Six Small Things Every Creative Director Can Do To Gain Respect

Just by making a few small adjustments in your daily behavior, you can gain respect, admiration and inspire people to work harder for you. Follow these six principles and you’ll see your stock rise immediately.

1. Say hello. You would not believe how many creative directors walk around ignoring people. Some do it because they view themselves as royalty and don’t want to mingle with the commoners. But most do it because they are simply insecure. I’ve known many CD’s who never made eye contact or acknowledged your existence. It’s very dispiriting and belittling to a subordinate. If they only gave a friendly “hello” in the hallway or in the kitchen or wherever, on a consistent basis, they would change perceptions almost overnight.

2. Smile. A smile is incredibly powerful. It’s so powerful that the other person is literally compelled to smile back. Try it on the cashier at the supermarket or the highway toll collector or the TSA guy at the airport. People feel an instant connection with you. Around the office it works like magic.

3. Be interested. There are moments throughout every day when you, as a creative director, come into contact with a subordinate creative. It might be in the elevator or at the coffee machine or wherever. These are opportune moments to start a conversation. All you need to do is ask them about their project or their weekend or anything. Nothing serious, just small talk. Your interest in their life shows you care (even if you don’t, but you really should). It will release tension and reduce awkwardness. For both of you.

4. Be grateful. A simple thank you and warm hand shake after someone has worked hard for you goes a long way. When you’re appreciative, the long hours they put in feel worth it. Especially when you thank each person individually, not just as a group. Perhaps even bring beers or treats or whatever as a token of gratitude. You’ll be amazed how effective this can be.

5. Learn names. This is a difficult one, especially in larger creative departments. But even if you can’t remember a name, be honest and just tell that person that you forgot, then ask them for their name again. It’s a deeply personal gesture and they will be charmed.

6. Be kind. If a creative person is presenting to you and you really don’t like a particular idea, be honest. But be kind. Say, “I’m not loving it, but let’s move on and come back to it.” Or say, “I’m not sure I totally get it, but explain to me it again. Perhaps it’s going over my head.” Or even, “I’m not crazy about it, but you seem passionate about it, so tighten it up and bring it back later.” Don’t be wooden and emotionless. Nothing ruins the mood like a blank stare and complete silence.

Many CD’s believe they need to keep their distance from people or be drill sergeants in an effort to “toughen up” their creative department. They don't care if they're liked. Unfortunately, these are missed opportunities. Being liked has many benefits. 

Treating people as valued members of the team, not as cogs in the machine, breeds love and admiration. And remember, there are plenty of talented CD’s in the world that are just as good or better than you—who aren’t jerks. Be a leader who inspires, not a manager with a cold shoulder. You can still push people hard and have a high standard, just do it nicely and you will leave a lasting impact.