The Secret to a Productive, Harmonious Team: Cocreation

Not too long ago I invited Robert Richman, the former cultural strategist at Zappos, to speak at one of my Pinnacle Global Network events. He used the phrase cocreating when referring to how a leader collaborates with his or her team to work through issues and come up with solutions together.

cocreate to achieve a productive business team


“Top down leadership” does not work when you are scaling your business. Barking out orders and telling people exactly how to do their jobs is controlling, condescending, and un-empowering. “Okay, Barry, you need to do A, B, and C. Heather, you need to do D, E, and F. I want it all on my desk first thing tomorrow morning!”

Does this sound at all familiar?

As described in earlier blog posts, you need to stay focused on your Big Picture Vision and your one “Super Power.” After that, the day-to-day problems are best left handled by your team. Even if you happen to know the answers to many of these issues, sometimes it’s best to hold back to see what the team can do. If you don’t, you are training a team of automatons to wait for you to constantly swoop in and save the day. In this type of culture, what do you think happens if a problem surfaces when you aren’t there? Disaster, that’s what—they won’t even know where to begin.

If your team is struggling to solve a problem, however, and they specifically ask for your support, this is the perfect opportunity to bring everyone together and search for solutions as a cohesive unit. When you are with the team in problem-solving mode, don’t act like you are the smartest guy in the room and have all the answers at your fingertips. Your team will think you are micromanaging and will wonder why so many people were even needed if you are the wise sage parachuting down from the mountains. They’ll feel as if their time has been wasted.

Besides, your answer might not be the only answer—or even the best one. This is when you need to step back and let others lead the meeting and volunteer to offer solutions before you do. It can go a long way in earning trust if you happen to announce that a team member’s solution is better than your own.


This doesn’t mean individuals who couldn’t solve the problems on their own are “off the hook” for mistakes or can avoid doing tasks specified in their job descriptions. All team members must understand that they are accountable for their own responsibilities and for doing what they say they are going to do. Ownership is important and employees should try to problem-solve on their own first before asking for help from you or the entire team. No one likes or respects a loafer.

But everyone struggles on one occasion or another and lending a hand at the right time—whether it’s you or another team member—can give that extra little push needed to resolve a problem and achieve spectacular results.

This is what Robert Richman meant by cocreating. Employees need to feel like they’re part of both the creation and the solution. If you want to encourage your team to accomplish something, if you want them to be more passionate and loyal, sit down with them and ask them their opinions and their ideas on a regular basis. Really listen. Allow them to show you what they can do and give them room to own and execute it.

Then watch the magic unfold.

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