You're Not Alone

By Jennie Moore Posted on Dec 11, 2017

One CD's Creative Leaders Retreat Perspective

The One Club For Creativity's Creative Leaders Retreat is an intense two-day experience taking place this February, and is designed to help creative directors of all levels find themselves in an ever-changing industry landscape.

But what wiould an attendee expect to get out of the event? Do you even belong there, or is it only for the "big shots"? Enter Jennie Moore, "a creative director you've never heard of" from WONGDOODY in Seattle. Jennie participated in the most recent Retreat, and came away with these poignant thoughts.

A funny thing happened at the One Club Creative Leaders Retreat.

I discovered I’m not alone. 

See, before the retreat, I’d started writing an article about the differences between being a senior creative and Creative Director. Stuff I wished someone had told me. Like most creatives, I’d aspired to be a CD, learned from mentors and jackasses alike, and assumed I’d know how to lead when the time came. Well, that time came … and I’m still figuring it out.

But here’s what the One Club Retreat taught me: We’re all still figuring it out. No matter how many years under your belt or letters in your title, we’re all dealing with similar challenges. Battling similar insecurities. Celebrating similar victories. 

So here are some thoughts on being a CD from a Creative Director you’ve never heard of, reinforced by the wisdom of some very big names you may have wistfully scrawled in your concepting notebooks.

Evaluating work is just a small part of your job.
I used to think CDing meant asking painfully smart questions, blessing ideas, killing others, and then jetting off to judge an awards show in Belize.

Sure, sometimes. Except the awards show will be in Omaha. And instead of just focusing on the work, your job now is to focus on the entire process, including strategy, business climate, client history, internal and external politics and the personal biases, hopes and fears of all involved. 

You’ll be privy to way more information.
You’ll sit in a lot more meetings. Strategy meetings, briefings, client calls, budget discussions. In super-technical parlance, you’ll become more business-y. Your left brain will need to engage like never before, which is uncomfortable for most creatives. But this knowledge is your secret weapon in understanding why decisions are made and guiding the work. David Angelo’s inspiring presentation about this made me want to simultaneously start my own agency and go skydiving. But since I only had 10 minutes until the next speaker, I just put whole milk in my coffee instead of nonfat. Baby steps.

You’ll gain more empathy for your clients.
You know that fear you have of doing mediocre work? Your client has that same fear of posting mediocre sales, getting a mediocre review, or feeling the wrath of their mediocre-ly performing franchisees. So put yourself in their shoes. Imagine it’s your money. When their problems are your problems, their success is yours, too. Being in it together is how great work happens.  

Your friendships with account and strategy folks are priceless.
The trust and alliances you build with other leaders in your agency make everything easier, more effective and more fun. As Glenn Cole touched on in his presentation on pitching, team chemistry is everything, both internally and in how clients perceive you. So bond with folks from other disciplines. They’ll keep you grounded and give you fresh perspective. Also, they’re way better at PowerPoint than you. 

You’re here to instill confidence.
You know the phrase “Cooler heads will prevail”? Well, that’s you now. Marty Senn and Ross Chowles both drove home ways that great leaders set their teams up for success, inspire them, and then block all the success-sucking things that get in the way. This requires tapping into your calm, confident, decisive self. And ignoring the a-hole in your head who keeps bringing up that time you got pantsed in 7th-grade gym class. Not always easy because… 

You’ll still doubt yourself.
One of my favorite retreat moments was when a group of us toasted to “Crippling Self-Doubt!” We’ve all got it. And it’s dumb. Self-doubt makes you irrational and ineffective. It makes you kick the cat or yell at your spouse (I’ve heard.) So just remember — tomorrow’s a new day, and you can either fix the problem or chalk it up to experience. Failure is a necessary part of success. 

You won’t know everything.
You may think you need to have all the answers now. But you won’t. So don’t be afraid to ask questions or seek guidance. Your mentors, heroes and peers are gaining experience right along with you, so view those relationships as useful, not intimidating. Susan Credle highlighted this so beautifully, my “allergies” kicked up several times during her presentation. 

Inspiration is still your most powerful tool.
Remember when you first started in this industry and you were full of fire and possibility? I rediscovered that feeling at the One Club Creative Leaders Retreat. It’s more of a contained, responsible fire now, but it’s a fire all the same. And I’m willing to bet you’d rediscover it, too. 

What? You’re not ready? You’ll be outclassed? You want to hang in your room the first night because you’re too shy? Nah. Just remember two things: 

1. There’s an open bar.
2. You’re not alone, my friend. You’re not alone. 

The One Club for Creativity's Creative Leaders Retreat takes place on February 8–9, 2018 at the Scottsdale Resort at McCormick Ranch in Scottsdale, AZ.



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