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The 5 Hidden Superpowers of Balanced Creative Teams

The 5 Hidden Superpowers of Balanced Creative Teams
Published November 20, 2013 by Emily Cohen
Did a valuable employee just leave and you need to replace them quickly? Or perhaps you just signed a large client and need to increase resources or add a new skill set quickly? Most hiring decisions aren’t part of a master plan, they are often immediate, unplanned hiring scenarios where new employees are added because of short term pains rather than long-term stability.

Yet, the catch is that, when growing a creative team, a long-term vision to staffing is paramount. Through evaluating different successful creative cultures, as well as the not-so-successful ones, there are several important attributes (or superpowers) that seem to make a great team even greater. These attributes can exist regardless of role or seniority. Combined together, they make for a powerful, well-balanced, and effective culture that is:

  • drama free and enjoyable
  • easily able to avoid or mitigate speed bumps
  • free of unhealthy attitudes that often position the client and other departments as the enemy rather than partner and advocate

Miss any one of the following attributes and you’ll see the difference between a team that simply does their job and one that is passionate about their job:

1. The Cheerleader

Is your team a cohesive unit, one that is energetic and an enjoyable place to work? If not, then you need the cheerleader.

The cheerleader is the driving energy in the room, engaging the team, keeping everyone creative and excited about their jobs while simultaneously increasing morale. As a social butterfly, the cheerleader has the innate ability to bring a team together in conversation and collaboration. They provoke a level of interaction that other personality types might feel awkward or uncomfortable initiating.

The challenge, however, is in hiring the right cheerleader, as many can be too perky or too much of a “class clown” type. The ideal cheerleader is someone with an authentic passion and love for both life and their work; they are also often the extroverted talker within your team.

2. The Industry Activist

Does your team work in isolation with little knowledge of what is going on culturally and in the creative industry overall? If so, then you need the industry activist.

The industry activist enjoys staying up-to-date with all the latest industry news through social media and subscriptions to industry publications. It is their priority to keep track and inform their team of industry events, popular creative trends, and up-and-coming creatives and creative firms. The industry activist understands the importance of ensuring that their team’s work is relevant in the ever-changing environment of the industry.

Without the industry activist, a team sacrifices a significant source of inspiration and their work can appear dated. The ideal industry activist is someone that is well-read, and curious. 

3. The Emotional Quarterback

Do the personalities of specific individuals on your team or the latest internal drama easily influence your team’s culture? If so, then you need an emotional quarterback.

The emotional quarterback diffuses and manages the drama often associated with managing creative personalities. They help to minimize internal politics and conflicts within a team by serving as mediators and therapists for right-brained creatives whose actions are sometimes driven heavily by passion for their vision.

Without the emotional quarterback, internal dramas can overwhelm and deeply hurt a team's overall ability to function cohesively. Often, diffusing this drama is the responsibility of the team leader who may be without the necessary patience and skill set to manage the drama appropriately. The emotional quarterback is the staff member that is truly genuine, patient, approachable, rational, and empathetic and is comfortable with providing emotional support and feedback.

4. The Enforcer

Is your team full of people-pleasers who often take on more than they can chew or allow clients to take advantage of them? Then you need an enforcer.

The enforcer serves as the backbone of a team and keeps everyone in check. They are comfortable making tough decisions and enforcing policies and processes to the benefit of the entire team, even if it's a challenging conversation, the end result is more painless and honest relationships. They play the role of the “bad guy” without being divisive or abrasive. The enforcer is critical to both upholding standard operating procedures and maintaining successful employee and client relationships.

Without someone that is comfortable being an enforcer, clients and other departments or staff may take advantage of others on the team. Depending on the size of a creative team, the enforcer may be a dedicated role (typically in the producer, studio, or project management role) or simply a superpower that is required of those that interface with clients or manage staff members.

5. The Political Navigator

Do you work within a highly political, hierarchical, or siloed environment?  Do you have trouble avoiding decisions by committee? If so, then you need a political navigator.

The political navigator bridges the gap between corporate or clients and creative. The political navigator understands, is accepting of, and can handle company or client politics and hierarchy. They possess the unique ability to balance the goals of the team with those of the client. They build strong internal advocacy for their team at the highest level because they are not intimidated by interacting with more complex organizational structures and love the challenge it poses. 

Teams without a political navigator often blame the client for all their challenges. But, adding someone onto your team that has a political navigator superpower will enable your team to better manage and mitigate corporate/client politics in a way that is much healthier and far less adversarial.

How about you?

What "superpowers" make for the best colleagues? 

More about Emily Cohen

brutally honest consultant, Emily has worked with leading design firms to improve operational effectiveness and build efficient teams and processes. She is a frequently-requested speaker on business-related issues for the creative industry. She also runs Evolve Symposium an expert-led, peer-driven event focused on business practices for principals of creative firms.


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