Creative Leadership Challenges and Their Possible Solutions in 2022 (Part 3)
2022 has been a transformative year for creative teams and the ones leading them. The recent changes have brought on high rewards, together with a new set of challenges. The motivation to face and overcome this week’s creative leadership challenges comes from Benjamin Franklin. He famously said: “Energy and persistence conquer all things“. In the final part of this series, we will address the last three challenges that we see so many creative leaders grapple with. As usual, we will couple that with potential solutions that will help you succeed.
Recommended reading: Creative Conflicts in Group Projects? 5 Principles to Navigate Them
1. Too Much or Too Little Feedback
The Challenge: Let us face it – providing feedback is a minefield. Hence, the distinction between positive and constructive feedback. This topic can be so loaded that we have scared ourselves away from ever using the work negative in association with it. Lack of feedback is an equally complicated topic that gives rise to uncertainties and confusion. There are plenty of reasons why feedback is such a hotly debated and carefully approached topic:
1.1 Feedback is personal
We can spin this any way we wish and start the conversation with generalizations, claiming this is an organization-wide issue, and insisting that the feedback about to be provided is directed at the individual’s work. We stress how it is meant to contribute to their betterment, and reiterate it is not meant to be taken personally, since we are all fabulous unicorns with no personality flaws. And yet, if all of this were true, then why do we all feel so terribly anxious when receiving or giving it?
1.2 Feedback has a time and a place
A group of scientists conducted a very influential experimental study on providing solicited and unsolicited feedback, where they examined the effects that providing feedback has on both the provider and the receiver. The experiment asked participants to provide feedback in two different manners – a solicited and an unsolicited one.
The results? Participants felt uncomfortable and anxious when giving or receiving feedback in both scenarios. Their heart rates were racing, their palms were sweating, but researchers found a key difference. When a person provided feedback to another in a respectful and expected manner, everyone felt better. Receivers took the feedback better, and providers felt less guilty and could be more assertive in future interactions. In contrast, when participants provided feedback unexpectedly, both them and the targets of the feedback suffered more. And get this – the givers of unsolicited feedback felt so uneasy that they softened their communication in future interactions. This made them come off as less assertive and more agreeable.
1.3 Lack of feedback causes uncertainties
People have a universal affinity for well-defined things. We like to know what we have to do, where we stand with work and the people around us. Ambiguity is not our best friend, to put it mildly. So, it makes sense that too little feedback can have an undesired influence on our work. Are we doing the right thing? Should we be doing something differently? Are we doing enough? This constant questioning can be debilitating.
1.4 Lack of feedback creates wrong assumptions
On the other end of the spectrum, the most confident among us may take a lack of feedback as a sign that we are doing everything right. This can be a double-edged sword since overconfidence can blind us to improvements and may hinder our personal and professional progress and growth.
Use the STAR model to receive and provide specific, fair, actionable, and solicited feedback.
In providing feedback:
2.1 Find out all you can about a situation, like:
- Who was involved?
- What happened?
- And when did it happen?
2.2 Define the task at hand by:
- Looking at the primary objectives.
- Homing in on the (part of) the assignment that went well or awry.
- Contextualizing any setbacks or wins that occurred during execution.
2.3 Next, know what action was taken:
- What actions did your colleague take in response to the task at hand?
- Are the actions they took sufficient or insufficient?
- For constructive feedback: Remember it is crucial that you avoid sounding critical at this stage.
2.4 Discuss the results:
- What was the outcome of their actions or lack thereof?
- Did their actions help complete or hinder the objective?
- For constructive feedback: Suggest what they can do differently in the future.
In receiving feedback:
2.5 Ask for a meeting agenda beforehand:
Knowing what the topic of discussion is going to be will help you prepare for a pleasant or tough discussion ahead. Knowing this will help you stay composed and moderate your emotions better. While challenging discussions are never pleasant, knowing that you will be having one makes all the difference in the world.
2.6 Write down what went well and what you can get better at:
This tip will help remind you of your worth – writing down everything you have contributed to the team and the company can act as a buffer to feelings inferiority and imposterism that may arise in tough discussions. Bring that list with you and go over it if need be before responding to questions. Similarly, take note of what you could have done better so you can ground yourself better – trust us, this will make for a fruitful discussion.
