Leading and Building Talent, and Talented Teams (Final)

By @ 07/30/14 in Creative Team, Leadership

This is the final blog post of this three-week blog series.  We’ve been talking about the 10 mistakes Creative Leaders make that cause them to lose their talented team of Creatives.

The reason for the discussion was two-fold.  In my years of working with other churches and watching organizations from a far, I’ve seen teams turn over — way too much and way too often.  But I also know how difficult it is to put a great team together.  It takes time, lots of it.  It also takes patience, so why would you want that team to go away.  You don’t!!

So keep the team together and keep your talented Creatives by heeding the ten (10) mistakes we’ve been discussing.

Bottom line: if creative leaders spent less time trying to keep their talented Creatives, and much more time trying to understand them, care for them, invest in them, and lead them well …  we wouldn’t be having this conversation would we?  It would take care of itself and your Creatives would hang around!!

Let me know your thoughts on this subject.  Love to read your comments.

By @ 07/28/14 in Creative Team, Leadership

This is Part Eight of the blog series about mistakes Creative Leaders make that causes them to lose their talented team.  We’ve already discussed #1 through #9.  Only one more …

Mistake #10
You Did Not Keep Your Commitments: In the Message Bible, Matthew 5:33-37 reads like this,  “And don’t say anything you don’t mean. This counsel is embedded deep in our traditions. You only make things worse when you lay down a smoke screen of pious talk, saying, ‘I’ll pray for you,’ and never doing it, or saying, ‘God be with you,’ and not meaning it. You don’t make your words true by embellishing them with religious lace. In making your speech sound more religious, it becomes less true. Just say ‘yes’ and ‘no.’ When you manipulate words to get your own way, you go wrong.

Let your yes mean yes and your no mean no.

Promises made are worthless, but promises kept are incredibly invaluable. If you break the trust of the Creatives you lead you will pay very dearly for it. Leaders not accountable to those they lead, will eventually be held accountable by those they lead.  For sure.

I on purpose kept this mistake for #10 because trust is almost always the beginning “issue” of team problems.  Trust is a must for you as a creative leader!!  Make it your top priority.

This was a short blog post, but again, it was an important subject and I wanted my readers to focus on this one thought.  I hope you understand  how important trust is for a leader’s success.

Wednesday we will finalize this blog series.

By @ 07/23/14 in Creative Team, Leadership

This is Part Seven of the blog series about mistakes Creative Leaders make that causes them to lose their talented team.  We’ve already discussed #1 through #7.  Let’s continue!

Mistake #8
You Didn’t Value Their Contributions: The best leaders don’t take the credit – they give it and they give it out very freely and unselfishly.  I have had much success in my career.  I’m blessed, so when I have anyone from church community compliment me on a series, a brand, staging, the band — whatever — I always take the time to brag on the team.  Why?  Because they are responsible for the success — WE ARE A TEAM!

So if you want to make a big mistake as a leader, fail to recognize the contributions of your Creative Team.  Failing to do this is not only arrogant but disingenuous.

And simply put — it’s as also just as good as asking them to leave.  Guaranteed!

Mistake #9
You Failed To Increase Their Responsibility: In my opinion, this is a big mistake and an easy one to make.  Leaders often build a good team, assign the responsibilities appropriately and wisely, but then they sit back and nothing ever changes.  Not good.


You cannot confine talent – you cannot box in your Creatives — try it  and you’ll either fade into mediocrity, or force your talent seek more fertile ground.  And I don’t know any creative leader who would want either of these.

Creatives will gladly accept a huge workload as long as an increase in responsibility comes along with the performance and execution of said workload.

And there’s one element of this last statement that often is overlooked.  Look closely.  I’m not just saying they want more work to do.  I’m saying that they will take on more work if there is an increase in responsibility.  And with that responsibility there should be added authority.

We’re almost home.  Next Monday we hit the last one, #10.  See you then.

By @ 07/21/14 in Creative Team, Leadership

This is Part Six of the blog series about mistakes Creative Leaders make that causes them to lose their talented team.  We’ve already discussed #1 through #5.  Let’s continue!

Mistake #6
You Didn’t Care: OK.  I’ll go ahead and state the obvious — Yes, your Creatives do work for a paycheck, but that’s not the only reason. And my time with Creatives bears this out.  In fact, there are studies that show it’s not even the most important reason. It is important — baby does need new shoes every once in a while.  The paycheck is not the thing they first think of each day.

So here’s the big mistake.  If you fail to care about your Creatives at a human level, on an emotional plain, in a spiritual way, they’ll eventually leave you regardless of how much you pay them.

Hopefully your starting to see a trend here in the mistakes made.  When drawing the big picture it’s all about looking at the Creative with value — valuing their skill, their character, their opinion, etc.  Get it?  Care for your creative.

Mistake #7
You Weren’t Their Leader: This is true across the board — whether in church, organizations, teams, businesses — it doesn’t matter.  This is true — businesses don’t fail, products don’t fail, projects don’t fail, and teams don’t fail – leaders fail.

