Running a creative department involves a certain degree of power.
And, as Spiderman’s uncle, not to mention some bloke called Voltaire, warned: ‘with great power comes great responsibility’.
Well every now and then we creative directors have been known not to live up to that responsibility 100%.
And that doesn't exactly endear us to our staff.
I’ve spent some time asking the creative community what behaviours leave them less than enamoured of the guy in the corner office.
These are my findings:
Want to de-motivate, upset and annoy your teams? Read on...
1. On starting a new job fire half your department then restock with your own cronies.
No one would argue hacking away dead wood is wrong. However there are invariably talented people in every creative department who simply haven’t been given the inspired leadership and encouragement they need to flourish.
Existing staff need at least to be given a chance to show what they’re capable of under someone who might actually make them shine.
There’s another behaviour related to this which is equally offensive:
Hire a new 'star team', telling your existing staff it was something you had to do because they 'just aren’t producing the goods'.
2. Form cliques.
Giving the good briefs to your mates will direct your department’s ire not only on you, but on your, soon to be unpopular chums too.
3. Don’t pay what people are worth.
Good creatives will always be able to get a job elsewhere. The reason they’re with you is because they choose to be.
They’ll be understanding to an extent regarding things like the economic climate and account losses. But in the long term, if they don’t feel satisfied where they are they won’t stick around.
4. Allow late night and weekend work to go un-thanked.
Showing gratitude is not showing weakness.
A little recognition is the least people deserve for working above and beyond the call of duty.
If your attitude to your people is: “You’re lucky to be here. If you don’t like the way we treat people here you can sod off.” Hey, guess what? At the first opportunity, they will.
Treat them like you’re the lucky one and you’ve got a better chance of them staying.
5. Don’t fight their corner.
Creative directors have to be advocates for their teams. We have to go into battle for them, whether it’s forcing through their ads or forcing through their pay rise.
Having someone’s best interests at heart goes both ways. Don’t expect it from your creatives if they can’t expect it from you.
6. Give feedback via a third party.
Astonishingly, some creative directors apparently review work by getting a traffic man to collate work from teams allowing them to select work from the comfort of their own office.
This is lazy.
And worse, doesn’t allow the teams to learn from their mistakes.
Explaining why something isn’t right may not be easy. But it’s a massive part of the job.
7. Only expend your energy on ‘potentially award winning’ briefs.
A guaranteed way to disenfranchise a wide cross-section of your agency’s staff.
Bad for the agency. Worse for its clients.
And the truth is, you never actually know where the next award winner is coming from.
If you give each brief the same attention, you give yourself more chances of producing great work.
8. Ask more of them than you are prepared to give yourself.
If you’re not prepared to work late nights, through lunch, or over weekends or holidays don’t expect your staff to.
9. Take the best briefs for yourself.
This would appear to be the most heinous of crimes. And the worst possible reason for wanting the top job. If you haven’t got making your own ads out of your system it's better not to take it.
And the excuse that you're the only one in the agency who could possibly crack a particular brief is no excuse. If you can’t get award winning work out of your department it’s your fault, not theirs.
(NB: This behaviour was mentioned well before news of my impending departure from RKCR had broken, so I’m presuming it wasn’t a personal swipe at me...)
There are a various reasons a creative director might up and leave their department: To go to another agency, because they were fired, to leave the business altogether (to retire or become a director), or to start their own business.
Of these, the first could leave a department feeling resentment toward their boss: “You chose them over me?!”
The second could leave them feeling anger toward the agency.
The last two might elicit sadness, but hopefully not full-on loathing. It’s hard to be angry when someone wants to make a life-choice. That’s just, well, life.
And, that a creative department feels upset when their boss leaves them has to be a good sign.
If they’re all out celebrating your departure you may need to ask yourself a few serious questions.
So, that's 10 less-than-lovely behaviours.
I'd like to think that's the lot. But I suspect there may be many more.