21 episodes

How do great leaders unleash their team to do its best and most creative work? Join Todd Henry (author of Herding Tigers and The Accidental Creative) and guests as they discuss what the talented, creative people on your team need from you, and how you can help them to be prolific, brilliant, and healthy.

Herding Tigers Todd Henry

    • Business
    • 4.7 • 20 Ratings

How do great leaders unleash their team to do its best and most creative work? Join Todd Henry (author of Herding Tigers and The Accidental Creative) and guests as they discuss what the talented, creative people on your team need from you, and how you can help them to be prolific, brilliant, and healthy.

    5 Conversations To Have With Your Team

    5 Conversations To Have With Your Team

    There are five process-related conversations that can help your team maintain better focus, dispel fear, and manage expectations. In this episode, I share the five conversations and how to implement them effectively.
    First a few ground-rules. Do not steamroll your team with these and if you're a team member, don't barge into your manager's office demanding to have these conversations. This is about relationship and relationship is about empathy, trust and commitment. If we're going to have these conversations, we must be committed to the results, even if they're not what we wish for. We have to be willing to hear the truth and act on it even when we dislike it.
    One more quick ground rule. You need to be having these conversations both on a team level and an individual level with your team members. Some team members might not feel comfortable expressing themselves in a larger group, but they might have insights that can help you engage in a more healthy way if you give them space to talk. You need to formalize your conversations. In the words of management guru Peter Drucker, "what gets measured gets done." You need to have a system for these conversations and not just wait for the opportune time to occur. It never will.
    1. The Clarity Conversation
    This conversation is all about bringing alignment and combatting dissonance with our teams. It's about making sure that what we SAY we're about is what we're actually about. It's about making sure that we understand the objectives of our projects, our teams and our organization's reason for being.
    – Do what/why add up? In other words, is what we SAY we're about what we're actually doing? One way to ask this question is "is there anything we're doing right now that seems out of character for us?" Step back and allow the conversation to ensue. Don't get defensive and don't feel the need to argue. This is not about being right, it's about discerning and identifying problems within the team.
    - Do you understand the objectives? Are they clear? Is there anything you're unclear about? Sometimes people won't speak up because they assume that everyone else gets it and they're the only idiot. This kind of isolation is a lie and it countermands creative effectiveness. The more we discuss the objectives until everyone is crystal clear, the better off we'll be.
    Clarity is critical to healthy team creating. The more clear we are about the problems we're trying to solve, the more effective we will be in that creating. But the less clear we are about aligning the why and the what, the more our process will dissolve into chaos.
    2. The Expectations Conversation
    This very simple conversation is designed to neutralize the victim mindset. By calling out and allowing conversations about expectations we can be certain that we're not allowing confusion to grow, which can lead to finger-pointing and self-protection rather than generosity and trust.
    – Do you know what’s expected of you? Get the artist to express their understanding of expectations directly and simply.
    – What do you expect from me and am I falling short? Again, don't be defensive and try to defend yourself. If the stated expectations are unrealistic, have that conversation, but it's important that you realize that your role is to serve, not to be right.
    3. The Fear Conversation
    This is the most nebulous of the conversations and is one of the more difficult to get people to open up to, but it can be one of the most powerful if we have the guts to engage in it. This is all about shining light into dark, unspoken places and neutralizing emerging fear.
    – What are you afraid might happen and why? In other words, what makes you "gun shy" in your creating?
    – Do you feel free to take risks? If so, why? What environmental cues are leading you to that?
    4. The Engagement Conversation...

    • 13 min
    Self-Care For Leaders

    Self-Care For Leaders

    On this episode, we do a quick habit check-up to ensure that you're protecting your viability as a leader. The old saying says "As goes the leader, so goes the team." To be effective, you need to model not only work ethic and character, but also what it looks like to be a healthy creative pro. We discuss five key areas where you should have practices to help you maintain health as a leader.

    • 5 min
    Exorcise The Ghost (Rules)

    Exorcise The Ghost (Rules)

    There are ghosts haunting the halls of your organization. They are invisible assumptions, false and limiting narratives, and other types of "rules" that limit the kinds of ideas your team members will introduce, who will collaborate with whom, and how your team functions.
    In this episode, we discuss the nature of ghost rules and how to exorcise them for good.

    • 5 min
    Shift From Maker To Manager

    Shift From Maker To Manager

    The hardest transition to make when you step into a leadership role is the one from maker to manager. When you are early in your career, you are primarily evaluated on your ability to do the work - to control it, shape it, and make it great. However, once you transition into leadership your job is no longer to do the work, it's to LEAD the work. This is a fundamentally different responsibility, and one that many managers get wrong.
    In this episode of the Herding Tigers podcast, I discuss some tensions that every leader of creative people experiences as they attempt the shift from maker to manager, and how to deal with them.
    Join the Leader List to get one short leadership essay a week for 52 weeks.
    Want to dive deeper? Check out the Herding Tigers Creative Leader Course.

