Q: How do you balance creativity with limited resources?

The team sits in various poses of frustration as you the leader explain to them that when you asked them to be “creative” and “think out of the box” regarding your most recent project, you had no idea that they would come up with this. The moment of explaining, after the fact, that “we could never devote that level of resources to something that is completely unaligned with the vision of the company”, or is “simply unworkable” by whatever reactive measurement we have placed upon it.

The image of the frustrated and disillusioned team and exasperated leader is a common one, and the costs to the business are severe with regard to retention of talent and not always immediately visible or calculable.

As the leader, it can be very challenging to hear over and over that you must trust your team and empower them in their work. Particularly when you do you feel the results are less than expected and it makes more work for you. What are your options? In reality, the practice of carefully “framing the task” for the team, allowing them to be creative within the defined scope, and you as the leader accepting the outcome, can be beneficial in many ways to all involved.

Framing the Task

“Framing the Task” or “Framing the Question” referrers to a leadership strategy that places the onus on the leader for careful planning, resource analysis, timelines, and a desired range of outcomes. It also implies that the leader is willing to devote significant time to the professional development of the team so that they are fully aware of the expectations and boundaries that this method of teamwork requires. It demands trust from the leader in the team to achieve a quality outcome, manifested by embracing the product or solution that the team delivers. Being creative within a defined scope may seem to some to be limiting of the talents of the team. Actually, it unleashes the talents and creativity of the team while focusing on a manageable and sustainable outcome.

Yes, this sounds like a great deal of work upfront for the leader; and it is. However, the capacity that the team will develop after using this strategy repeatedly will, in turn, create significant amounts of time for the leader to devote to visioning and future projects. Creating a margin for the leader to focus on leadership, rather than doubling the efforts of the team is a step forward for the organization.

The Benefits

Many of us have heard the quote, “proper planning prevents poor performance”. As leaders, we also know, “that if we haven’t got time to do it right, how will ever have time to do it again?” In the case of framing the task for the team, the thoughtful planning of the leader holds multiple benefits.

In the long-run, time is saved because there is no need to readdress a situation that has now gone awry due to insufficient planning or an inadequately defined scope of work.

Secondly, the team experiences the double win of having their contributions honored while shouldering much of the task and time burden that was previously the responsibility of the leader.

As capacity and trust build between the leader and the team through successful iterations of this strategy, a positive example of leadership is also made the norm for the next group of individuals in the organization.

See the Big Picture

Being part of a high functioning team means that, as a team member, you feel trusted as a to make contributions that better the team and the company. By working through carefully considered processes that help to ensure a positive outcome time and again, the team and the leader enter a place where they “expect to win”. This is a gift both to the company and the team the leader serves.

If you need help developing this strategy in your own organization, feel free to contact us here.