Hands up who has not at least seen one Pixar movie in their life? There probably isn’t a lot of hands up as with worldwide box office totals approaching 10 billion dollars. Most of us have been touched by the creativity, imagination and heart that is at the core of each of these films.
Behind these movies lies one of the most creative and focused companies out there. In the book Creativity Inc by co-founder Ed Catmull you get the inside look at what goes behind creating a successful, creative and inspired team.
Here are 4 examples from Pixar to help if you lead a team of any sort or to stay motivated and inspired:
1. Trusting those around you
Pixar’s approach to the team aspect is to trust in a great team. Give a good idea to a mediocre team, and they will screw it up. But give a mediocre idea to a great team, and they will either fix it or come up with something better.
If you have a team that works for you whether it’s in a company aspect, a sport, volunteers or anything where people have to work together, you have to trust in the people you’ve assembled and let them do what they were chosen for. Micromanaging and always breathing down the neck of people is the quickest way to kill motivation and productivity. The team member’s new approach becomes that of avoiding workplace stress as opposed to being productive and creative.
“Trust is the lubrication that makes it possible for organizations to work.” – Warren Bennis
2. Preventing risk is not always a good thing
When leading a good team that team should have a sense of freedom to take chances and not have to worry about the potential negative outcomes. Great ideas need to come from thinking outside the box and that is a key fundamental in the success of Pixar.
Those who manage a team shouldn’t always try to prevent risk. The manager should be creating an environment to make it safe for others to take risks. The fruit is at the end of the branch and you can’t get out to grab it without having to take that risk. Sometimes you need to go out on that limb and a safe environment needs to be created in order for those around us to reach their best potential.
3. Always be open to listen
Another concept that is at the core of Pixar’s success is their willingness to listen to all employees, no matter how far down the totem pole they are. This creates a culture where they can learn what is working and quickly eliminate what is not.
In my own experience working with a team in a fitness/gym setting, I found that the best way to keep things moving forward is to listen to what is working well as far as creating training programs and more importantly, remove things that are preventing people from getting results. When you create an open dialog you get a much better picture of what is happening on a day to day basis instead of getting caught up in the big picture all the time. It’s that day to day dynamic that is key in making true progress with any sort of group.
“If you make listening and observation your occupation, you will gain much more than you can by talking.” – Robert Baden-Powell
4. Honor the viewpoints of others
This piggybacks off of point 3 in that you really need to hear what the people around you are saying and Catmull admits this is one of the hardest things to put into practice throughout a company. When people see things or ideas that challenge our accustomed way of thinking we not only tend to resist them but, completely ignore them!
This is called “confirmation bias” and it is what happens when people favor information, true or not, that confirms what they already believed. It is very important to realize how different the experiences and perspectives of others are than our own. So learning to ignore our own bias and see the viewpoint of others is crucial in enriching and progressing a team and creating great work.
Wrapping it up
There is a lot more to Pixar than just Woody and Buzz. Their success is by no accident but, a carefully developed plan of attack that is always evolving and improving. By taking some of these key lessons we can apply them to any team dynamic, whether you run a Fortune 500 company or coach a little league team.
The ability to inspire and motivate is a great gift but one that needs to be constantly honed and sharpened. When you have the ability to bring the best out of others it leads to a successful team but brings the best out of yourself as well.