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Encouraging Autonomy in your Collaborative Team by @projectmaven

When managing a collaborative team, whether you’re producing an event, building a website or directing a promotional campaign, it’s important to know how to get the best out of everyone while meeting the goals of the operation.

This can be a tricky balance to achieve when dealing with an established brand, and the more money and corporate firepower is behind the project, the harder it may be to achieve any autonomy. However, creativity and originality are valuable commodities in today’s marketplace. When you bring people with fresh ideas onto your team, the best strategy may be to encourage them to go all out.

Let’s look at some ways you can make this happen.

Good casting is 90% of the game.

When scouting for talent, the smartest directors know to cast actors with just the right stuff and then let them loose to do what they do best. The same holds true when putting together a collaborative team. When choosing creative partners, whether they are designers, writers, social media strategists or event producers, look for people who bring something special to the table. Then, let them do what they do!

Learn the skill of constructive criticism.

No one says you have to say yes to everything, or that you can’t be critical. But there’s a difference between telling someone, “Nope, that doesn’t work,” and saying, “Listen, this part is OK, but this part is not really what I’m looking for… and let me tell you why.”

This does not mean an endless litany of things you hate about the work your collaborator has delivered. Instead, try to build on the things that work. Explain what you like about it, and how it can be expanded or altered to be closer to your vision. Ask questions. Find out why he or she made the choices they did. This may go a long way towards understanding how to get from what they’ve delivered to what you ultimately want and expect.

Regular communication is essential.

Particularly in new collaborations, it’s really important to have regular communication. As you are getting to know one another, you’ll each have a need for clarification and feedback at every step along the way. These early interactions are the fundamental building blocks of what you hope will become an ongoing relationship, or at least a successful partnership for the duration of your project. If you don’t put the time in to get clarity up front, you will never really give the relationship a fair shot at meeting its potential.

Don’t micromanage.

This one can be tricky, especially if your personal brand is on the line. It can be really tempting to walk into a collaboration with a set idea of what you expect, looking for your creative partners to just deliver what already exists in your brain. The bad news is, this probably won’t happen, and if it does, you have most likely squeezed the creativity and enthusiasm out of your team members. If this is your way of working, then you would do better to bring on some interns or some entry level administrative assistants, and groom them to suit your needs. But if you are working with other professionals, you need to make some space for them to bring their own personal touch to the table. The chances are very good that the final product will be more interesting than the thing you imagined.

Remember the old saying, “the whole is greater than the sum of the parts?” I believe this is true, more often than not. We just have to make the space to allow each part to contribute its unique resources to the whole.

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