Your work reputation is in your hands

May 14, 2015

Picture this: an Art Director (or Studio Manager, or Account Manager) receives feedback from their client on a piece of artwork. The client wasn’t that impressed with the first concept and has asked for changes. The AD (SM, or AM) walks over to the designer responsible and:

#1)  slaps the concept on the desk, says, “This is s**t, you’ll need to do it again”; OR

#2)  pulls up a chair, points out the positive aspects to the design, then gently conveys the parts that need to be changed and why the revision has to be done.

Which style, do you think, will elicit the desired response? Unfortunately, both styles will be effective. Both will result in the concept being changed. #1 Style may even make the change happen faster!

We have to ask ourselves a couple of questions. What style would you most like to be remembered for? How would you like your team to feel when you are around (and not around)?

I have witnessed #1 Style in action between a loud and brash Senior Account Manager and her design studio. You could guarantee that her style would grab immediate attention, get a quick response and get results. In return, her team feared her, walked on egg shells around her, whispered behind her back, and wished that she would find a job in some other agency. Years later, when I think of that SAM, I first remember how she treated her team poorly before I recall the good work that she also did along the way.

Whether you are a General Manager, Art Director, Studio Manager or Account Manager, to get the best out of your team they need to want to work for you and with you. Adopting a “#2 Style” doesn’t always come naturally for some people, so here are some tips to help you out:

  • Be nice.
  • Smile.
  • Put the feelings of your team before your own.
  • Do to others what you would have them do to you”. An oldie, but a goodie.
  • Even when you have a bad day, don’t take it out on your team. It’s your choice how you respond to things that happen around you.
  • Request rather than demand.
  • If practical, ask, “When would you be able to get that back to me by?“. As well as encouraging accountability, that question will seem inclusive, fair and undemanding.
  • Take the time to get to know your team.
  • Socialise with your team. If there is a staff event on — be part of it.
  • Respect your colleagues for being the professionals that they are.
  • Ask what you can do to make their job easier.
  • Empathise — especially when you are making a tough ask.
  • Say, “Thank you”… a lot!
  • Tell your team members when they have done a good job. A “Well done,” (especially if said in front of other colleagues or management) can be a huge morale-booster.
  • Send out a company-wide thank you for successful projects that involve multiple team members. Acknowledge them by name and their specific contribution. Don’t forget the people who might usually be forgotten (e.g. the person in finance or dispatch).
  • Give your team a tangible “Thank you” or reward: chocolates, pizza, home baked cake, movie tickets… 

The process of being kind, supportive and encouraging will build up your reputation over time. Your team will begin to trust you, but you need to constantly work at it to prove your #2 Style is genuine. Harsh words can tear down — in seconds — the good work you’ve tried so hard to build. Once that’s done you have to go through a process to regain trust. A person who swings from kind to harsh and back again has the #1 Style we need to avoid.

Remember that your words, moods and attitudes will rub off on those around you. You can lift people up as easily and quickly as you can tear them down. Wouldn’t you rather be remembered as an all-round “nice” person and someone folks want to work with? I would!


This article first appeared on the Design Assembly website, 13 May 2015.





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