The studio can be a delicate interpersonal environment, with charged egos, strong perspectives, and generation gaps surfacing as the team works to meet tight, high-stakes deadlines. Creatives of different backgrounds, learning styles, and personal needs have to collaborate in relative harmony toward a shared goal.
Former Senior Manager, Studio Creative
These studio relationships were the focus of conversation when Linda Wallace, formerly of Nordstrom, stopped by the E-Commerce Content Creation Podcast to chat with host Daniel Jester. Wallace knows all about managing dynamics during industry chaos-she led Nordstrom's studio through the digital shift, the 2008 recession, and the 2020 pandemic.
Want all the details on how to manage relationships in your studio? Stream the full episode on the web or on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, or Amazon Music. But for just a few practical tips for managing your creative teams, read on for our episode recap.
Meet Crisis with Compassion
While huge industry-wide fallouts, like recessions and lockdowns resulting from global pandemics, raise anxiety levels across studio teams, they also bring out the best in studio managers, Linda says. "I think it's easier for a business, and it's easier for managers to think about attending to the feelings and the inner experiences of their teams, when there are such challenging demands on their business", she tells Daniel.
Recognize Long-term Change as Potential Trauma
Sudden changes bring out studio managers' empathy, sure, but more incremental shifts really should too-especially if you have veteran pros on your team. For studio workers from the analog-Linda calls them "legacy people"-the gradual but constant digitization of studios in the early 2000s felt disorienting. "A lot of us took a victim stance," Wallace says. "It took awhile to realize we were actually building a new business model in a venerable 110-year-old company."
A lot of us took a victim stance and it took awhile to realize we were actually building a new business model in a venerable 110-year-old companyLinda Wallace
Care for Fears Before the Studio Becomes a Lizard Tank
Compassionate, effective studio managers accept that team members have personal fears but recognize that fear can be the nemesis of creativity. To get staff members out of fear motivation, or so-called "lizard brain," managers should explain the "why" behind the problem (so it doesn't feel like a personal attack or meritless obstacle) and present it as a challenge to meet with creative solutions, Wallace says. "You put them in the place of authorship," she says. '"You guys help us solve the problem, we want your voices.'"
Put [your teams] in the place of authorship [and say], 'you guys help us solve the problem, we want your voices'Linda Wallace
Don't Settle for Communication-Try Curiosity
"I would've speculated that 'communication' would be the key word" behind studio relationships, Daniel says, before suggesting that the real answer is "curiosity," because "if you're innately curious about a relationship or a situation you're in, you're not spending time jumping to conclusions and creating narratives that aren't there." Studio managers who oversee a healthy team are innately curious people who cultivate that curiosity in others.
Being the Boss Requires a Promotion of Self-awareness
Here's the obvious statement: being in charge comes with a lot of additional responsibilities. From a psychological standpoint, one added duty is self-awareness about your own baggage and your ability to affect others. "'How might I be coming across to somebody?'" Wallace asks. "'Or how am I not showing up for this person because they trigger this thing that reminds me of my dad or my mom or whatever?'"
And when you're in charge, your words and gestures can come across so differently than they do from a less elevated role, Daniel adds, reflecting on his time as a studio manager. "I became really sensitive to this idea that people perceive my personality entirely differently when they perceive me as being someone in a position of power."
Relationships in any context are complicated, so to learn more, beyond these few pointers, about studio dynamics, listen to Daniel's full chat with Linda Wallace. You'll find out why she says "finance doesn't understand fashion," what work relationships can learn from romantic ones, and how Daniel learned to not make a coworker feel entirely ignored. Find the episode on our website or on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, or Amazon Music.