should look like, and here's exactly what shots you should use, and here's the script, and...." Well, that takes all the fun out of it for them.

See creative people, innovative people love to roll up their sleeves and get to work on the "how."

Here's, here's something that leaders tend to forget. As leaders, we're really concerned with the destination. Because that's what we're accountable for: the destination, the results. So that's what we're interested in. The creative team, the innovators, they're interested in the journey. They don't care so much about the destination, they're interested in the journey.

So if you give them the destination, which is the "what," here's where we're going—but then also provide them with the map, "And we're going to take route 73, and then we're going to turn left, and then we're gonna do that," well that's, that's their part, that's that's their fun. There's, there's nothing left for them to do, and so they're just gonna be half-hearted about it.

But you say, "Hey, here's the destination. Tell me how you think we should get there?" Wow—now they can get to work. Now they get excited.

And they will surprise you.

I said give them the "what;" let them surprise you with the "how"—they will surprise you, because they'll come up with things that you never would have thought about. And many times, those things will be better than what you might have thought about.

So, the next time you're in a situation where you're leading a creative, innovative team, and you wonder how to get the best results, just remember that one phrase: give them the "what;" let them surprise you with the "how."

I'm Bill Stainton, I'll see you next time when I help you Turn Your Creativity into Money™.
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About the Author:

29-time Emmy Award winner and Hall of Fame keynote speaker Bill Stainton, CSP is an expert on Innovation, Creativity, and Breakthrough Thinking. He helps leaders and their teams come up with innovative solutions — on demand — to their most challenging problems.
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