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How to manage a team: building company culture

As a producer, you create the culture of your team. You lead by example, which sounds like a lot of pressure, but can be more simple than you think with simple emotional intelligence. Emotional Intelligence is the awareness and management of the emotions of yourself and those around you.

It's normally broken into 4 categories:

  • Self-Awareness: Awareness of your thoughts, feelings, and tendencies

  • Social Awareness: Awareness of other people's thoughts, feelings, and tendencies

  • Self-Management: How you use the awareness of your emotions to direct your behavior

  • Relationship Management: How you use the awareness of your and others emotions to manage interactions and build relationships

There are hundreds of books and articles on this subject, and how these intersect with neurodivergent individuals, so I will keep it simple on how it relates to producing. All of this breaks down to being able to see the bigger picture and zoom out from some of the issues within the production and looking at the people around you instead.

Emotional Intelligence absolutely is a core of building your own leadership and producing style, but it takes time. EI and company culture go hand in hand, but a lot of that comes with time and experience, so while you continue to work down that path, there are some simple tips to build a strong foundation.

First, be honest and authentic, which includes being vulnerable about what you do or don't know. Lying about how circumstances have changed or hiding your mistakes helps absolutely no one, not even yourself, and will make you look way worse to your team than owning up to the mistakes or changes when they happen. Remember that high-performing teams have the freedom to express themselves and be able to acknowledge mistakes and use them as collective learning.

Consider some of these action items to build a more equitable company culture for your team:

  • Don't gossip and face conflict quickly to be resolved appropriately

  • Take continuous Anti-Racism, anti-bias, and other EDIA training

  • Build your cultural competency to support BIPOC artists (to support them in areas like providing proper costumes, makeup, and hair care for BIPOC artists).

  • Remove phrases that are considered racist from organizational vocabulary

  • Build rehearsals and production meetings that are more mindful about artists having other jobs and responsibilities (like being a caretaker of children or elderly parents)

Managing your friends

For the most part, you will rely on your friend group for talent until you can start to expand, they are more willing to volunteer their time and resources towards producing something with you, and have a stronger sense of your vision and leadership. It is fun to collaborate with friends because there is an established trust and pre-built relationship. However, be careful of maintaining personal and professional boundaries.

First, remember that as the company grows, not everyone will be right for every project, and your long-term collaborators might start to feel entitled to having a spot on the team. On the other hand, some of your long-term collaborators might need to move on or remove themselves from the team so they can focus on their own career growth. As long as everyone is transparent and honest, friendships should be able to remain intact even if you out-grow each other as collaborators/co-workers.

Managing new people

It is really great to have a good mix of long-term collaborators and new creatives because there is an established culture and communication, but people tend to act more professional and less "buddy-buddy" because of the changing dynamic with new people. However, changing group dynamics can be a challenge to make sure everyone feels included, and that people's roles in the groups might change.

When you are recruiting new folks to join the team, don't feel like you need a formal interview but grabbing coffee with them is a great way to get to know them better, and while they don't need to provide references it is helpful to ask around to get other perspectives of them from people you trust.

Whomever you are talking to, either the new team member or ask for references, it's good to ask these three questions:

  • How are they working with production teams?

  • How are they working with performers?

  • What was their past work like?

Managing People "more experienced" than you

You're eventually going to have to manage someone that is older than you. Most of the time this won't be an issue, specifically if they are kind and professional people.

However, sometimes you hire someone and they don't realize how young or new you are and they start to challenge your methods of producing. Don't let them bully or intimidate you, and communicate with them to make sure that doesn't affect the rest of the team. You still deserve to produce the work you want and you are more than good enough to do it.


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