We are taking in broad terms here, so let me dive a bit further.  Sometimes all of the things mentioned above fail, but only for a moment or for one small aspect in a much bigger plan.  What I’m saying is continued failure and catastrophic failure is on the shoulders of the leader.

The best testament to the value of leadership is what happens in its absence – very little difference.  Why?  Great team.  Skilled individuals chosen for the team.  Smooth systems and processes in place.  A winning culture caught and taught.  So when the leader is away, what he/she has put into place continues.

However, If you fail to lead, your talent will seek leadership somewhere else.

Hope this is helping you in your leadership.  Wednesday we will look at #8 and #9.

By @ 07/16/14 in Creative Team, Leadership

This is Part Five of the blog series about mistakes Creative Leaders make that causes them to lose their talented team.  We’ve already discussed #1 through #3.  Let’s continue!

Mistake #4
You Didn’t Succeed In Developing Their Skills: Leadership isn’t a destination – it’s a forever journey.  OK — It’s a lifetime endeavor. A creative leader should always remember that no matter how smart or talented a person is, there’s always room for growth, development, and continued maturing.

This is the crux, the bottom-line of #4 so take note: If you as the leader place restrictions on a person’s ability to grow, they’ll leave your organization for one who won’t.

Creatives are just like any other talented person.  They want to excel and grow and mature in their craft, in their art.  This is even more true, however, when the artists you are leading is a Believer.  If they understand where their talent comes from, then they are more likely to take growth more seriously.

And one more step.  I also think that this is taken to one more level when the talented Believer works for an organization whose vision is to further the Kingdom of God and introduce people to Jesus.  The artist not only understands the source of his/her talent, but now gets to use it in the most full sense serving Him by serving others.  Doesn’t get much better than that.


Mistake #5
You Failed To Give Them A Voice: You will know that this one is very obvious if you have lead artists for any time.  Your talented artists have good thoughts, ideas, insights, and observations.  They always have opinions on the creative process and product.

If you don’t listen to them, I can guarantee you — someone else will.  You can bet on it!

Now, as a creative leader, the fun part of the dance is choosing the right people at the right time.  Let me explain:  In the creative process, whatever that is in your organization, there are meetings.  These creative process meeting require certain people to attend.  As the leader of the creative process, you must wisely choose the people you invite to those meetings.  And the list will and should change as the organization and creative process changes.

The hard part will be this: your talented team members will more than likely swing to one of these two camps.  They will want to be in every creative meeting or none of them.  Neither is the right answer.  The creative leader must determine what is right and most productive for the organization and STICK TO IT!

Another Amen!  (This was a two “amen” blog — no extra charge!)

We’ll continue this discussion on Monday.  See you then!

By @ 07/14/14 in Creative Team, Leadership

So we are in the process of a blog series on the 10 reasons your talented team members leave you and your organization.   And we are looking at the ten mistakes smart and wise creative leaders don’t make.

Mistake #2
You Didn’t Challenge Their Intellect: Creative people don’t like to live in a world of boredom.  Creatives are smart and if you don’t challenge their minds, they’ll leave you for someone/someplace that will.

This is important because when a talented person knows that you recognize their intellect, they translate that into “they are part of the team” and then in turn, will offer much to you and that team.  Let the Creative think.  They can and want to.  The last thing a Creative wants is to be told what to do all the time.  They translate that into “you think I’m stupid, don’t you.”

Mistake #3
You Failed To Give Them Creative Input: Great talent is wired to improve, enhance, and add value and they ultimately want to add value to the team they are on.  They just want the chance.  They are keenly created to change and innovate. A Creative has change and innovation as part of their DNA.  They NEED to contribute by putting their fingerprints on design.

A wise creative leader doesn’t place people in boxes – they free their team members from living in “said boxes.”  Creatives hate to be in a box.  In a major way.  What’s the use in having a racehorse if you don’t let them run?

I will continue with the mistakes on Wednesday.  Would love your comments.

By @ 07/09/14 in Creative Team, Leadership

Monday’s blog article was stark and I’m sure it’s not that way everywhere.  I’m not trying to be a downer, but if these statistics are showing to be true in the business world, shouldn’t we at least use them as a warning and an opportunity to evaluate our teams.

So, what am I saying?:  to all you creative leaders who have “everything under control,” it’s my opinion that you really should start re-evaluating. There is an old business saying that goes; “Employees don’t quit working for companies, they quit working for their bosses.” Now note that this is true regardless of tenure, position, title, etc., talent who voluntarily leave, generally do so out of some type of perceived disconnect with leadership.


Here you go – your talented team members, those who are challenged, engaged, valued, and rewarded (spiritually, emotionally, intellectually & financially) rarely leave, and more importantly, they perform at very high levels and give you much creativity. However if you miss any of these critical areas, it’s only a matter of time until they head for the front door.

