In this new space, we’ve been pushed into in business, amidst the challenges, we are seeing an opportunity to do things differently. A place where we can dare to lead differently and dare our teams to try new things, step forward, and scale new challenges. If you read my last post you’ll know that for me this is encompassed by the idea of Courageous Leadership (catch-up on why I think courage in leadership is more important now than ever before https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/why-its-important-become-courageous-leader-todays-world-joanna-howes/)
I truly believe the creative industry can lead the way on this. Here, I’ll be diving into why you need to empower yourself and your team to find an honest, compassionate, and courageous voice, and most importantly, how you can start doing it even when working virtually.
Courageous leaders have a voice that’s heard - whatever the volume.
Over the last few weeks, a big pain point I have been hearing from creative leaders is how to harness the opportunity for change and move their teams into a space of personal and professional growth. A space that is currently out of their comfort zone, where their teams can find their voice in virtual environments and innovate boldly. Speaking up is one thing, but being able to give a point of view and not just be an echo chamber for the loudest voice in the team, all whilst over Zoom - is tricky to say the least. Tricky, but vital for business success.
Empowered teams with the confidence to speak up will continue to innovate and adapt, no matter what the environment.
Creative companies have legacy behaviours that could make the much-needed change difficult.
There are still many creative agencies with a layered hierarchical team approach. I have consulted for some with 7 layers in one department from junior to senior. Yet, even with all these people, the trust is very low. The senior leaders are still insisting on seeing and signing off all the work before it can leave the agency. This approach has created teams of ‘doers’ and not teams of ‘thinkers’. Resulting in a slow, inefficient culture, which clients are tired of, but that is for another article.
Many agencies have tried a core team approach to empower cross-functional teams, and yet time and time again it falls down. The core teams are told they are now responsible and leading their account. Yet as soon as one core team member feels they are not being heard they jump ship and go straight to their line manager for solutions. Undermining the whole set-up!
This is not empowerment, this is control.
The result of this is each level of leader is learning to ‘tell’ vs ‘empower’. So throughout the organisation trust is low and low trust = high cost and low speed - as Stephen Covey said in the Speed of Trust.
The first step to an empowered team
The first step to empowering your team is to encourage decision making. Allow your teams to follow through on their decisions, to be able to learn from the good ones and grow expeditiously from the bad ones. Setbacks are the golden keys to growth.
You need to be a courageous leader who allows people to make a mistake. Yes, fair judgment needs to be made from you as a leader, but it’s also important to be okay that you may not always be right and a new perspective could be a new opportunity.
What your team need from you to feel empowered
Here are the key skills I have been imparting to leadership teams navigating this time. This is relevant whether it’s for you or for your team.
The exercise you need to do.
This week, check-in with yourself, review the list above and measure the level of empowerment you believe your team currently has today. And then ask them. Encourage feedback on your leadership. Ask them what they would like to be empowered to decide and think about (using my framework above to get the conversation going).
I recognise that it could feel like putting yourself in a vulnerable position, especially if you discover the level you believe your team is at is way off what they actually think - but also what a golden discovery to make. Vulnerability with yourself and your team immediately moves you into a place of growth as well as them. This is the path creative leaders need to be on right now to pave the way for success, not only amidst the chaos of now but to lead through the next 10 years. The question is, do you have the courage to start the journey?