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Managing and Leading Creative Teams

Madison, NJ
On January 28 2014 Andy Brenits, InSource President, gave a webinar hosted by HOW on managing and leading creative teams. Attended by nearly 80 creative managers the presentation provided management theories and best practices. Below is a post leading up to the webinar and the presentation. You must be logged in to access the downloadable presentation: Click here for a PDF of the presentation. Editors note: Due to the positive response by attendees the webinar will be run again, and host live, in the very near future.  4 Tips for Managing and Leading Creative Teams I’ve had all kinds of bosses during the last twenty years. Some were great, while others…not so much. As my career progressed and I decided that I wanted to get into management, I naturally thought to myself “When I get there, I’m going to do it better.” Sound familiar? We all think we can do it better if given the chance, but unless you are one of those exceptionally naturally talented born-leaders you’re going to make the same mistakes as your predecessors did. Managing and leading is difficult enough, but managing and leading creative teams is even more challenging. I decided early on in my career that I wanted to learn as much as I could about managing and leading people, because I knew I was going to be in the position to lead people and manage a business. In fact, I was doing it already as the head of my own studio but I also knew that going back in-house was in my future. In this post, I want to share 4 things with you that I have learned along the way, to keep in mind as you manage and lead your own teams. 1. Don’t be a “Boss”. People don’t like to be bossed around or told what to do, and in my experience that goes double for creative professionals. Instead, act like a coach and make suggestions that help your team improve performance or work through the creative challenge. Creative people love challenges and are goal oriented, so coach them through solving those creative challenges with their creativity and determination and give them the guidance they need rather than orders to follow. 2. Development opportunities come in many forms. Ongoing development is another coaching trait that you don’t want to overlook when managing creative teams. It’s important to recognize however the difference between training, and learning. Training is a structured process like a webinar, course, or class where someone is taught specific skills to do a job. Learning, while also being an outcome of training, is something someone can achieve while doing something new. Consider challenging your team members to learn something new by giving them a task they have never done before like doing presenting to concepts to corporate officers, or working on a type of project they’ve never worked on before. 3. Managing and leading are two different things. One of my favorite quotes about leading versus managing comes from Stephen R. Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: “Management is efficiency in climbing the ladder of success; leadership determines whether the ladder is leaning against the right wall.” An effective manager has a technical understanding of the job that needs to be done, and is effective at motivating and utilizing the resources available to them. Strong leaders can articulate vision to an audience, regularly involve people in making decisions, provide regular feedback and coaching, and act as a role model. In other words, good management is about maintaining order and consistency to quality while leadership is about coping with change and the process of motivating others to work toward specific objectives. Leading is future and people oriented. It is creative rather than reactive. The more time we spend leading, the less time we need to spend managing. 4. Trust. If you Google “leadership and trust” you’ll find much has been written about how great leaders share the trait of being highly trusted. Leaders who inspire trust have better morale, loyalty, and innovation from their teams while mistrust fosters frustration, low productivity, and high turnover and attrition. You hired your creative team members because they are talented. Let them do their job. I attribute a great deal of my own success as a creative business leader to how much trust I give my team to do what they are good at and in return, I have earned their trust as their leader. If you like what you’ve read here, join me for my upcoming webinar on January 28th from 1-2pm ET. I’ll will share techniques and skills I’ve personally used to build creative teams, manage resources, and lead people. You’ll leave this webinar with some practical tools to enhance your creative skills with those needed to manage, and lead your in-house creative team and bring added value to your corporate culture. BONUS – You can sign up here and use this coupon code (MDSFB15) to save 15% off the registration fee.
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Panel Event on The In-House / Outside Agency Relationship

