Creative Differences or Different Creatives? Knowing Your Team's Working Styles.

Ever wonder how your creative team can produce great work, while simultaneously generating intense emotional thunderstorms? Creatives can be very passionate and sometimes that work comes from a creative vision forged out of the heat of conflict. But an enhanced understanding about how individuals learn, think, and engage with their worlds differently can help inspire greater cooperation, easier work, and enhanced collaboration on creative output. Translation: Less thunderstorms. More calm, sunny skies.

Regardless of which personality or behavior assessment you favor (and there is certainly an abundance of them), most assume that people have a default setting with which they approach the world. That setting might be based on genetics, it might be learned, or it might be a combination of both. It can be a big blind spot if individuals are unaware that how they interpret and deal with the world is their own, and not always shared with other members of their team.

Consider the well-worn image of a room filled by a giant beach ball, painted one half white and one half black. If you are on the black side of the beach ball you can't imagine how anyone could see the beach ball as white and vice versa. It requires a 360-degree view to see the situation as it is reflected through the eyes of all involved. Similarly, if we can't acknowledge that our view isn't the only view--we'll have trouble collaborating creatively.

So how to begin? A simple web search of "working styles assessments" will give you plenty to choose from, but regardless of which you choose, starting with a heightened perspective will breathe fresh air into your organization. The benefits will extend beyond staff working better together. When people know themselves better, they can produce more effectively and also interact with greater grace and ease.

After you run an assessment for your group, one caution: Avoid the pitfall of pigeonholing. Once I discover that "I'm a _______ and you're a ________" it's easy to imagine some sort of reality where I only do work that suits my style and I only interact with others who think like I do. Ah, but in the real world, we are asked to take on tasks that may be challenging and interact with others who are even more challenging. It can be tempting to use any of these assessments to judge and categorize others.

For example: "We have a big presentation coming up, let's us have Michelle do it, she's an extroverted high-talker." The trap here is that Michelle might be really comfortable talking in internal meetings, but perhaps you have a quieter member on staff who, given a smaller venue to shine, might actually have better insights or a great ability to connect and establish rapport with a key stakeholder.

Further, just because someone is comfortable talking in internal meetings, doesn't mean you should let them dominate those meetings. "I'm eager to hear the thoughts of folks we haven't heard from yet, Morgan, what's your take?" Often more introverted soft-spoken types may need gentle encouragement to speak (at the same time gently reining in those who love to hear the sound of their own voice).

As a leader you may also have to take the role to neutralize any judgements or value assessments that your staff may make on themselves or others. Any worthwhile assessment will highlight strengths and challenges as opposed to judging aptitude, so you'll want to make sure your team doesn't use the data against anyone else.

Another advantage to doing this work will be that your staff will start to be more aware of the different working styles of external partners and clients, facilitating increased ability to connect with those individuals.

Overall, the best approach is to use this information gleaned about personality as a way to acknowledge that differences exist, and to develop personal and interactive strategies to help creatives function at their most effective and productive.

Would love to hear your thoughts and experiences on the above, and as usual, more to come...