Keep your team’s head in the game to keep the good work coming.
The key to success for any agency is to hire wildly creative people and keep them motivated. They are the ones who bring amazing products to life, who continually push the envelope both creatively and technologically. But sometimes, it’s hard to keep the energy level up for the life span of a project, or from one project to the next. Whether it’s a heavy workload, budget cuts or holiday distractions, sometimes you can just sense the team is struggling to keep its focus. Heck, even Tom Brady has a bad day every now and then.
It’s times like these when team leaders—no matter their title—truly earn their paychecks. Our job is to get team members excited about a project from the get-go and to maintain that energy until the clock runs out. It’s up to us to make them believe in the work—that it will make a difference, set a new trend, win awards or rave reviews … and inspire other clients to keep challenging and fulfilling work coming through the door.
Think of yourself as a football coach who has to keep your team running like a well-oiled machine throughout a season of ups and downs. Here are some tips to keep your team’s head in the game—no matter the size, scope or price tag of the project.
Burst Onto the Field.
There’s a reason players don’t calmly walk out of the tunnel on game day. Setting the tone is critical. From the first team meeting, you should ooze positivity and enthusiasm. Get creative! Reading the scope agreement verbatim is a surefire way to suck energy from the room; instead, find a way to explain the project that drives home its impact while amping up team members to tackle its unique challenges.
The simplest way to get your team involved is to kick off each project with a dialogue, not a presentation. Sure, you’re holding the clipboard, but this is a collaboration. Ask the experts in the room—developers and creatives alike—what questions they have, what roadblocks they foresee and what they need to succeed. Remember, it’s your job to remove any obstacles in front of your team, so listen to their feedback, take notes and take action. Also, don’t dictate timelines for internal milestones. Your only real deadline is the one you promised the client, so keep an open mind if your team needs to make adjustments to move the chains.
Stay on the Sidelines.
Once the work has started, don’t hover. Too many team leaders check in daily, which comes across as micromanaging. If you successfully led the work start, your people will be more than capable of executing the game plan. Trust your team. Trust your project managers. Trust your process. Having confidence in each other’s abilities, intelligence and work ethic is the key to a healthy working relationship. Then, swing by every so often, and be engaged, excited and encouraging about the team’s progress. With the trust you’ve built, team members will be receptive to showing their work, will let you know if they have questions and will not be afraid to ask for help with stumbling blocks—allowing you to call an audible, if needed.
At iostudio, our halftime is known as an Internal Progress Review (IPR), which happens after we’ve made A LOT of progress but before we reveal the work to our client. During an IPR, we invite internal stakeholders to a little show-and-tell. This process is helpful in a variety of ways. For starters, it’s the perfect opportunity for the development and creative teams to show off their work, and it gives us a chance to practice how we’ll eventually present that work to the client.
We use IPRs to work out bugs in technology and visual aids, streamline our talking points and make sure we’re all hitting the mark, contractually speaking. IPRs also provide a platform for team members’ work to be recognized by peers and leadership alike. More often than not, their efforts are well-received, which bolsters morale and provides a mental boost akin to the most inspirational locker room pep talk. (“RU-DY! RU-DY! RU-DY!”)
Show ’Em What You’re Made Of.
You’ve entered the homestretch. The work has been completed, tested (repeatedly), tweaked and internally approved, and now it’s time to present it to the client. If you thought enthusiasm was important before, it is absolutely crucial at this stage. Rally your team before the presentation, whether it’s occurring in a face-to-face meeting, over the phone or via videoconference. Slam coffee, buy doughnuts, blast Eye of the Tiger—do whatever it takes to get your people pumped. And don’t forget to practice. It may feel silly initially, but dry runs breed confidence, and confident team members exude more energy and perform better. Trust me—if your players take the field fired up and pumping their fists, the client will feed off their energy and reciprocate their enthusiasm for the project.
Do Your Touchdown Dance
Victories should be celebrated. And it doesn’t take much to show your team members they’re appreciated. Take them out to lunch. Or go bigger. At iostudio, our margarita parties are the stuff of legend. It doesn’t really matter what you do, as long as it gives your teammates a minute to catch their breath, reflect on their success, blow off a little steam and recharge their batteries … so they’ll be ready to tackle the next big project.