Monkey Puzzle Blog

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Is your innovative team as productive as it could be?

Every leader or business owner wants to see more productivity, but there’s no set formula for achieving it. Productivity comes from a blend of an engaging culture, effective relationships, and being able to manage both time and stress. What’s more, creative people tend to need to be together to collaborate - and that’s something remote working has largely prevented these past few months.

The current reality is that having a team of talented creative people in your organisation doesn’t mean they’ll be as productive as you’d like. There are, however, things you can do to increase the likelihood of getting better results and, in the post COVID world, to reset the dial and re-engage.

Monkey Puzzle works with a number of creative and innovative businesses. We coach their leaders and teams and help them develop as exceptional people. The pandemic has thrown a curveball into many businesses - and yet, with creative leadership, there are plenty of ways to help your teams emerge with greater productivity.

Here are our top tips, with emphasis on coming to terms with a new way of working:


Re-engage with your ‘why’

We hear a lot about finding our ‘why’ as a major contributor to productivity. Identify that and the inspiration to keep doing it will follow. However, the past few months have rather pushed that to one side as we’ve balanced work and home life, worrying about our safety and that of others. There will be few organisations where productivity won’t have taken a hit. So, as businesses re-group and refocus, now is the time to go back to that question.

As a leader, connect your team back to the reason and purpose for what you all do. There will be things that drive us as individuals, there will be a purpose to what the organisation does. It will have been a motivator in attracting your creative people, it can be a reason to remind and re-inspire. What were those goals you shared, those aspirations? The purpose for good? As a leader, what also matters to you, why do you lead? It’s important to identify that for yourself, even if you don’t share it with others.


Review lessons learnt

It’s often the actual ‘getting stuff done’ that shines a light on ways of improving productivity - so don’t lose sight of the learning that’s right in front of you. The past few months may have thrown up challenges you don’t want to see repeated - but much has been learnt as a consequence. It’s always good practice to debrief a project, especially now.

Whether it’s the projects you’ve worked on as a team or, the way you have coped and worked remotely - the way you responded and got through will help improve how you deliver future projects. What went well, what didn’t? How can you all communicate better next time? What collaboration tools worked best remotely?

People are motivated when they bring new ideas to the table and want to take ownership of their contributions - so listen and learn while everything is fresh. Without a doubt, you’ll find things that will improve productivity - if they haven’t already.


Manage those time wasting open loops

Innovative projects can become big and complex, and quickly. Which means there are often too many open loops at one time. These are the ideas, activities, and decisions that people have started or opened but haven’t completed or closed. It can become exhausting having too many things open in their minds - effectively ‘keeping mental plates spinning’. And we all know what happens to too many spinning plates.

Changing the way people manage their time can be a challenge, you are asking people to alter an approach that they feel they can manage (even if what is actually happening suggests they can’t). Often the way we work is deeply embedded in our behaviours which is why we keep doing them. So help them to decide when they will deal with their tasks and close the loop until then. You can also decide to put something off and start it later. It helps to give yourself and/or your team a date to pick it up again - and the space to work on other more pressing priorities in between.


Trust your team, it’s motivating

One of the best things to come out of the pandemic (yes, there are some) is the effect it’s had on the tendency of some to micro-manage. Remote working has called time on presenteeism and managers have just had to trust their teams to get on with their work. It might be uncomfortable for micro-managers - but it’s been highly engaging for those who feel trusted and empowered to make a role or project their own.

Giving them the freedom to be innovative and do what they are capable of doing creates a sense of ownership - in turn making them more productive and valuable to the team. After all, if you have worked at building your team, why not step back and trust them to do what they do best?


More diverse teams are often more productive

There’s another opportunity resulting from the preference of many for remote-based working. Organisations can tap into a much wider and more diverse talent pool as they are no longer restricted by geography. This includes all the creative talent that might previously have not been on your radar because their location or the hours they had available didn’t match your structure.

Research has long demonstrated that organisations with more diverse workforces are often more productive and profitable. So, as you consider enhancing your creative teams, there’s a strong business case for recruiting to reflect greater diversity. To quote research from McKinsey, “More diverse companies, we believe, are better able to win top talent and improve their customer orientation, employee satisfaction, and decision making, and all that leads to a virtuous cycle of increasing returns.”


In conclusion

As a leader, you will know your teams best. The chances are that you’ll also know there is greater potential to be creative and innovative than current results may demonstrate - and that’s perfectly understandable in the post COVID climate. As the future of work emerges, the most productive teams will be those that find new energy by re-engaging with how their organisation meets their need for purpose. They’ll also learn from the positives in how they’ve coped - and there will be many. Trust will play a big part too - sometimes you need to step back to let others fulfill their full potential to see the productivity that comes from it.


For further information

If you have any questions about leading and managing a creative and innovative business and its people, we are here to help. We offer coaching and training for leaders to master communication, influence with integrity, and get a positive response from their people. Find out more about our Leadership Development and Time Mastery programmes and 1-2-1 Coaching.

Our last few blogs have addressed issues affecting creative businesses and their leaders. Why not read more on:

Leading a fast growing creative business - strategies to remain in focus
Managing creative talent - what every leader needs to know
How to help innovative and creative people sustain high performance


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