The Cohen-Miller Report: Dream Team Scheme Quattro

Characteristics of the Ideal Creative Team – Part IV

by Emily Cohen

Today’s post is the last in my four part series featuring the six core character types that are particularly important when right and left-brain personalities work together. Prior posts explored four of these types: the cheerleader, the industry activist, the tech guru and the emotional quarterback. Today’s post is on the last two types the enforcer and the political navigator.

Every team needs the enforcer, or the “bad guy”. The enforcer is the team member that is comfortable with and skilled in making tough decisions and enforcing policies and processes that ultimately benefit the team as a whole. They are uniquely able to push back without becoming a divisive or abrasive force. They understand that establishing and enforcing standard operating procedures are critical to successful client and creative relationships, and also ensure a seamless cost-effective process.

Many creatives just want to be liked and this prevents them from begin truly great managers, directors, or leaders. As a result, performance reviews can
be ineffective and clients are able to walk all over the creative team. A team without an enforcer typically works within an environment where some staff are poisonous to the rest of the team. Without an enforcer, clients art direct or request endless, unwarranted subjective revisions or work within schedules that never stay on track. Sound familiar?

The key to truly impactful performance reviews, project and client management is to confront the conflict head on. The enforcer excels at this. Rather than seeing weaknesses or simply accepting the situation as unwinnable, the enforcer identifies challenges and recommends solutions to move forward. They embrace conflict because they know that ultimately the problems will be solved more quickly and efficiently.

Within corporate and institutional in-house creative teams another important character type is that of the political navigator. This is the team member whose strengths is working within and even embracing corporate culture and internal politics in ways that benefit the team overall (not themselves individually). They have the unique skill of balancing the needs of the creative team with the needs of the corporation as a whole and build strong internal advocacy for their team at the highest level. In fact, they relish the challenge of nourishing executive level champions and, ultimately, “getting a seat at the table.” This is someone that is skilled at turning an “us vs. them” mentality into a “one for all and all for one” work environment. They understand that ultimately everyone supports common goals for the company overall. The political navigator is effective at communicating this to all levels of the organization and at building cross-functional teams and relationships that work together for the greater good.

While most of the character types I’ve identified are not always aligned with specific roles, the enforcer and political navigator types are often best suited to those in leadership and management roles. These positions interact with corporate management, clients and decision makers, where the ability to embrace and navigate corporate politics and “saying no” gracefully are highly valued.

It is the people that make the environment and often it is the subtler things that make a team work well together. In this case, the not-so-subtle issue that makes a team great is the interaction and balance of each person’s unique characteristics. If you consider these character types as you build and develop your team and incorporate this philosophy into your hiring strategy, the end result is always a more cohesive and successful creative team.

Emily has consulted with design firms and in-house corporate creative departments for over twenty years. During this time, she has provided confidential, best-practice insights and advice. She helps creatie teams improve operational effectiveness and helps companies build efficient teams and processes.

Emily currently serves on the board of advisors of InSource and on the AIGA In-House task force. Emily has also served as Secretary for the AIGA/NY Board of Directors and has taught classes and conducted seminars for many leading design schools and organizations. Emily is a frequently-requested speaker on business-related issues for the creative industry. Learn more at