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The problem with problem solvers is that if they don’t have a good enough problem to solve, they’ll invent one.
If you’re a problem-solver, have you ever been proud of any solutions you created even though they didn’t get you closer to your real goal at the time?
If you manage problem-solvers, do you always structure tasks in a way that allows opportunity for the regular small wins that they crave, while keeping them on the path to the result you really want from them?
When the shit hits the fan and everyone panics about completing a particular task before the deadline, I’ve observed that assumptions tend to be made. Progress is deemed more important than certainty. It’s possible that these assumptions may be correct, but very often they turn out not to be and they lead people in the wrong direction, costing even more time and creating even more panic.
Think of it this way. If you’re lost in a forest, you don’t know exactly where you are or where you need to go, running may feel good because at least you’re doing something, but you’re probably running the wrong way. It’s better to stop and figure out the right direction first.
Always have a plan. The first part of coming up with a plan is to know exactly where you are and exactly where you need to get to. Without it you’ll probably end up getting even more lost.
Patience is a virtue, but so is getting shit done!
The more I learn, the more aware I become of how little I know.
I think that means I’m getting smarter, even though it often feels like the opposite.
A supervisor once told me that work is 80% cabbage and 20% custard. Everybody hates eating cabbage, but everybody loves custard. It was part of his job to make sure every one on the team ate their fair share of the cabbage and was rewarded with their share of the custard.
If you’re a supervisor, do you share out the grunt work and the really rewarding tasks fairly amongst your team?
“Managers tell you where you are, leaders tell you where you’re going.” Michael Lopp
When I was first in a position to make hiring decisions I chose people who thought and worked similar to how I did. It’s validating to be surrounded by like-minded folks and there’s less confrontation when everyone is on the same page.
I knew I had matured as a team leader when I started making hiring decisions based on skills or attributes that differed from the existing strengths in the team. Diversity was far more beneficial than uniformity had been, though at first it was tough to let go of the notion that my way of doing things is the best and learn to be open to other possibilities.
There was a time that I wore the number of hours I worked as a badge of honour. I was especially proud of the time on one of the Harry Potter movies when I worked 36 hours straight, only leaving my desk for dailies and pee-breaks, just to meet an internal deadline. Stoopid. Working that way seriously impacted my health and happiness.
Please learn from my mistakes. Go home. Get some exercise. Get some sleep. However much you work, there will still be more deadlines next week.
… and if you’re in a lead, supervisor, or management position and have any respect for your team, it’s your responsibility to set the sustainable working conditions.
What kind of a leader are you?
Are you a crap funnel, who redirects and focuses all the crap that rains down from above to make sure it hits the most deserving individual below you?
Or are you a crap umbrella, positioning yourself to take all the crap from above. Creating a safe, sheltered space underneath you in which your team can do their best work?
WTF!!! Effective carrots??? Fred’s really lost it this time!
True, but there is method to my madness. I’m thinking of the carrot and stick analogy for motivating creative employees and from everything I’ve thought about this subject I can boil it down to 3 key motivators.
Money works of course, but only for a short time. A pay rise is appreciated at first, but soon becomes the new norm and can even be resented if too much time passes before another one is given. If there’s any hint that someone else is earning more then money as a primary motivator can actually have the opposite effect.
I’m not suggesting for a second that employers shouldn’t pay their employees a very competitive wage, they absolutely should if they respect their employees. Salary on its own though is an ineffective motivator for loyalty and effective working practices.
Validation can be so much more effective, and is a renewable resource. For artists, feeling like our work is seen and appreciated is priceless, and costs a company or supervisor nothing except a little humility. A cost that is sadly too great for many to bear.
If a creative employee goes home each night with a feeling that their contribution to the team and the project was of value, and was valued by their superiors, then it is so much easier for them to keep putting in more and more effort.
Growth is another human need that has a double benefit. To be supported in progressing towards our career aspirations not only benefits the employee but also the employer who gains a more skilled and appreciative worker. If we work in roles that have no progression, where we know we’ll be fighting the same battles over and over for years to come, passion for the work can quickly fade. Some people like the stability of this, but often they’re not the passionate ones who want to work their butts off and make a difference. To really inspire continuous energy, most people need a sense of growth and accomplishment.
This can be very challenging for leaders and employers, as it can mean taking risks in moving people out of roles in which they are proven and trusted and into roles where they don’t yet have a track record. I would argue that it’s a bigger risk to keep them in the same role, as you risk either losing their drive or losing them altogether.
To be fully content and work with sustained passion and productivity in our creative jobs, the right combination of all three of these is essential.
I’ve heard several managers over the years say that they have an open door policy. It’s become one of those cliches that managers feel they need to say to make their minions feel like their input is valued. In a few cases they are genuinely interested in hearing from their teams, but in most cases I’ve experienced it’s just a platitude. In the worst cases it’s actually the last thing they really want.
If you are not genuinely enthusiastic to talk to your people and absorb the inputs they have to share, don’t claim to have an open door policy. In fact, just don’t use that expression. Period. You shouldn’t need to tell your team that you’re approachable. Just be approachable! Even better, make the first move and approach them, individually, human-to-human. If you’re not comfortable enough to just grab a seat next to any one of your team and say hi, then how can you ever expect them to be comfortable coming to you?