New Yorkl, NY
Mutual respect is the key in making the in-house/outside agency relationship work. Using metrics as a tool for business conversations, strategic thinking can come from both the in-house creative team and the outside agency. Both teams share a common goal: to do great work for one’s company/client. Yet, the relationship-building process can be challenging and complex at times. InSource assembled a panel of eight distinguished thought leaders to discuss their experiences and insights on best practices for managing the in-house/outside agency relationship. This panel discussion was held on November 14, 2013, in New York City. Facilitated by Andy Brenits, President of InSource and Creative Services Leader at APS, this panel discussion featured Gail Bichler (Art Director, New York Times Magazine), Ken Carbone (Founding Partner & Chief Creative Director, CSA Carbone Smolan Agency), Andy Epstein (Team Lead, The BOSS Group at Merck), Hilary Greenbaum (Director of Graphic Design, Whitney Museum of American Art), Randy Hunt (Creative Director, Etsy), Michael Lee (Forbes Contributor on the marketing environment and founder of Madam), Gael Towey (Creative Director, Gael Towey & Co.; formerly of Martha Stewart Living), and Thomas Wright (Director of Advertising and Design, Neenah Paper). Special Thanks to Our Global Partners and Supporters Special Thanks to Our Global Partners, Event Sponsors, and Supporters InSource extends its heartfelt appreciation to Neenah Paper for serving as the Signature Sponsor for The In-House/Outside Agency Relationship Panel Discussion! Check out Neenah Cabinet™, a free app, at www.neenahcabinet.com today. We thank Adobe, Brilliant Graphics, Function Fox, GDUSA, HOW, Mohawk, and Shutterstock as well as Appleton Coated Utopia, our event photographer Mark Jordan, and Rubenstein Technology Group  for their generous donation of sponsorships, materials, and services to support the work of InSource!
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Design Career Path: NY

New York, New York
Finding practical ways to help creative professionals in their career development  is one of the many compelling interests of managers of in-house creative teams, particularly during these challenging economic times. A group of 30 people in the InSource community came together to share their insights on the topic of The Design Career Path: Career Development for In-House Creatives and Managers, an InSource Roundtable Event held in New York City on November 4, 2011. InSource provides the following takeaway messages from these discussions in hopes that participants will find inspiration to move forward in applying best practices in the workplace. Ideas to Promote Career Development > Providing opportunities for learning or training builds confidence and identifies competencies for both the inexperienced and experienced designer. Examples include teaching software skills to others; coaching junior designers on print production by taking them on press checks; and providing individualized coaching and mentoring. > Assign “guru” area/tasks for each member of your creative team. > When limited career advancement opportunities exist within your company, help employees grow in place, which helps them to acquire skills and experience to advance their careers outside your company. > Advancement alternatives can be explored, including pursuing executive training on the business side of design management in academic programs, working on pro bono projects for your company, volunteering for leadership opportunities in the design community, and becoming a teacher of design. In-House Areas for Advancement for Managers > Identify specific functions in your workplace and how expansion in any of these areas can strategically lead to career advances: print shop brand management events audiovisual, web, digital products manage staff in multiple locations budget management > Start by thinking about what additional areas you would like to manage. For example, does your in-house photographer work without the benefit of art direction? Can functions currently outsourced be reeled in for in-house work performance and/or oversight based on making a case to show both quality improvement and cost savings? > Be aware that taking on additional responsibilities does not necessarily lead to career advances. Develop an integrated strategy that showcases your value to others in business terms such as return on investment, value-added productivity, and how to move the company forward. > Take the initiative to bridge the gap with others relating to workload/workflow issues with such messages as “we can help you” and “involve us earlier” and “we can do more than make it pretty.” > Avoid the trap of focusing on “doing things cheaper”—others will focus on “cheap” and dismiss the value of design. > Suggestion was made to study your company’s organizational chart to understand key players and how your creative team fits in the organization. Then consider identifying specific skill sets (not people) that exist and how they fit into the overall productivity of the organization. Adopt a mindset that goes beyond being production-oriented by creating output to becoming involved in offering  distribution solutions. > Find out what are the specific goals of your boss. Know and understand the goals of your boss. Focus on “how can I and our creative team help advance these goals?” > Reach out to other groups in the organization and ask, “How can I be a resource to you?” Adopt a mindset of “do first, get rewarded later.” Areas for Development for Your Staff > Expanding the number of departments at your firm that want to work with your in-house creative team allows your team new areas of responsibility and opportunity, which, in turn, furthers their career path. > Examples of specific actions to take are learning additional software to take on web and intranet projects; improving knowledge of Adobe Creative Suite by attending offsite classes; and improving knowledge of print production by attending press checks and paper shows. > Elevate yourself by building the skill sets of those you manage. > Ask your staff, “Where do you want to grow?” Listen to them and figure out how training or self-training interests can be addressed. > Train your staff on how to effectively present their work, as well as develop their selling skills. Bring staff along to internal business meetings for exposure to the language/interactions with other decision makers in the company. > Share department goals, strategies, and budgets with the entire creative team up front so your team understands they are part of something bigger than only their immediate workload. During formal goal-setting sessions, draw a direct line from a person’s goals to the goals of the person’s boss/company. > Involve staff in the process of defining expectations versus exceeding expectations. > Build your own culture with your creative team. What’s really important is what happens between the manager and each member of the creative team. Above all, people want to be treated well. Gestures such as expressing appreciation/encouraging healthy competition with gift cards or other personal rewards can help build morale, as well as developing a department“brag book” for collecting positive feedback from others or documentation of appreciated work. Memorable Career Advice Given to NY Roundtable Participants “You are the heat for your team – Not only should you take the heat for the whole group, you also help fan the fire that keeps them going and dish out the heat to fight like hell on their behalf.” “Do what you love and the money will follow.” “Slow and steady wins every time.” “Document everything.” “Follow your dreams.” “Listen more than you talk.” “I’m here for you. It’s my job to put my pencil down to help you.” [From a boss when interrupted by an employee with a question“ Always market and promote yourself as much as you promote your clients.” “Do what you love—design.” “Just try it.” “Make the best of what you have.” “Have an upbeat attitude no matter how exhausted you are.” “Stop being a perfectionist; it’s okay to make mistakes and learn from them.” “Follow your gut.” “Believe in yourself.” “Always think about what to do next.” “Never let them see you sweat.” “Have a secretary, don’t be one.” “Do your best.” “Try something new every day.” “Improve your selling and communications skills.” “Put yourself behind everything.” “Give good projects to work on to those you manage.” “Try to make the world a better looking place.” “Go beyond boredom.” “Rushing never saves time.” “Own up to your mistakes and offer solutions to fix them.” “If you can’t add value, you’re wasting your time.” “Fight for what you believe in.” Special thanks to Robert Half International/The Creative Group for providing superb accommodations for this event (creativegroup.com), as well as Adobe (adobe.com), Neenah Paper (neenahpaper.com), Brilliant Graphics (brilliant-graphics.com), Center for Creative Leadership (ccl.com), and  David Baker (recourses.com) for their generous donation of sponsorships, materials, and services to support the work of InSource!
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An Evening with Paula Scher

