Creativity expert Austin Kleon lives by a simple mantra: Show your work! Many of Kleon’s own creative idols, he says, ‘have built sharing into their routine’. Sharing the things you make encourages you to focus on, and celebrate, process as much as product; it opens you up to feedback and dialogue; and, best case scenario, it entertains and engages others. And this is just as true in the workplace as it is for the lone creative. Thanks to demo days, engineers and designers are in the habit of sharing their work and their work-in-progress with a wider team. But we think the ‘Show your work’ principle has applications beyond these product-focused teams. Here we share one simple tweak, and one big idea, to get your team comfortable with showing, sharing, and celebrating their work.
Add Accomplishments to Your Meeting Agenda
Next time you have an all-hands meeting, try this: allocate 5 minutes at the end of the meeting for accomplishments. This is a window where you can acknowledge individuals who are going above and beyond or teams that have pulled off a big project. Use visuals and props here, if you can – don’t just congratulate the graphics team on a rebranding project, show it to the rest of the group. Keep the list of accomplishments short, and remember to spotlight different teams in different meetings. And make sure you’ve prepared beforehand, perhaps by polling team leads, rather than asking people to share their accomplishments on the spot. Done well, this simple exercise not only fosters a collective sense of pride, it gives the whole group valuable insight into their colleagues’ work. But if you really want to take ‘showing your work’ to the next level, try this:
Try a Show and Tell Meeting
What’s a Show and Tell Meeting? Well, the name pretty much says it all: it’s a meeting where different teams show their work to the group. Tacking accomplishments onto your meeting agenda is great but in a Show and Tell Meeting you can go deeper: this is a time in which employees can share finished work or work in process; talk about achievements they’re proud of our projects that have proven challenging. It’s fine to focus on process as well as, or even instead of, the end result here: in fact, seeing how other teams work as well as what they contribute can create appreciation and respect between departments. A show and tell is also a great way to bring people up to speed on new systems, like a streamlined leave application process, through a quick demo. Your mileage may vary, but we think this is a meeting format best used sparingly: rather than add it into your regular roster of updates and stand-ups, call the occasional Show and Tell meeting to shake things up. Remember to set a sensible time limit or rotate teams – this should be a fun gathering, not a marathon meeting!
Every now and then we all need a reminder to step back, evaluate our process, and be proud of what we’ve achieved – making it a workplace practice to show your work is a simple yet effective way to acknowledge and celebrate all kinds of accomplishments.
By Jessica Miller
Jessica Miller is an Australian writer currently based in Berlin.