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Don’t curb their enthusiasm: a prett-ay good guide to encouraging creativity

Deborah Holstein

March 29, 2017

A recent IBM survey found that creativity is the number-one attribute CEOs look for in new hires, beating out discipline, integrity, intelligence and emotional intelligence.

Like their bosses, the best marketing leaders know the creativity of their extended team of in-house employees, agencies, vendors and freelancers is critical to business success. Nor does this just apply to the people behind the social content, multi-channel campaigns, white papers and email newsletters that drive a company’s revenues.

The ability to be creative at work has a very real impact and is necessary for anyone’s fulfillment at work. So it applies to your channel managers and engagement analysts as much as your designers and video producers.

Are you smothering their creativity?

Campaign’s 2016 Industry Morale Survey showed that 47% of agency employee morale is “low” or “dangerously low”, with the top reasons including leadership (73%) and dissatisfaction with the work (38%).

To find out if you’re allowing your team’s creativity to flow freely, ask yourself these four questions.

1. Am I focused on busyness over creativity?

73% of workers today feel there is increasing pressure on them to be productive versus creative at work. Creativity needs space to think, diversity of thought and the ability to engage in new experiences but your team might be focused and rewarded for reactivity and putting out fires.

While there will always be deadlines to meet, are you open to the less linear aspects of the creative process and supporting your creative team with the time and diversity of input needed to develop new ideas?

2. Am I modeling the wrong behavior?

Are you that leader who emails your team late at night and on weekends? Is your focus driven by what arrives in your inbox instead of carving out the time for creative, strategic thought? Is walking around bleary-eyed, humble bragging about your all-nighter at work, a good thing?

Teams take their cues from the top and how you act is a sign of where your real priorities lie. Make sure you’re modeling behaviors that promotes creativity, so your team understands that you value it for them too.

3. Does my team feel safe?

Google’s Project Aristotle found their most innovative and creative teams had one clear thing in common – psychological safety. Trust is especially important for agile, fast moving teams who thrive on mutual respect and knowing that their boss has their back.

Do you promote a culture where if someone takes a chance and fails, your organization will celebrate the lessons learned instead of handing out recriminations?

4. Am I addressing their persistent stress?

Stress is contagious and especially in today’s open floor plan work environments, just seeing someone in a bad mood will bring the rest of the team down too. Have you been tacitly ignoring a persistent pain or problem your team faces?

Whether it’s the creative review and approval process with your external agencies or issues accessing useful assets, taking the time to recognize and address persistent sources of stress will help free your team’s creativity.

Creative leaders act

If you answered yes for one or more of the questions, you’re not alone. Recognizing how your behavior may be smothering your team’s creativity and making changes for the better is the next step. Free your own creativity and help your team with theirs as well.

An amended version of this article originally appeared on HOW Design.

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