Stereotypes exist for a reason. Stereotypes also set us up for failure. It's our job to anticipate stereotypes and do all we can to un-stereotype the perception of our team.
I'm going to talk straight. Creatives have a reputation of being diva-like--refusing to do menial tasks and expecting clients to come to them. Now I know this isn't your team, but I want to speak to it anyway because, chances are, you have clients who assume the worst and are challenging to work with as a result.
These clients, and you, may not even be aware that they are assuming your team is a bunch of divas and divos. Assumptions often turn into self-fulfilling prophecies.
- Jennifer is a marketing strategist who thrives on collaboration and talking things through.
- Michael is an outstanding designer who'd rather design than sit in meetings.
- Jennifer assumes Michael thinks he's too good to meet with her.
- Michael doesn't think about Jennifer because he's focused on his work.
- Jennifer considers the designers to be a bunch of self-involved divas and gives them attitude.
- Michael is stunned by the her attitude, feels disrespected and no longer delivers his best.
The cycle continues...
Does this sound familiar? This whole scenario can be avoided by proactively disproving the assumption that Creatives are uppity. Yes, this is annoying. The fact is, it serves our best interest to take action to disprove something that may only be imagined.
The best action to take is to adopt an attitude of Being of Service, or BOS. This phrase can scare off some people, so I'll explain.
Being of Service does not mean giving in to bad ideas, doing someone else's job or never sharing your thoughts. It means communication, collaboration, transparency and mutual respect. It means doing the grunt work as well as the glamorous work, with equal attention and pride. It means meeting halfway, and sometimes more than halfway. It means putting away the iPhone when you're in a meeting, doing that one sheet with a smile and answering that email quickly. It means imagining what the client is going through on a daily basis; letting them know you understand their responsibilities and respecting what they need to accomplish.
I've just described the first type of BOS proactivity, which is to reach out and make the effort. The more kindness and partnership you throw at someone, the more their assumptions fade and they join your love festival.
The second kind of proactivity is to consistently respond with positive intent. Each time you respond to attitude with understanding, dare I say it--compassion, the closer you are to discovering true partnership. People respond to nice with nice if it keeps happening.
There's another aspect to consider: survival. First, there's client retention. If a client can go outside, what compels them to stay with you? The answer is excellent customer service, strong creative solutions and partnership. In other words, Being of Service. Second, when your team has a BOS reputation, your department won't be the first to go on the chopping block when those outsourcing questions arise. It's just smart to practice BOS.
Assumptions are like sugar cubes. They start out hard, but with warm attention they dissolve into sweetness that sustains us through good times and bad. The goal is to disprove the assumption to get to the point of no assumption, which will likely lead to respecting each other's expertise and collaboration in reaching shared goals.
Go get the bees with honey!
Cella Consultant Rena DeLevie's nickname is "COO of the Creative Process." She has 25 years in the creative industry; first as an art director for 8 years, then in Creative Operations for the past 17 years. Rena has, and continues to, provide business coaching and mentoring services throughout her career and has successfully taught creative executives how to partner within and across departments. She works with clients to define specific and actionable steps towards their goals and ensures they're in alignment with the Company mission. Her passion is to help companies and people succeed by listening, analyzing and proposing solutions. She values creativity and business equally.