There is a very clear focus in my writing on trying to analyze, detail and document what I think goes into making great ideas, great creative and great creative teams. In looking back at what I have written I did see that I have neglected what is probably the most important part of have great ideas, running a successful creative group and keeping great talent – respect.
Wikipedia defines it as esteem for, or a sense of the worth or excellence of, a person, a personal quality, ability, or a manifestation of a personal quality or ability. That is a great textbook definition but what does it really mean in real life? For me it means that if you work with me you not only say what you mean but then you follow through on it. It’s that action that is critical for me because lack of follow through, lack of inclusion or just flat-out ignoring what I am trying to contribute shows me huge lack or respect to my work and my talent. I have gravitated towards that attitude because for me actions are clear and generally free of the partial truth and spin that can color what people say.
When it comes to leading a group of creatives the problem is that respect is probably the most important thing you and your team need to have success but it also the hardest to control and develop. It is a multi-dimensional problem as it exists and is needed in several places throughout your process and an idea life cycle.
Respect thy fellow designer
I have written a lot about how I think that techniques like constant failure and even fighting can be used as essential parts of creating great ideas and running a successful creative group. The asterisk that should have appeared at the end of those statements is that those two techniques are only possible if the group has enough respect for each other that they are able to make those exercises work. If you don’t have that respect, then those exercises won’t work because you don’t respect the talent of the designer next to you enough that you think they can come up with the right or better solution.
Leadership is more than a job title
During my career I have found that the two most common reasons why creative people change jobs are for money or because they feel like their talent or work is no longer respected. I have sadly seen a lot of designers who leave only for money rarely find success or long life in their new role. I think this is because they are usually blinded by that one dimension of the new position and aren’t taking the time to look at the whole picture to be sure it is the best fit for them. The issue of feeling like your work or contribution isn’t respected can come either as one big gesture here you see it quickly and clearly or it can come in a long series of small gestures that slowly add up over time but in either case it comes to the same end.
Even if you have the greatest idea…
Probably the biggest and most important area you must have respect to be successful is with your clients. It isn’t hard to get a read on your client to know if it is going to be a relationship where they value your opinion or if they are going to just treat you like a commodity who needs to do what they say. I think this is the most important aspect of respect in the creative process because you could have he best idea in the world that would totally change your client’s business but if they don’t respect and trust you enough to listen to it and then go through with it won’t go anywhere.
So knowing where the problems come from only lets you know where to watch to see if you or your team is at risk but what should do to make sure you don’t have these problems? I try to do the following…
Talk and walk your talk
I have always believed that the biggest thing you must have people respect you is to always be honest people, tell them what you think and then actually do what you say. The biggest mistake I encountered time and time again in my career are boss’s who say what you want to hear and then they never follow through with it. As I said before people will judge you by your actions and showing them lack of respect can could be a small thing like a comment on a piece of creative all the way up to much larger things like no doing what you said when it comes to your career.
Respect yourself and your creativity
I think this goes hand in hand with that I had to say above because you have to respect yourself and your creativity enough to have the confidence to tell people the truth and to stick to what you say. If you don’t believe in yourself and your opinions then you tend to want to take the easy road and tell people what they want to hear. This is really the only part of all of this that you can have a real and immediate effect but your team can and will pick up on it and it will effect all aspects of their confidence, focus and their willingness to go that extra mile for you.
I am sure this is a subject I will revisit in the coming months as I give it more thought and concentrate on other ways you can increase it in your creative group. If you have any good techniques feel free to post them in the comments.