Leading A Creative Team Is Not Easy!


I love the team I get to serve with at Cross Point! Seriously, they are family and they mean the world to Jackie and I. However, I heard a quote the other day that was amazing: “Everyone loves you until you lead.” Even in the most family, relational, caring teams there are times that things are not trending in the right direction. None of us are perfect and all the time we should be tinkering to make our teams better.

Maybe this is a new team for you or maybe you have done this job “forever”, either way there are things that if we don’t tinker with we don’t do our best job as leaders leading our teams. Also, your team might be all staff or all volunteer…it doesn’t matter; if you have been given the honor of leading there is a responsibility that comes with it.

Set the expectation – You have a responsibility to set the expectation. From art direction, to feel, to deadline, to sound…whatever your discipline you are responsible to set the expectation and then keep moving that expectation forward and higher. Often this can be done via questions: “What are we trying to create?” “What do we want this to feel like?”, “Who is going to use this?”, “What kind of team do we want?”, “How will our volunteers feel about this?”, “Is this helpful?”, “What will this cost?” (Equity, resource, etc.) “When this is over what do we expect the outcome to be?” “What’s the why?”, “What’s the win?”

Leverage the person – Learn what the skills are from each of member of your team. Leverage those skills based on the person not the job. Put people into opportunities to use or develop the things that are great at and excited about doing!

Know there is No right way – Let people work the way they best work to achieve the end goal. If you have set the expectation well you shouldn’t worry as much about how you get to where you are going, just that you get there. Let creative people be creative. You will love the end result most of the time. When you don’t lean in and coach.

Be a team member not just a boss – Be willing to do whatever you ask your team to do. Get dirty sometimes. Don’t live on the wrong side of the line but coaching and mentorship happens best when people know you understand what they do, why, how, and the challenges they have.

Offer suggestions not mandates – Others opinions bring value to creativity. Of course there are times when you are going to have to make the decision, you are the leaders, but as much as possible allow teammates to have buy-in to the process. Use your experience to provide suggestions and then watch what happens.

Create some chaos – Sometimes the best stuff comes out of the discomfort of crazy. Play with chemistry on the team by adding other voices from the outside from time to time. Drop a couple projects into the workflow at the same time. Find ways to create healthy chaos that will challenge the team. Chaos often allows us to work on multiple projects at the same time, which is healthy for creative people. Our brains work in sprints and the switching of focus helps create new ideas. The key is being in healthy crazy spaces. We can’t put our teams into areas that are not healthy.

Force them to be On & Off – On is easy. Show up for work and do your work. As a leader force your team to take time off. Time off allows them to be ON when it is time to be on!

Don’t stop “Making Stuff” – When creative teams are not making NEW stuff they get bored. There is always innovation to be made, upgrades, new, something! Find ways to put new stuff into our churches and spaces. Remember why your team joined up, to create amazing stuff that shares hope, grace, & Jesus. Keep them doing that.

Watch their tanks – Manage energy, passion, burnout, and desire. Watch each person’s tank and know that each of the members of your team, staff or volunteer, require different types of fuel. Fill them up but fill them with the stuff that gives them energy.

Know when, where, and how to lean in to the first 90 & the last 10%. – Coaching is vital to a strong and healthy creative time. Art is subjective so “right and wrong’ are not always black and white. Know when to have the hard conversations. They are important but even more important are what we call at Cross Point the last 10% conversations. Leaning into the real truth that lives in the last 10% of a conversation, the stuff that hurts but the stuff that really works.

Manage the equity. – Equity is like a savings account. You either are depositing or withdrawing. Creative people have a tendency to overvalue the deposits and undervalue the cost of the withdraws. Really self aware people, and probably your most humble teammates flip that equation. They take the cost of a withdraw much much harder than the value of a deposit. Staying in the positive on the equity balance sheet creates margin for our teams to dream!

Bonus – Promote a safe place for honesty. It matters.

You have a gift in getting to lead a team. Lead it well.

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