    • 11 min
    Why Your Perpetual Optimism Might Be Killing Your Team

    Why Your Perpetual Optimism Might Be Killing Your Team

    There is a big difference between telling the actual truth and telling people what you wish was the truth. Some leaders think that to inspire their team they must always have a positive vision, so they translate that belief to “I must ensure that team members feel like everything is going great.”
    However, this is not driven by a desire to do what’s in the best interest of the team, but by the neediness of the leader. They don’t want to deal with the discomfort of wading through the murky grey waters of uncertainty. It’s much easier to deal in black and white, so they paint the situation as much more simple and positive it really is. The dissonance team members feel between words and reality causes a major breach in trust. (By the way, your team is smart.)
    Have you ever met that person who always puts a positive spin on everything? The world could be falling apart, cats and dogs living together in harmony, and fire and brimstone falling from the clouds, but somehow they still muster a smile and say it’s going to be OK? You’ll hear many gurus and leadership experts touting the importance of optimism and the strategic value of always keeping a positive mindset. There’s nothing inherently wrong with this advice, except that it’s taken to an irresponsible extreme. When your optimism is decoupled from reality, you risk losing the trust of your team and your perspective on what needs to be done.
    That person who always puts a positive spin on things? You probably don’t trust them. Not fully, anyway. They might be fun to hang out with, and they might be able to turn around a bad night out, but it’s doubtful that you’d go to them first when you need serious advice about an important decision. You simply can’t trust that they’ll give you a realistic viewpoint. They are too clouded by their unrealistic “future’s so bright I gotta wear shades” mentality.
    If you aren’t realistic with your team, then you risk losing their trust. They’ll listen to you, but they won’t believe you. As legendary leadership expert Warren Bennis said, “Trust is the lubrication that makes it possible for organizations to work.” If your team suspects that you’re putting a glossy overtone on everything, they’ll soon stop paying attention and will seek out a truth teller. Your organization will become dysfunctional.
    Yes, informed optimism is the fuel of change, but naive optimism is deadly. Wishing and hoping is never a solution to actual problems. If you want to effect change, you need to pair your optimism with realism and skill.
    The same principles apply to your team.
    Don't fall for the temptation to put a glossy coat on everything. Your team will trust you more, and will follow you into the uncertainty, when they believe that you're telling them the truth.

    • 5 min
    Leaders, Your Team Needs You To Be Precise

    Leaders, Your Team Needs You To Be Precise

    In many ways, leadership is about risk mitigation. You want to channel resources and team effort in the direction most likely to generate the results you want, while at the same time minimizing the potential downside of getting it wrong. This is especially challenging when doing creative work, because the downside of getting it wrong can be significant. If you make the wrong decisions early in a project, the net result can be days or weeks of wasted work, maybe making it impossible to course correct.
    Because of the risk involved, many leaders unknowingly become less than clear about their expectations for the work or of the team. They might speak in vague terms or give opaque direction because they themselves are not certain of the right decision. They know the team needs to move forward, but it’s not clear to them yet what forward actually means. They want to protect themselves from a mistake, so they lack precision.
    The problem with this is that their lack of precision and clarity has a trickle-down effect within the organization. Direction diffuses. Things don’t become more clear as you get farther and farther from the decision-maker, they become less so. Thus, a few team dynamics emerge:
    1. Because they don’t want to waste their time, team members just wait until you tell them what to actually do before starting their work. 
    2. Dissonance emerges as each team member interprets what you want, sometimes leading to misalignment and disjointedness among those responsible for executing on the work. 
    Team members need leaders to be precise about expectations. They don’t need you to be right, but they do need you to be clear even when you are uncertain. Here are a few areas where you need to ensure you are being precise:
    Precise Language. When sharing your decisions or expectations with the team, speak in nouns and verbs, not lofty adjectives and adverbs. Be a laser, not a lighthouse. A lighthouse tells you what not to do by pointing out danger areas, but doesn’t really give you a clear path forward. A laser is precise and focused and points you to a desired outcome. You should aim to use precise language when speaking with the team. Don’t use industry buzz-phrases or metaphors. Find a clear, compelling, precise way to communicate what you want, even if you’re uncertain you’re correct.
    Precise Expectations. Be very clear about what you want, when you want it, who will do it, why it matters, and what the outcome will be if you are successful. Don’t leave room for vague interpretations of when the work is needed, who the responsible parties are, or why any of it matters to begin with. All effective expectations include assignment of responsibility, articulation of timeline, and accountability for results. If your expectations don’t include all three, you aren’t being precise enough. 
    Precise Objectives. Where are you leading the team? How will you know you’ve arrived? Why will any of it matter? Many leaders speak in lofty, vague terms about their vision for the work or the team because they aren’t really certain about their own intuition. Team members need to know that you have clear objectives in mind, that you are aware of the obstacles you will encounter along the way, and that you have a plan to overcome them. You must be clear about where you are leading the team in spite of your personal insecurities. 
    Leaders, be precise in how you communicate with your team. You owe them that. Once your team members have clear bounding arcs and a solid objective in mind, they will reward you with more consistent, aligned, imaginative work.
    Want to explore this topic more? Check out my book Herding Tigers.

    • 5 min

Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5
20 Ratings

20 Ratings

Zeager ,

Exactly what we need!

For those who lead creatives and creative teams, this is a must listen! Looking forward to the new book!

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