Successful Creative Teams

Successful Creative Teams

Bart Arconti Bart Arconti
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Do you ever watch credits that roll on the screen at the end of a movie or sports broadcast? Or stay tuned at the end of a podcast or news radio show? Have you skimmed the first pages of a magazine? These spots list the people who helped produce the content you just enjoyed—and many of them serve in creative roles. 

Creative roles include illustrators and graphic designers, videographers and editors, writers and musicians, and so much more. These teams convey the personality and set the tone of an organization, company, or project. More importantly, they serve as the link between content and audience. 

Creative teams turn data points into stories, create illustrations to make lessons more memorable, and weave talking points together to build compelling narratives. But what are the components of a successful creative team—and would you be well-suited as a member of one? I think creative teams thrive when they possess a certain combination of environment, skills, and motivation. 


The most effective end product is the result of strong communication and feedback between the stakeholders and the creative team. In other words, an extremely tight, iterative loop of communication. Rarely is a first draft the final draft—but when team members are empowered with the freedom to create and work in a safe environment where everyone’s input is valued—great things can happen. As a leader, it’s essential to model and foster that safe environment. I like to call it “protecting the baby,” a concept I borrowed from the book Creativity, Inc.


Success in creative roles also requires specific skills. The obvious skills are the technical skills—team members must hold both knowledge and proficiency across a variety of design and video production software platforms. Equally important, however, are “power skills”. Power skills include communication, time management, problem-solving, teamwork, and critical thinking. These skills enable team members to aggregate a variety of stakeholders’ desires into one cohesive vision. 


The final component for success on a creative team is motivation. Do you thrive in a team environment? Do you enjoy deadlines and quick turnarounds—often for multiple stakeholders at once? Successful creative teams find these scenarios exciting and motivating more than they find them stressful. Members of creative teams must understand and enjoy the collaborative process. 

Those who serve in leadership roles for creative teams benefit from the knowledge and skills I’ve mentioned above, but must also embrace three key functions: brand ownership, communications, and project management. 

Leaders of creative teams must constantly confirm and insist that content is brand-aligned. This alignment requires asking frequent questions:

  • Are we telling the story our organization or company intended?
  • Does the content sound AND look like us?
  • Are we using tactics that will engage our target audience? 

Lively discussions—and sometimes debates—are the lifeblood among creative teams, and these conversations always lead to the best outcomes! 

Leaders must be willing to assertively endorse or redirect the work of the team to meet the organization’s goals. These tasks require that leaders enthusiastically embrace, and continuously refine, their own “power skills”, with a strong emphasis on communication and emotional intelligence. As in any role, the actions of the leader affect the entire team. 

Project management is a final and crucial skill for leaders of creative teams. Creative projects always require attention to deadlines, budgets, and workload capacities. Priorities shift, and unexpected needs arise—and leaders must help the team find the right balance to execute its role effectively. 

There’s not one particular persona that you must embody to be successful in a creative role. I do think, however, that it’s helpful to understand the environment, skills, and motivations that help creative teams thrive. I’m very lucky to work with a talented team of artists, graphic designers, video producers, and editors who are committed to elevating the courses designed by our colleagues into high-quality learning products. I find the characteristics I’ve mentioned here present in each of them and enjoy supporting them in their careers. 

If you work in a creative role—what other characteristics or motivations do you think lead to success? 

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