2.7 Take the time to distance yourself from the situation:
Is the upcoming feedback session just good news? Great! Then, feel free to skip this step. If you have any doubts though, take a few minutes to reflect on your behavior and performance in the last few weeks. Be honest with yourself about what you excelled at, and admit your shortcomings. This will reduce conflicts and misunderstandings during your talk.
2.8 Listen first, speak later:
This advice is as old as wisdom itself and it can be really hard to implement. When you interrupt your interlocutor or respond too quickly, you run the risk of upsetting them, misunderstanding their point, and your feelings will most certainly get in the way of progress and growth. Good luck!
2. Keeping Up with Digital Trends
The Challenge: Digital technologies advance at an unprecedented pace, making it next to impossible for creative teams and leaders to keep up with trends. New tools emerge all the time, together with systems, software, and processes. What we regard as innovative, and current is already yesterday’s news when we read about it. And in the middle of it all, creative people are expected to stay informed and complete their work on time. Simply put, most creative professionals must choose between the two. We cannot dedicate enough time to both without severely compromising other areas of our lives.
The Solution: Not all hope is lost – approaching this creative leadership challenge with a plan is key. Try the following sequence:
2.1 Identify pertinent tools and be critical of potential ones
Just because there is a flashy new tool out on the market does not mean you need it to complete your work. As a leader, you need to be able to distinguish between must-haves and nice-to-haves. First, ask yourself if you have all the tools, you and your team need to carry out your tasks. Then, decide whether the new tool you are considering will be impactful enough to warrant the trouble of switching to it.
2.2 Add professional development as an objective
Do you need your team to stay abreast of the competition? Then, the most effective way to achieve that is by making time and room for professional development and training. Allocate budget and time at your preferred cadence (every week, month, or quarter) for your team to hone their skills. You can train people in new tools, the latest trends, and valuable people skills at the same time.
2.3 Reevaluate workloads
If all else fails, you may want to revisit your employees’ workloads. You see, often, both employees and leadership have the best intentions when defining professional development, but often fall short when allocating time for it. Consider the following:
- What work is crucial to core functions in the short term?
- What work is crucial to core functions in the long term?
- How long does each task need to be completed?
- Are said tasks distributed evenly or unevenly among team members?
- Do you have team members who have taken on too much work?
- Do you have team members who have taken on too little work?
- Which non-essential tasks can be performed by specialists only?
- Which non-essential tasks can be performed by everyone in your team?
Once you have answered the above, you should have a clear picture of how work is distributed in your team. From there on, approach your team and explain the benefits of shuffling certain tasks around. You can now move on to the last step.
2.4 Find specific personal development and training materials
Congratulations! You have completed the hardest part of the process. Now, it is time to speak with your team members about what they want their professional development to look like. Offer advice and guidance and remind them that you are more than happy to allocate resources for their development if they can tie it back to pertinent business goals.
3. Having the Right Workflow Tools
The Challenge: Our technologically advanced landscape dictates that most basic task tools are not enough anymore. Creative teams are too often stuck in endless feedback and rework loops that push back deadlines, make creative work more stressful than it should be, and subtract and distract from business goals.
Complicated processes like the ones mentioned above demotivate creative teams and often lead creative professionals down the road to burnout. There is nothing worse than a team of exhausted creatives who cannot perform to the best of their abilities.
The Solution: A creative operations suite, like Lytho’s, is just what you need to break feedback loops, accelerate, and improve project planning, management, and execution, and store all your creative assets in one place, so you know where everything is, always.
Are you faced with creative leadership challenges you would like to see addressed in the future? Let us know!
Creative teams and creative leaders are at the forefront of innovation, digital marketing tool trends, and creativity itself. As such, there will always be new challenges on the horizon, and we will be here to guide you through them. Thank you for joining us in this creative leadership challenges series.
Are you interested in tools that will help you address current creative leadership challenges and provide you with the support needed for future ones? Lytho helps you streamline workflows and harmonize all brand collateral under a single, uniform platform. Feel free to reach out to us by scheduling a demo and learning how our creative solutions can boost the effectiveness of your creative projects. We look forward to speaking with you!