Here are four attitudes I suggest a good creative professional needs to balance
- Do what you say you would do – No need for the excuses and blaming.
- Take responsibility – For failures and for your share of success.
- Take the initiative – Suggest what could be better but don’t seek your own way at all costs.
- Know your place – Remember you’re in a team – sometimes there are bigger things at stake than just your viewpoint.
Do what you say you would do
If you say you’ll do something – do it. I’ve seen many creative professionals think it’s ok to keep saying, “oh well, I couldn’t do it as agreed because of [insert excuse here]”. Ultimately, if you’ve not done what you promised, the likelihood is you’re doing one of the following: not taking the initiative or not taking responsibility. Do what you need to do to get the job done as agreed – be a professional.
If you’re working on something, take responsibility for it. After all, it actually is your responsibility once it is in your hands. It’s often unprofessional to point fingers at other people and say “he didn’t”, “she didn’t”, etc. Find out what you need to know, get what you require to do the job, and take responsibility. A true professional takes full responsibility – becoming a ‘safe pair of hands’. Those who hire individuals, who act like this, will think you’re great!
Take the initiative
When given a brief, I suggest that as a designer, it’s your role (other roles could be inserted here) to really think through what you’ve been given and to suggest alternatives or improvements where possible but keep your ego in check. It’s your job, as a person in possession of an inquisitive mind, to question a brief and/or decisions made, to improve the end result whilst taking any criticism or push back positively. More often than not there are bigger reasons behind decisions that are being made which cannot always be conveyed or explained due to time restraints or other reasons. If you feel really passionate about something, there is nothing wrong with asking for more information to understand further, just keep it balanced – be a professional.
Know your place
It’s important to push the boundaries but push in a way to expound thinking or practice for the better, rather than push for your ego’s sake. Question yourself in these moments – “is this my ego or a correct passion for the job?”. Ultimately some of the best work comes from fantastic teams – teams that work well together and that is something great to strive for. If you’re (metaphorically) shouting, for your voice to be heard, maybe you should consider the team for a moment. What do ‘we’ need rather than what can ‘I’ get? Play a productive role and choose your battles – be professional. I have found that noting questions during a briefing and raising them at the end, when full understanding has been gained, can be a good strategy.
Be a professional, show that you can get your jobs done consistently well without whining or feeling your whole life’s outlook has been compromised. Paradoxically, you will then likely find that your voice or your opinion is being heard much more clearly and easily.
The future for us
My experience of the environment suffocating me or my voice not being heard has often resulted in me realising – some times much later – it wasn’t my surroundings or other people that were the problem but me that had the issues.
With a good balance of the above attitudes I have found that the skills of patience, hearing and listening are increased. This means that understanding as a by-product is increased, which in turn increases your ability to deliver better solutions to design problems. There is also going to be a knock on team benefit.
Let me conclude with a much overused quote from the words of Mahatma Gandhi: “…be the change you want to see in the world.” – Be a pro, not an average Joe. (cringe?!)