In this last part of the series about “What business can learn from comic book creation,” I will write about going for the long run with a focus on how you manage your team.
In the first two parts, I started writing about my experiences while working on the comic book Biz4Kids with my team and Alex Osterwalder. Mastering your craft and knowing your customers are two game-changing elements you want to consider in everything you do. Check out Part 1 and Part 2 if you missed them. They are not mandatory to read this article, though.
If I learned one crucial thing throughout the Biz4Kids first comic book project, it is this: “Value your team. Take care of your peers, and go for the long run.”
A project with many stakeholders and decent team size is comparable to a season in any sports. It doesn’t help you win the championship if you have a great start but fail to keep the energy up until the very end.
I encountered multiple situations throughout the project, during which I had the feeling that our energy plummeted. The finishing lined seemed unreachable. The expectations were high. Stakeholders (in this case, backers from Kickstarter) started asking for progress. And we were only a few months in the process. We had barely begun at that point.
When it came to an extreme, our official release date came closer but we had only finished 15-20% of the work. That day we sat together and had a long conversation within the team. People felt a bit depressed. They felt the burden and pressure to deliver, but the lost time and resources as well. We needed to decide whether shorten and rush the comic book or stay resistant and keep going at the high level of quality and depth we started with.
I knew that I had to make that decision for them. My team couldn’t decide it. And as a leader, I took the plunge together with Alex, and we decided to go for quality and ditch the release day. I took the burden of being accountable for that decision, and ever since I took complains of stakeholders onto my shoulders. Every time my team reads a moan, I tell them: “It’s ok. You’re doing a great job. Take your time! Let them complain now. They will be happy in the end.”
Beyond that, we developed habits like the daily check-in to see where everybody stands. If somebody were too much on the “bad weather” side, we would address it in more detail to cope with that feeling. And we had visual progress bars all along the way to make the project visible and tangible for us. It helps so much to know where you are!
Every once in awhile, we had a team meeting that I organized for the team. The objective was to show the big picture to my team. When you’re working on the nitty-gritty details all day long, you tend to forget the vision that you’re working for.
So I took the responsibility to show them (literally with a map) where we were at the given time and that the comic book is just the first step to something much bigger. I would update my team on new partnerships and new opportunities that crossed our way. I always tried to make it as much fun and motivating as possible for them. That way, they really could feel what their contribution would add up to in the end.
Short term is easy
Here is another thing. Short term success is easy and addictive.
It is so deliberating to finish something quickly and harvest the praise. A project that takes a week is straightforward and effortless to complete. The goal is insight. But a project that lasts three months, half a year, a full year or even multiple years is a different mind game.
You can’t see the finishing line. Progress feels slow if existing at all. Praise will only come in the end – and that’s still a long way to go.
That’s why short term projects and short cuts are so popular. We spent less time to finish quicker. We get praise and a kick of happiness hormones (happy hormones or feel-good hormones). And we run off to complete the next project. It becomes addictive and more painful to work on long term projects every day.
It is so tempting to finish something just for the sake of achievement. But that’s (in most cases) resulting in poor quality. You could have done this better.
Of course, I’m very much aware of the pitfalls of “perfectionism.” That’s never the goal. But you want to have worked on your project deeply enough to provide an excellent outcome, not just a good result.
Even if it is hard, we decided to go for the long run. To deep dive into the comic book creation and to avoid the short cuts. I am convinced that you will see and feel the difference in the end.
And imagine the feeling for us as a team, looking back to the past months (years) and knowing that we did our best to create a stunning fresh product!
If you look at your team members, colleagues, or collaboration partners, how can you help them see the big picture? So they don’t lose the vision out of sight?
How can you take care that you carefully keep the energy high until the very finishing line? Could techniques like check-in rituals and progress bars improve your overall performance?
This is the end of my three-part series on “What business can learn from comic book creation.” If you missed the first two parts, you might want to check them out here. Part 1 is about “Master your Craft,” and Part 2 is focusing on “Know your Customer.”
Holger is writing about his thoughts on how to create strategic clarity with visual tools. Especially with a focus on how we can work better together to solve our business challenges. As a Strategy Facilitator, he helps teams and leaders solving their strategic problems.
In his workshops and training, he has taught his approach to thousands of people. If you're interested, check out the next dates for his workshops or reach out to him directly.
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