I love art – sketching, drawing or painting. I don’t spend enough time practising, but when I get a moment to relax, I retrieve the pad, eraser, pencil and the watercolours. I find a quiet spot, shake off the accumulated stress from the week’s events and begin planning the next piece. On a particular Sunday afternoon, having established the subject matter – an old fisherman with a wrinkled leathery face – I found myself spending disproportionate time working on the detail of a distant fishing boat and almost neglecting to work in the detail of the face. As I sat there, rather surprised at myself, I couldn’t help relating the process of creating an art piece to that of leading a team – the following of which represent my thoughts:

  1. Understand your Subject – finding this answers the question “why does my team exist?” The company established my team to accomplish certain results, the same of which feed into the company’s mission and goals. I need to understand what is expected of the team, what kind of “product” the company wants from the team and how this “product” enhances the company’s bigger picture and then communicate that to team members well.
  2. Establish your Focus – just like the face of the old fisherman was the focus of my art piece and not the fishing boats, so I need to understand the focus needs of my team if I am to lead it purposefully. Teams can easily get distracted away from their core purpose unless this is reinforced regularly. Other issues do need focus (e.g. packaging), but not disproportionately to the focus needed on the “product”.
  3. Draw an Initial Sketch – like one has to plan the art piece, spend a few hours working out an initial strategy. This can be tweaked at a later stage, but get a fairly clear picture of how your team is going to go about achieving the “product”. Develop the strategy and get the team to assist you in filling in any blanks.
  4. Carefully Check Perspective – as objects on a canvass get “smaller” as they get closer to the horizon, so leaders with their teams need to establish perspective – what of all that we need to do deserves more of our energy and what requires less of our energy? Much energy applied to trivia distracts team members away from applying energy to the very important matters.
  5. Blend the Colours Harmoniously – just as colours work together to create mood and expression in an art piece, so the leader needs to use the skillsets and passions of each member of the team appropriately to accomplish the team’s tasks. Team members will respond with focused passion if they are used in line with respective giftedness.
  6. Fill in the Peripherals – as the art piece would be incomplete without background and context-setting items, so also the environment in which the team operates needs to be conducive to operational efficiency and wellness. Create a work environment that the team loves.
  7. Display Prominently – the art piece finally needs to be framed and positioned correctly to get the best of the available light and “be seen”. The team’s work and final “product/s” need to be highlighted, even marketed, to the rest of the company and to clients (internal and external) for the team to develop a sense of pride and value in what they do.

Creating a team masterpiece requires dedicated focus, good communication and passion from the leader. The reputation of the team, even ultimately yours as the leader, depends on it.

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