An Evening With Paula Scher

New York, NY
“The in-house art director is the out-of-house person’s best friend,” declared Paula Scher, setting the tone for a stimulating conversation with a large group of in-house creative team managers who gathered for “An Evening with Paula Scher” held on October 23, 2012, at the School of Visual Arts Beatrice Theatre in New York City. With opening remarks by InSource President Andy Brenits, this InSource event brought together leaders of creative teams to share their perspectives on the relationships between in-house and outside design professionals. Some feedback from participants of this InSource event included: “At last, events like this for people like me—I’m coming back for the next one!” “I thought the event was very well done, from the cocktail reception to the program. Paula was great!” “Paula was very accessible. It felt like she would have sat on the stage all night and fielded questions.” “The event was great, and the format was unique—the in-house angle was original.” “I was so impressed by the quality of people who attended this event; such a great networking opportunity!” Special thanks to our Global Partners, Event Sponsors and Supporters for this event: Special thanks to Paula Scher for her insights and interest in InSource. Many thanks also to Brilliant Graphics, FunctionFox, GDUSA, MICA Consulting Group, Mohawk, Neenah Paper, Adobe, Aldine, HOW, Lisa Tanner, Rubenstein Technology Group, Utopia, and Reich Paper for their generous donation of sponsorships, materials, and services to support the work of InSource, as well as GO Catering, Inc. Keep the Conversation Going! Discuss this event and connect with your creative peers from around the globe by joining InSource’s LinkedIn group. And if you couldn’t make this event, don’t worry: InSource has just announced several more events planned in 2013! Gallery of Event Photos: (click on each photo to see a larger version)
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