TCG Roadmap: In Training

The Training Gap

Despite the challenges of being a leader, it’s an attractive option to many, with a caveat: More than half of survey respondents found the idea of managing projects “very attractive,” but only one in three shared the same sentiment when it comes to managing people.

No lack of interest in skills development

The disparity may be due to the fact that managing projects is a familiar task to most creatives, while supervising people is not. Lack of training also may contribute to the reluctance to oversee others. The research indicated that companies have few leadership development programs, despite clear interest by employees in this type of training: Nearly three-quarters of respondents said they would enroll in a conference or workshop to improve their leadership skills, and more than half would work with a mentor, if given the opportunity.

As business skills have assumed greater importance in creative departments, this has become another area in which respondents seek training: Nearly two-thirds would be interested in a combination MBA/MFA program. Companies may hold back on training because they haven’t identified the right people to invest in. According to the research, many organizations lack succession plans and don’t actively groom future leaders. Consequently, more than half of respondents said they weren’t confident someone could fill their shoes if they had to step down from their position.

Ideas for grooming future leaders

Mentoring programs can be an effective way to pass on leadership skills and prepare workers to take on new responsibilities, but they must be carefully thought out to be effective, according to Ilise Benun, author of The Designer’s Guide to Marketing and Pricing and co-founder of “It’s best to start small and slowly; put a structure in place and be flexible about that structure until you figure out what really works,” she said. Benun stressed that it’s important to make sure those paired into mentoring relationships are a good fit. “The main component that can make it go awry in mentoring programs is not considering personality,” she said. “This is particularly important with creative people, who generally like to do things their own way and don’t want to be told what to do.”

Four tips for working with a mentor

from Ilise Benun, co-founder of

1. “No matter what sort of mentoring relationship you choose, the characteristics you should look for are the same: Your mentor should know how to be a teacher; he or she should be patient and willing to spend the time with you. You might admire someone, but not everyone knows how to teach what they’ve learned.”

2. “When engaging someone as a mentor, it’s important to create a structure for the process. Arrange for a monthly breakfast or a weekly phone call — something that you and your mentor can commit to doing.”

3. “Take an active role. I find people tend to wait for their mentor to take charge, but it’s really important for you to take responsibility for the process. Also, if you’re ambivalent about the mentoring process, you won’t get a lot out of it. You need to be motivated and trust your mentor.”

4. “Think long-term: Give the relationship with your mentor time to develop. Don’t make a snap judgment in what is potentially a long-term relationship.”