Measuring Success As A Creative Founder

A Learning Recap As CEO of Team Elevate

Last night, as we huddled over a bottle of beer to end the semester with a nightcap, Asher, Nat and I started sharing our experiences as CEO Artboard, Hatch and Elevate respectively. It’s been a whirlwind of a journey guiding our teams forward and seeing each and everyone grow during the past 14 weeks. Seeing that growth and knowing that we had the opportunity of nurturing that was a different learning experience altogether. I told them both that this class didn’t just expand my skill set as a designer but allowed me to grow as a person.

At the very beginning, when we were forming teams I made a promise to myself to do whatever it takes to push our team to do the best. It became a coincidence that my teammates assigned me as their CEO later on. I was humbled by the gesture and from that day, things started to shift as I took on the leadership role. That added responsibility and pressure which tested my limits and challenged me from all directions. The promise I made to myself from the start which suddenly became my ultimate mission.

As a Creative Founder, these are the learning curves I experienced with my team’s journey all throughout the semester:

1. Encourage independent thinking but knowing when to make firm decisions.

Leading a group taught me how to encourage independent thinking, especially when it comes to discussions. Everyone’s input was important to the progress of the team and productive conversations were something that I upheld within the group.

By encouraging independent thinking, it allowed me to truly listen to everyone’s thoughts and opinions.

2. Trusting the team and letting them take initiative.

It was in the middle of the semester when I learned what trust meant within a team. In the beginning, I felt like a Mother Hen overlooking everyone’s tasks and shadowing them at every step. In truth, I lacked trust and felt like they might not meet the standards or expectations I set. But when the time came that I had to pull back and wasn’t constantly present due to personal matters changed everything. At that point I worried and constantly nagged my team if there was anything else I can do, telling them that I was reachable at any point if they needed me. The only response I got was that they have everything under control. True enough when I came back, I was entirely surprised at the amount of effort and progress they made without me and it felt great knowing that I wasn’t needed, that they can handle things by themselves. It was then that I saw what my team was truly capable of and I started to open up and trust them. I learned how to step back and let my team take initiative and let me tell you, it felt like a weight lifted off my shoulders knowing that I had a team that I can rely on.

By truly trusting my team, it allowed me to rely on them as well and opened my eyes to their own potential and skills.

3. Learning empathy and always driving back to user’s needs.

Throughout all our user research and interviews, the conversations we’ve had with people every week became my inspiration to see how others saw the world. It widened my perspective and I learned empathy through meeting others and learning about their experiences. My team and I went through a long journey of back and forth with our users’ needs but when we finally reached that point where we truly heard them, everything just fell into place and started making sense. Sometimes the things we’re looking for and the problem we’re trying to solve has always been in front of us, waiting to be seen and heard.

By hearing others’ story and experiences, it allowed me to grow with empathy.

4. Being intuitive of my team members.

One of the biggest thing that I learned was how to be intuitive of others. Working with the same team for 14 weeks allowed me to truly know them as a person and as a team member — the way the thought and work as well as their habits and antics. This meant that I had to learn how to make our team work in sync despite the differences in our personalities and work style. In that , task delegation was always a sensitive area as not everyone can do things equally despite how hard I tried to be fair with the amount of work each had. But despite that, I learned how to be appreciative of anything that each of my team did even the smallest of tasks that I asked them to do.

By being intuitive and knowing my team, I learned to value their efforts and contributions even more.

5. Letting go of expectations.

Creative Founder has taught me most importantly that the chips will fall wherever they may no matter how much planning and execution you do. There will always be pieces that will go beyond the borders of your expectations and that’s okay. Knowing when you did your best and that there’s nothing more you can do beyond what’s been done is more than enough. As human beings, there’s only so much that we can do.

By letting go of expectations and standards, I learned to be more positive and accepting of circumstances.

6. Challenging my team to their limits.

My team relied on me as I relied on them. To that end, one of the things that I learned was constantly being there for them when they needed me. However, that entailed pushing them to do their best even when they felt like giving up and encouraging them to keep moving forward. I always did my best to challenge their scope of skills and limit by encouraging them that they can do things they’ve never thought of doing. I pushed them out of their comfort zone but I was there behind them if they needed someone to fall back and let them know that they can do it.

By challenging my team, it allowed me to show them the support they need when I push them out of their comfort zone.

7. Taking one for the team.

We had our irresponsible moments, which Kate knows so well. Whenever this happened, I was always disappointed because I felt the burn more than my team did. I’ve always believed that a team is a reflection of its leadership. Even though the mistakes were not something I personally did, it was still my responsibility to keep everyone in check because we were a team after all. It was a hard pill to swallow because there were a lot of moments when my patience wore off and it felt like they had to be responsible with their own actions and that I shouldn’t always have to remind them when I had other things going on. But being a leader meant being accountable for others and that was something I learned and began to accept.

By taking one for the team, it allowed me to be more responsible and accountable for everyone’s mistake.

8. Tons and tons of patience.

No team was perfect, and there were a lot of times when my patience wore down. Having to explain repeatedly or wait for others during meetings can be a challenge especially when it's after a long day of class and more so during midterms and finals. But I learned that there’s nothing I can do but be patient. They won’t always figure out what I’m trying to say and there would always be times when they need to do other things (even though our meetings were always set on specific days).

By being more patient, it allowed me to be more understanding of other people’s circumstances.

9. Stepping out of my comfort zone.

Creative Founder wouldn’t be as intense if it weren’t for the weekly presentations and of course, the Pitch Day. Confidence and critical thinking were the two skills that sharpened with my experience in this class.

Standing in front of people to tell a meaningful story that you validated through findings is a journey in itself. I’ve always been a shy person and this class challenged me in that aspect and in every way imaginable. It wasn’t just the weekly presentations but it was also talking to people out in the world, doing interviews after interviews. At the end of the day, it always felt fulfilling.

By stepping out of my comfort zone, it allowed me to develop my confidence and critical thinking.

10. Letting my team grow.

I believe that all of these learning experiences contributed to the growth of myself and my team. By leading them, I ultimately saw how each of them changed from the start ’til the very end. Whether it may be having more initiative or becoming a better presenter or speaker, all these small things are big wins for me as CEO of my team. Seeing them develop their skills and motivation has been a great achievement.

By letting my team grow, it allowed me to see their small achievements which became big wins for me.

Ultimately, my success isn’t measured by how many people intended to fund us during Pitch Day, but by how much my team grew. As a leader, it’s the most fulfilling job out of everything I’ve done so far. All the late-night meetings, Friday night dinner breaks, Sunday fieldwork, and endless discussions, we developed stronger bonds. In the end, we weren’t just a team, we were a family.