Give your team room to express themselves


Paul Boag, one of the founders and directors of Headscape, once said; “We specialise in sh*t projects.”

If, like me, you run projects for a normal, every day web agency. If you do not always get the opportunity to be working with the latest cool technology or utilize the next whizz bang idea. If you don’t build sites for rock bands or the latest cool technology start-ups. How do you keep you team excited and enthusiastic about their day jobs? After all, if your team is not interested in the work that they are doing then they will not produce the high standards that you need and that they are capable of. This in turn is demotivating and you end up in a downward spiral.

How do you get your team excited about a project for brown paper bag manufacturers?

It doesn’t belong to you

The first thing to do is to promote ownership of the project within your team. Let them in on the solution. It can be tempting at times to solve (or try at least) all the problems yourself. It is much better to get your production team (designers and developers) in on the act as early as possible in the project. Do not present your designers with a list of things to do. Instead, give them a collection of problems that their design needs to solve. Do not dictate the technology that your developers must use. Instead give them the information that they need to choose the most suitable tools for the task.

Allow your team to shape the solution and they will take pride in the result. Let the project be their project. Not your project.

Express yourselves

The second thing to do is to allow your team the time and space to express themselves. Allow them to be creative; to try a new technique in a real project situation. Even if it is something very small in the grand scheme of the project it can act as the signature of your production team. This mark of ownership will inspire them to make sure that even the most mundane of projects can be the best that it can be.

Allow your techies to experiment with the new features of the latest programming language release. Allow your designers to put in that extra fun element that will only work in in the latest cool browsers. Give them the space play with a real project in a real life situation.

Using a new technique or a new technology can be enough to provoke the interest of your team. This means that the website for the brown paper bag manufacturers can be the most exciting project that you team has ever been a part of.

Slaves to the time line

Alarm bells are ringing. What about the time line! We have a deadline to meet.

And quite right too. These extra bells and whistles cannot get in the way of real targets and delivery milestones. However, if you build some time into your schedules to allow for this kind of experimentation you will have a happier, more enthusiastic and, ultimately, more productive team.

This will also encourage your team to keep developing their skill set knowing that they will get a chance to use their new found talents in real projects leading to a higher quality of work over all.

Is this something that you have tried? Or as a designer or developer have you tried to sneak little Easter Eggs into your work just to make sure that you still have a pulse at the end of the day? Let me know.

8 thoughts on “Give your team room to express themselves

  1. Working as a freelancer I speak from a slightly different sheet but the same applies to those not working in teams. Try to take the initiative and try new things rather than get stuck in a rut (I for instance am experimenting with Python and Django as a replacement for trusty old PHP).


  2. I know from experience how this can work wonderfully.

    I am not a web designer of any kind and the teamwork I am referring to is a bunch of English teachers teaching the language as a second language but the principle is the same.

    Our headmaster was this woman who probably read this article even before it was written. She would usually come to us saying she would like to have this kind of event and ask how we propose to do it.

    Lots of freedom to express ourselves, to try out ideas which in another situation may sound crazy but in the end we had about two years of insanely creative environment where teachers were actually eager to come to work.

    (She even succeeded in getting us to work around the tiny budget!)

  3. Awesome article, so true and valuable to many I’m sure. The one thing I miss freelancing from home is the encouragement and stimulation of working with a good motivated team. Thanks.


  4. Awesome write up! Just in time. 🙂 Thanks Rob.

    I am a project manager too and reading this make a lot of sense.

    Yes, timeline and deadlines are constraining, which means a project should be handled well by the team via collaboration and team effort.

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