Touching on Teamwork


In season 2 of my Fearless Creative Leadership podcast, we’re highlighting each week one of 13 themes we’ve identified that are crucial for leading and unlocking creativity.

This week’s theme is team-building.

You’ll hear more in my conversation with Lisa Clunie and Jaime Robinson of Joan Creative.

When it comes to team building, fearless leaders solve two organizational problems. 

They attract great talent. And then put them into position to succeed by forming  dynamic, impactful teams.

Solving these problems means overcoming two institutional obstacles. Where talent works. And who they work with.

For most of the last two centuries, companies have relied on four tangible offerings to attract and retain talent. Predictable income. Physical space in which to work. Appropriate tools for the work. And a reliable stream of that work.

If you look at the P&L of too many companies today, the wiring of this increasingly old-fashioned model is still far too evident.

Creative talent, original-thinking talent, want to make one thing more than anything else. A difference. And they will go anywhere they think they can do that. And if they can’t find a company that can give them a life equation that works for them, they’ll pursue their goals alone. 

Add to this the growing number of young professionals whose goal to retire in their forties is built on a strategy of minimizing short-term living expenses, and the issue of attracting and retaining talent becomes even more complex. 

So strip away the century-old employment equation that’s built on paychecks and office space, and look at your company through open eyes. 

How do you solve the physical, technical and emotional problems of virtual workforces? Of flexible schedules? Of people revealing skills you didn’t know they had and that you didn’t hire them for? How do you build a team that can solve problems you’ve never heard of?

That’s the first set of questions. Here’s the second. 

Being a fearless leader not only depends on cultivating the talent you have on your team. It requires clarity about who you choose to have on your team in the first place. 

No one is more valuable than the leader. 

That requires a high-altitude checklist. Are you working at the right company for your kind of leadership? Do you have the right partners working alongside you? The right people working for you?

A lot of attention gets paid to reporting structures and job descriptions and areas of responsibility. But the most successful leaders are more demanding about who they work with than whether the lines between them are straight or dotted. 

Choose the right team members, and you can overcome any kind of org chart design - and most of them do need to be overcome. But choose the wrong people to work with you, and no restructuring is going to unlock your company’s creativity, or your leadership potential.

What kind of people do you want to work with? What are the values and issues that matter to them? How can you unlock their fullest creative potential?

Casting and flexibility. Two of the elements critical to building world-class teams.