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HOW TO BE A
CREATIVE
DIRECTOR
WITHOUT
SUCKING AT IT.
© Rodd Chant 2019
Having risen up the unsteady creative ladder
of leadership I am often asked for advice on
what to do once you go from being one of the
many in the creative department to the one
sitting in the decision making chair. I've been
an ECD three times and of course a CD before
that so I have some advice I can share from
my experiences, some learned the hard way.
So without further ado here are my top
pieces of advice on how to be a
Creative Director without sucking at it.
Rodd Chant
@roddchant
@chantcreative
@nothinglikeacreativeschool
© Rodd Chant 2019
Direct The Work, Don't Do The
Work. It's no longer about
your ideas now, it's about the
ideas coming out of your staff.
It's your job to guide them,
help them, and direct them in a
way that elevates the work
without you injecting your own
ideas. There will come times
you will have to jump in and
develop ideas but that is not
your main job now.
1.
© Rodd Chant 2019
2. Make Sure The Briefs Are
Good. Be a creative brief
gatekeeper. You need to be all
over the briefs, pull them apart,
dissect them, and also ensure you
can come up with some initial fast
ideas yourself based on the
information provided as a litmus
test. Only when you are
completely satisfied should you
have your staff tackle them.
© Rodd Chant 2019
3. You're More Than A Creative
Director. Yes, job number one is to
be the creative leader but
humans, no matter what job they
do, are not one dimensional. You
are now also a coach, a voice of
reason, a manager, at times a bit
of a counsellor, a career advisor,
and an open set of ears to hear all
grievances and complaints.
If you're not willing to take on all
those responsibilities please don't
do the job.
© Rodd Chant 2019
4. You Will Make Bad Calls.
You're not perfect, so yes you will
screw up, it's the nature of the
beast. You may approve a piece
of work that fails badly, own it
and never, and I mean NEVER,
throw the creators of the work
under a bus, you made the call,
you approved it, use those series
of bones running down your back
and take ownership of the
mistake - that's what separates
leaders from wannabe leaders.
© Rodd Chant 2019
5. Lead By Example. Show your
staff you're still one of them.
Maybe there is too much work on,
take on the least exciting project -
even if it is a flyer that will sit on a
counter at a supermarket.
Show them you can still roll your
sleeves up and help out.
You're not above any project,
nobody is. Lead the way.
© Rodd Chant 2019
6. Have Some Guts. No guts, no
glory in the creative work. If you
want the work and your agency
to stand out you will at times need
work that is truly different and
that will, more often than not,
require you to go to battle and
champion those ideas that make
your agency management and
clients nervous. As the old saying
goes - Fortune favors the brave.
So, be brave.
© Rodd Chant 2019
7. Make Decisions. Don't 'umm'
and 'ahh' and never flip-flop.
Don't vacillate endlessly and keep
asking for more and more ideas
simply because you can't make a
decision...you're in the big chair
now...make the damn decisions.
Do the job. You wanted the job,
now do it.
© Rodd Chant 2019
8. Talk To Your Staff, Not At
Them. Conversations work much
better than barking orders.
And also make sure you're
listening to them, always
listening. Remember, most
dictators come to horrible ends.
© Rodd Chant 2019
9. Be Firm, But Fair. You wont get
anywhere if you are a push over
and can be walked over by your
staff. You'll need to be tough at
times, you'll need to make some
tough calls, and yes you will have
to fire people. Remember the
position you have but never
forget you're human, as are the
people you are leading.
© Rodd Chant 2019
10. Don't Have Desk Jockeys.
Give your staff some freedom to
think anywhere they find
inspiration. If you are worried that
they are not working and just
wasting time somewhere then that
will be evident in the work they
show you, as in they haven't done
anything...if that's the case find
staff who won't take advantage of
the freedom. But in my experience
this doesn't happen, true creative
professionals will respect the trust
and freedom. © Rodd Chant 2019
11. Hire People More Talented Than
You. Scared? Worried they could
take your job? If you feel insecure
about your own achievements and
abilities then you're not cut out for
this job. Always hire the best, it's
your job to do that for the agency
and the clients.
© Rodd Chant 2019
12. Credit Where Credit's Due.
When someone comes up with a
great idea make sure everyone
knows about it, from the top of the
agency down. It can be tough to
come up with great ideas so when
someone does they should be
acknowledged for it.
© Rodd Chant 2019
13. Meetings, You'll Be In So Many
Meetings. Now that you're in a
management role you'll be in a lot
of them. Do your best to minimize
the amount of time you waste in
them, you're better served being in
the trenches with your creative
staff than sitting in a boardroom
listening to the finance
director...yes, you need to
understand what is going on with
budgets and the like but make sure
you are focussed on running the
department. © Rodd Chant 2019
14. Make Sure It's Fun For
Everyone. The business is tough
enough without having to work in
a toxic and fear laden
environment. It's your job to make
sure that doesn't exist. Keep the
politics away from your staff,
ensure people are smiling even in
the face of adversity, show
everyone that you can have a good
laugh...even if it is at your own
expense. This is not rocket science
nor is it brain surgery, chill a little.
© Rodd Chant 2019
15. Don't Be A Dick.
You're not a rock star or a movie
star, there are no teenagers out
there with posters of you on their
walls. There are no people chasing
you down the street wanting your
autograph. Remember this,
always.
