In-house Incites: Management Chops – Or Not

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I recently met a co-worker from a previous job while at the InHOWse conference. After we caught up on mutual friends and, family the conversation turned to business. One development he related that really grabbed my attention involved the group’s web team.

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While I was at my old job, and for a few months after I left, interactive designers who had worked their way up to a managerial role headed the team. I had thought, given the complexity of interactive design, individuals with direct experience in that practice would be best suited for that position.

The story my friend told leads me to rethink that belief. Apparently, a project manager from the in-house group’s Account team was tapped to temporarily replace the designer/manager who left after he reached an impasse with upper management on a full-time compensation package.

The pinch hitter lead ending up being so effective in the role that the team’s productivity and client relationships improved dramatically and she was asked to stay on. The new manager has no design, programming or interactive skills or experience but she is organized, strategic and an excellent advocate for her team. Her predecessors, on the other hand, were poor delegators, only modestly organized and at times lacked the distance and objectivity needed to manage their reports, clients and upper managers.

Is it possible that the qualities, skills and aptitudes that make individuals good designers may work against them when those same designers are trying to be good managers? Is there a better chance of finding a left-brained project or marketing manager with enough right-brain proclivities to be an effective design group manager than finding a designer with the needed left-brain mindset?

I certainly don’t know the answer but it’s a question the in-house community may want to consider.

2 thoughts on “In-house Incites: Management Chops – Or Not

  1. Todd Olsen

    Hi Andy,
    The left brained people can dable in the right brained world.
    When it comes to strategic creative execution I think they are flawed because they lack the consideration for any creative thought.
    They however make great project managers, and good account reps.

  2. edr3

    Creative individuals who become successful managers share commonalities; they use both sides of their brain and in doing so speak two languages –business and creative. When these individuals are invited to sit at the “C” suite table with the “golfing and let’s do lunch” crowd,” they think and communicate strategically about how their creative strategies will help build a better, more lucrative business. Those same individuals are also adept at loosening their ties, rolling up their crisp white sleeves and jumping Converse first into the mosh pit corralling their creative troops into developing creative strategies that support the “C” suite’s business plan. Essentially, they have to be shape shifters who garner respect on the golf course and in the mosh pit. It’s a tough job and not everyone can do it well, but when a creative individual can–“holy bill of rights Batman”–watch out.

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