By James Griffith
Let’s talk relationships. Relationships among colleagues, teams, and even businesses. How many times have we talked about the co-existence of Art and Copy, Account and Creative, the Client and the Agency?
I was talking with a small group at an awards dinner recently and one of the participants in our conversation was an account executive. He mentioned an art director and copywriter who he works with—and kept referring to them as “my art director,” “my copywriter,” “my team,” and even further, “my account” and “my client.” He never used the words “our,” “us,” and “we.”
My ride home that night was spent thinking about team dynamics and client relationships. A lot of agencies are driven by account management. Seems logical. The same can be said for those who run their business primarily through the creative lens. Choosing one discipline or perspective as an identity can be done—but it must be executed without creating an “us” and “them” mentality between account and creative. We’ve seen it done successfully, and we’ve seen it fail miserably. The main factors in either situation are trust and respect. You have them, or you don’t. There’s no gray area.
Close business friends
Some of my fondest memories include working on teams in which my colleagues and I weren’t only business partners—we were close friends. A big part of our success was that we always saw ourselves as a unit, like any elite team should. Our core team was made up of a copywriter, an account executive and me. We operated like a small agency within an agency. Regardless of whether or not we agreed on something, trust and respect were the main ingredients we brought to any debate. We built successful campaigns and programs from the ground up, and we owned the client relationship together.
When you look at any elite team, each member has equal ownership in the mission. Everyone is a specialist, bringing his or her unique set of skills and talents to accomplishing the same goal. The fabric that holds these pieces together is made of trust and respect. Teams don’t just happen. They are built and nurtured like any good relationship. You owe it to your agency and your clients, so make the most of working side by side.
Here are some easy things to remember when looking to strengthen your team and working relationships.
• Team building exercises work. Team building can be as simple as lunch or dinner together. Build something. Spend time doing something together that requires trust and honest communication.
• More face time. Spend less time sending e-mails and IMs. It’s easy to misinterpret tone as dismissive or rude when you’re not speaking face to face. We’re talking about creativity here. Articulation and interpretation are everything.
• Better relationships = more productivity = better work. Elite teams are more successful. Period. When respect and trust are present, each member of the team can focus on his or her role in the mission.
James Griffith is the creative director at Cadient Group. With over 25 years of consumer and pharmaceutical advertising experience, James leads the creative department as a champion of creative ideas.
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