@roddchant
@chantcreative
@nothinglikeacreativeschool © Rodd Chant 2019

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HOW TO BE A CREATIVE DIRECTOR WITHOUT SUCKING AT IT.

  • 1. HOW TO BE A CREATIVE DIRECTOR WITHOUT SUCKING AT IT. © Rodd Chant 2019
  • 2. Having risen up the unsteady creative ladder of leadership I am often asked for advice on what to do once you go from being one of the many in the creative department to the one sitting in the decision making chair. I've been an ECD three times and of course a CD before that so I have some advice I can share from my experiences, some learned the hard way. So without further ado here are my top pieces of advice on how to be a Creative Director without sucking at it. Rodd Chant @roddchant @chantcreative @nothinglikeacreativeschool © Rodd Chant 2019
  • 3. Direct The Work, Don't Do The Work. It's no longer about your ideas now, it's about the ideas coming out of your staff. It's your job to guide them, help them, and direct them in a way that elevates the work without you injecting your own ideas. There will come times you will have to jump in and develop ideas but that is not your main job now. 1. © Rodd Chant 2019
  • 4. 2. Make Sure The Briefs Are Good. Be a creative brief gatekeeper. You need to be all over the briefs, pull them apart, dissect them, and also ensure you can come up with some initial fast ideas yourself based on the information provided as a litmus test. Only when you are completely satisfied should you have your staff tackle them. © Rodd Chant 2019
  • 5. 3. You're More Than A Creative Director. Yes, job number one is to be the creative leader but humans, no matter what job they do, are not one dimensional. You are now also a coach, a voice of reason, a manager, at times a bit of a counsellor, a career advisor, and an open set of ears to hear all grievances and complaints. If you're not willing to take on all those responsibilities please don't do the job. © Rodd Chant 2019
  • 6. 4. You Will Make Bad Calls. You're not perfect, so yes you will screw up, it's the nature of the beast. You may approve a piece of work that fails badly, own it and never, and I mean NEVER, throw the creators of the work under a bus, you made the call, you approved it, use those series of bones running down your back and take ownership of the mistake - that's what separates leaders from wannabe leaders. © Rodd Chant 2019
  • 7. 5. Lead By Example. Show your staff you're still one of them. Maybe there is too much work on, take on the least exciting project - even if it is a flyer that will sit on a counter at a supermarket. Show them you can still roll your sleeves up and help out. You're not above any project, nobody is. Lead the way. © Rodd Chant 2019
  • 8. 6. Have Some Guts. No guts, no glory in the creative work. If you want the work and your agency to stand out you will at times need work that is truly different and that will, more often than not, require you to go to battle and champion those ideas that make your agency management and clients nervous. As the old saying goes - Fortune favors the brave. So, be brave. © Rodd Chant 2019
  • 9. 7. Make Decisions. Don't 'umm' and 'ahh' and never flip-flop. Don't vacillate endlessly and keep asking for more and more ideas simply because you can't make a decision...you're in the big chair now...make the damn decisions. Do the job. You wanted the job, now do it. © Rodd Chant 2019
  • 10. 8. Talk To Your Staff, Not At Them. Conversations work much better than barking orders. And also make sure you're listening to them, always listening. Remember, most dictators come to horrible ends. © Rodd Chant 2019
  • 11. 9. Be Firm, But Fair. You wont get anywhere if you are a push over and can be walked over by your staff. You'll need to be tough at times, you'll need to make some tough calls, and yes you will have to fire people. Remember the position you have but never forget you're human, as are the people you are leading. © Rodd Chant 2019
  • 12. 10. Don't Have Desk Jockeys. Give your staff some freedom to think anywhere they find inspiration. If you are worried that they are not working and just wasting time somewhere then that will be evident in the work they show you, as in they haven't done anything...if that's the case find staff who won't take advantage of the freedom. But in my experience this doesn't happen, true creative professionals will respect the trust and freedom. © Rodd Chant 2019
  • 13. 11. Hire People More Talented Than You. Scared? Worried they could take your job? If you feel insecure about your own achievements and abilities then you're not cut out for this job. Always hire the best, it's your job to do that for the agency and the clients. © Rodd Chant 2019
  • 14. 12. Credit Where Credit's Due. When someone comes up with a great idea make sure everyone knows about it, from the top of the agency down. It can be tough to come up with great ideas so when someone does they should be acknowledged for it. © Rodd Chant 2019
  • 15. 13. Meetings, You'll Be In So Many Meetings. Now that you're in a management role you'll be in a lot of them. Do your best to minimize the amount of time you waste in them, you're better served being in the trenches with your creative staff than sitting in a boardroom listening to the finance director...yes, you need to understand what is going on with budgets and the like but make sure you are focussed on running the department. © Rodd Chant 2019
  • 16. 14. Make Sure It's Fun For Everyone. The business is tough enough without having to work in a toxic and fear laden environment. It's your job to make sure that doesn't exist. Keep the politics away from your staff, ensure people are smiling even in the face of adversity, show everyone that you can have a good laugh...even if it is at your own expense. This is not rocket science nor is it brain surgery, chill a little. © Rodd Chant 2019
  • 17. 15. Don't Be A Dick. You're not a rock star or a movie star, there are no teenagers out there with posters of you on their walls. There are no people chasing you down the street wanting your autograph. Remember this, always. @roddchant @chantcreative @nothinglikeacreativeschool © Rodd Chant 2019