Clients From Hell: Stop Creating Them

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It’s all in memories now, but the lessons linger. Luckily only 5% or less of my projects have been hellish. However, too many of us designers moan about clients we say were born and brought up in hell.The truth is, we create a number of these issues ourselves, or the enabling environment for Frankenstein-like situations to flourish. Continue reading

Design Management Lessons from Carlo’s Bakery

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Cakes and Design, a winning combo? Yes! I found out recently that my favorite TV shows are reality shows where there’s some form of creation and/or competition like Cake Boss and Next Great Baker. At first it was all about passing time, entertainment and cakes, then I noticed the design process was similar to what we do on projects in the digital space.

There were a few points I picked up in the process which will be helpful on any design project. Enjoy.

Have Client Conversations

You will get all kinds of clients, aim to have a relaxed friendly conversation no matter how ‘corporate’ they seem. Very often this turns into some sort of battle where you have to get on the defensive but clients go to you because they trust your abilities or want to trust you, show them they are before the right person.

Meet in a comfortable place, ask about their vision, feedback on the spot with ideas. Your expertise should be what takes the conversation forward.

Share the Vision

For leaders, be honest. If it’s going to be a gigantic cake, if it’s something you have never handled before, tell them. Let your people buy into it and push themselves to achieve it.

For those who are led, if you still don’t get it, ask questions.

Sketch or Prototype the Ideas

When I saw the lo-fi sketches and 3D animations, I smiled because this is a no brainer. A good designer thinks visually and a part of that is being able to communicate the ideas in mind. It also enhances collaboration and helps one figure out what could or isn’t working. Paper and pen is all you need.

Building the Idea starts with Building the right team

After the high level vision and ideas have been shared, it is important to break up the goal in chunks that can be handled by every member of team, depending on the scale of the project. In the Bakery, everyone is known to be excellent in particular areas, and they are called to handle that area especially where there’s a large piece of work to be done.

Again, it is very important that everyone sticks to their strengths – a live client project with constraints is not the place to start learning, let the tasks be assigned according to what the individuals are good at.

Call in the Experts

“Sometimes you have to go outside your field of study to find the right people.” – Temple Grandin

You might be a design or baking expert, but it’s important to acknowledge you don’t know all things. The bakery has a number of relationships with experts in other fields outside bakery that help them achieve their goals. One time they even had to bake the cake in the FX expert’s workshop! Designers must form such relationships with others. Collaboration outside of the team is very important for excellent work.

Have Some Fun

“No matter what the recipe, any baker can do wonders in the kitchen with some good ingredients and an upbeat attitude!” – Buddy Valastro

Yes it’s work, but like Temple Grandin said, “my work is fun”. Remember to remember that design is fun, you are creating things into the world that never existed before, c’mon, have a laugh! 😀

Panic be Gone!

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Ewww. Every now and then, there’s a disaster at the bakery. Someone might have done some shoddy work or the cake melts faster than they can deliver. The number one thing they do is curb panic. The leader, Buddy makes them understand it’s not about ‘you’ Think of the work, think of what can be done to rectify the situation. No time for blame games or hysterics.

It’s a bad thing to do work that is below par, it becomes disastrous when you can’t see what is wrong. Leave ego at home.

Details & Delivery

Details in design cannot be overemphasised, it is what separates brands, products and services, though they might be offering the same things. Everyone on the team needs to know how important this is. Sloppy fondant work for example, can destroy a well baked cake.

Delivery is very important, what happens if attention is not paid to this and the beautiful cake is damaged right before the client’s eyes? Let the details in your work be end to end. Have no rest until the cake is firmly lodged in your client’s stomach.

Leaders Lead by Example

Buddy is the clear leader of Carlo’s Bakery, but he is the type of leader who is hands-on which I like. Because design is a practical thing, It’s great to know you have a leader who can fold up their sleeve and get to work.

Stay Challenged

Carlo’s Bakery constantly tries to push the boundaries, baking bigger and more complex cakes. They take on these challenges from clients because it is important for imagination, to build skill and the team. It also exposes the cracks and helps you make provision for training etc.

Eat Cake.

Everyone I know likes cake, so why not get some to celebrate the end of project. Your team will like you, I promise.

“Cakes are special. Every birthday, every celebration ends with something sweet, a cake, and people remember. It’s all about the memories”

– Buddy Valastro

3 Signs You Have a Great Leader

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We all need to stop and ask ourselves every now and then; Who am I following? is it worth following them? how do they treat me, and/or other people?

I hardly expect my church to teach about management and leadership in the workplace but this is so important I have to summarize what I learned there. It really is about looking to the best known human that ever lived, Jesus. Forbes explores the question in this article, Jesus, as the greatest leader of all Fast Company also has a go, The skill that made Jesus a great leader

Back to the workplace, it does seem like there is an abundance of bad bosses than there are good bosses. Someone says it’s more a case of people who are bad at their job than anything. Some of us have even felt the pressure of ‘bad bosses’ the memories quite painful however, we still aspire to be in those positions one day. Why and how do we think we will do any different? If we don’t embody or aspire to embody the following, we may one day end up in the ‘bad boss’ box.

Great Leaders are Trustworthy

“let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No.’’ – Jesus

A leader who is able to establish trust by setting a vision and carrying it through by themselves or with the help others is gold. Nobody wants to follow someone who is always wavering, says A today and B tomorrow, if they double-cross someone today, it could be your turn tomorrow.

A leader who is able to admit when mistakes have been made and accepts responsibility for the outcomes is given respect.  When workers trust their leaders, they demonstrate loyalty. A leader worth fighting for is the one who has fought for you. The trust built holds businesses together and creates an environment for success, helping in the intense battle against competitors.

Great Leaders Serve

“He did not come to be served, but to serve.”

Leadership is about service and great leaders know this. Jesus had no qualms about washing the feet of his disciples which in that culture was a huge WHAT!?, but I can’t even imagine my Boss ‘oga at the top’ doing this today. Great service draws on humility and respect, you really do not want someone that lords their service over you. Power should be used for flourishing not diminishing.

A great leader not only serves their followers but also their peers. How does your boss treat their mates? do they talk down or make snide comments behind their back? Great leaders always want to bring out the best in others and do not seek self-promotion.

These leaders are committed to the needs of others before their own, courageous to lead with service at the risk of ridicule in the organisation, always looking to develop others, invites feedback and when they don’t know something they can say ‘I don’t know this but I am eager to learn’

Great Leaders Make Sacrifices

“The good shepherd lays his life down on behalf of the sheep”

Leaders must be willing to make sacrifices for those they serve, those who trust them. Sacrifices reinforce commitments to people in the form of  e.g time and money, two of the most important things in the business world. Being willing to spend time to teach someone something or to help someone out of a financial bind without expecting anything in return is the mark of a great leader. They will always put people over the ‘organization’

In conclusion, authority is not something to be grasped it should be received with the full weight of responsibility that it deserves. The humble servant’s heart that is trustworthy, serves and makes sacrifices is hard to develop but we must start somewhere and we can start today.

Stay Bright.