Since founding Rosie Lee in early 2000(ish), I’ve seen the agency grow from a two-man team to an internationally connected agency with a team of over 30 people in 4 offices. However, to place this in perspective, the 15 years spent building Rosie Lee have been only a small part of my whole time spent in the industry. And on this journey, from graduating to being a Barman to Designer to Senior Creative to starting a company and lastly to Group Creative Director (Chief Creative Officer), I have learned that most of the skills needed to grow and succeed in more senior roles cannot be found only within yourself.
The first thing is knowing where to look in order to develop the skills needed to advance your creative career. Beyond relying on your own skills, potential avenues for development can be found on the job by learning from experiences or mentored by your senior team, and even from the freelancers who pop in and out of the studios. A lot of these skills learned can be key to making you a better ‘creative manager’ and your team better at:
- Problem solving
- Playing to team dynamics
- Understanding and learning from client company structures
- Learning how to give good feedback (another skill that can be learned
from good clients)
- Knowing how to recognise a good idea and run with it (even though they may not be your own)
The shift from Designer to Senior or a Creative Director is also a shift in consciousness because it’s no longer all about you. Moving up the ranks means that you transition from the person who is doing the work, to the person responsible for inspiring, mentoring and overseeing the work of others.
So beyond these ‘skills’, you’ll need to take a step back and develop your management style. Do you lead from the front or the back? Are you a lone wolf or a ‘hands on’ team player? It is important to understand what style you ‘lean to’ naturally, but also be aware that your management style will have to adapt to the needs of your team and your clients. The more cunning and business-savvy senses like knowing how to negotiate, compromise and take risks will help you negotiate proposals; whilst being able to consciously slide into a more supportive role will help you encourage, grow and motivate your team.
Overall I’ve felt that this transition can feel humbling and almost parental at times as you take on more responsibility by putting others before yourself. I.e. getting the team started on their tasks, viewing work, and giving directions before you start on your own. Another key lesson for any good manager is learning how to let go of your ego by hiring and delegating to those who may do the task even better than you!
Regardless of whether you are rising through the ranks of a studio or trying to start out on your own, developing these skills, in addition to an interest in budgeting and time management, will help you in the transition.
As an aside, if you need more support there are many tools to help you structure and manage your work and team, currently we use Google Drive (but remember Google Drive doesn’t work in China!) and Trello.
And remember, it doesn’t matter how experienced you are, there’s always something new to learn and people to learn from.