Mistake #1:
You Failed To Loose Their Passions and Creativity: Smart creative leaders align their team member’s passions with the church’s vision and mission. Human nature makes it very difficult to walk away from areas of passion. Creatives live for that type of environment.  Fail to understand this and make it a team culture and you’ll unknowingly be inviting your talent to seek their passions elsewhere.

And we don’t want that.

Let’s look at Mistake #2 and #3 on Monday.  See you then.

By @ 07/07/14 in Creative Team, Leadership

When you take a good, long look at the creative talent on a creative arts team you should also take a look at their culture, not the rhetoric.  In my experience you should always look at results, and refuse to be swayed by the blah-blah about the potential of the team.

Creative leadership needs to be aware of the real picture of the team, not the scouting report.  This report is important to know, but only for a time.  And the true picture of the team should be known by the leadership all the way up the organizational chart.  This is important!!

There really isn’t surveys that specifically target Creatives and creative arts teams in the church, but there are generic employee reports that seem to be quite realistic, in my opinion and experience.  This is what I found:

More than 30% believe they’ll be working someplace else inside of 12 months.

There is far too much turn over in the church at large, and this statistic plays out in the creative arts ministry too.

More than 40% don’t respect the person they report to.

And this is always a sad commentary for any leader.  I do hope that this is a statistic that is very much taken to heart.  A team can’t function without trust and respect of their leader.

More than 50% say they have different values than their employer.

It’s very important that a Creative understands their place on the ministry team — and they need to understand first that this is a ministry team and then a creative team.  I would hope that if some of those specific conversations were covered at hiring and more seriously, this statistic should be different.

More than 60% don’t feel their career goals are aligned with the plans their employers have for them.

This statistic, in my opinion, is much like the last and could be lowered drastically if adequate conversation and explanation happened clearly at hiring.  I will state this again because it is important: I make sure that the Creatives know they are being hired to a ministry team that ministers thru creativity.  In that order.

More than 70% don’t feel appreciated or valued by their employer.

I have written about this subject many, many times.  It is important that the creative leader make sure his/her artists are appreciated and valued.  On the church creative team, the leader will be their pastor.  This Is Important.

So over the next few weeks I want to take a look at the 10 reasons your talented team members leave you.   Smart and wise creative leaders don’t make these mistakes.

We will start on Wednesday.  See you then.

By @ 07/02/14 in Creative Team, Leadership

I’m getting the opportunity once more — to build another team and every time I’ve been given that responsibility, I’ve taken it seriously.

To me the hardest part of leaving a Creative Arts assignment and moving on is not being able to work with a great team that I had the privilege to form.  But the fun part, looking forward, is I’ll get to do it again.

As I’ve watched other leaders, I’ve always been amazed at how there seems to be little notice of  how costly and disruptive an unexpected talent departure is.  Have you considered that many creative leaders spend lots of time talking about “their talent” but end up seeing that talent come an go far too quickly?

And in the last decade, a very much in the last five years, there has been a crazy emphasis on leadership development, but I’m finding it interesting to see many churches still struggling with having the ability to retain their top creative talent.

How do you keep your Creatives?  How do you stop the revolving door from spinning at such a quick rate?

In the next few blog articles, I’d like to try to answer some of these questions.

I can’t tell you that I’ve had no movement on my teams over the last decade, but I can say that I feel I’ve kept it to a minimum — FAR below the trend that I see.  And yes, I know that for some reason Creatives have a problem with church organizations and the creative protocols, or lack there of.  That scares them away for sure.

If you ask any creative leader about their process for retaining and developing creative talent.  First they’ll shake their heads and tell you they have a process and then they will spend the next moments waxing eloquent with a series of well thought out sound bites about their brilliant assessment of their talented team, how they provide and atmosphere of creativity for them.  And then blah, blah, blah.

I’m going to turn my attention to experience and not the processes built on theory.

Monday, I’ll begin by giving you some statistics that I’ve come across and chat a bit about what I’ve learned from a decade of experience building and leading talented people and teams.

By @ 06/30/14 in Creative Process, Rick's Life

Over the last 6 months, I was involved in an extensive renovation at one of our multi-site campuses.  The Tempe renovations consumed my brain, so i decided not to stress and try to write a blog, and do my job and Sun Valley and manage my part of the renovations.  It’s good to know when enough is enough.  So the decision was made and I took off the last 6 months.

Now it’s time to heat things up again.  And I’m ready.

I’ll eventually get to talking about all that I learned in the process of this particular renovation.  And there were LOTS of things I learned.  Not only about technology, but the process of renovating a very out-dated facility.

Those discussions will come.

What I’d like to focus on is the creative process and the creative team.  I know that I write about this a lot.  Why?  It’s my passion and I learned a long time ago that if you don’t have a solid team and a solid process … well … you’re gonna have a hard time.

I’ve been privileged over the last 10 years to have both on my side, great team and a productive process, yet there’s still much more about these subjects that I’d like to hone in on.

Thanks for letting me.  Hope you enjoy and learn from the things I talk about — things I’ve learned on my creative journey.  Would love to have your comments.  I’ll be sure to respond to each one of them and probably in a blog posting.