The Creative Department Whisperer

Seven months ago, my husband and I brought home an eight week old puppy — our “trial-child.” I had visions of the puppy lying on my feet as I read by the fire, while my husband pictured the puppy fetching him a beer from the fridge. Less than a month in and several pairs of shoes later, we realized perception and reality were two very different things. As this 14 lb. pup started packing on the weight, we decided we needed obedience training immediately! So every week for months, we schlepped the puppy and all his paraphernalia to puppy kindergarten.

Perhaps it was the fumes from the cleaning products as I cleaned up countless accidents or the numerous middle-of-the-night potty breaks that led to my observations, but I started to see a parallel between canine obedience training and my role as project manager/traffic manager of the creative department. I offer the following tips for training your household pet — and/or your creative department:

Keep it short and concise
–  When giving your dog a command, use one word statements to alleviate confusion. For example, use “sit” instead of “please don’t jump on people, I’d prefer you sit over there in the corner and pretend like you’re a good dog.”

–  When opening a job brief, please answer each question in a short and concise manner. Additionally, please read through and highlight all supplemental material. Do not give me piles of information the creative team might find “helpful” if they have an extra ten hours to read and review.

Be Firm
–  Be firm when giving commands; the dog needs to know who’s “Alpha.” Dogs are happy when they can please their owner and are given a task they can easily complete. They are also more at ease when they know their place in a pack and can easily identify the pack leader.

–  A project manager must be firm when managing timelines and setting expectations. The creative department works best when given a “to-do” list outlining necessary tasks, calendar announcements, and a few “how are you doing?” conversations. (For a girl who loves post-its, this is a dream job!)

Reward them for their good work
–  When the dog has done well, offer them a treat or praise so they know they should continue their good behavior. When the dog has done something for the first time or exceptionally well, “jack-pot” them by offering numerous treats at the same time. (Note: When the dog has your favorite shoe and is running down the hallway, no amount of treats will stop him.)

–  Remember to offer the creative department lots of praise. Designers are constantly getting revisions, so a few kind words are always appreciated. “Jack-potting” should always include baked goods, beer, or both.

Do not leave the puppy or the creative department unsupervised
–  This is self-explanatory.

Short “play breaks” increase productivity
–  Break up training with short play sessions to keep the puppy interested. Training is mentally taxing for a young puppy and one way to reward him or offer them a break is by playing. Suggestions — fetch or tug

–  Do not freak out if the department is taking a short break to chat on a busy day. (It helps to repeat this mantra quietly to yourself.) They too need to recharge their batteries and will work harder once they return to work. Suggestions — conversations about food carts or bacon

Relax at the end of the long day
–  A happy puppy is one that has been exercised both physically and mentally and is basking in the sun at the end of the day.  Let him enjoy it!

–  A happy creative department member is one who has completed his or her work and is basking in their 4:30 beer with the record player playing. Let them enjoy it!

As of June, we have passed puppy kindergarten and will be returning in the fall for the next round of classes!  The puppy now weighs 75 pounds and the creative department 1,700 respectively — I’m happy to report both are happy and healthy…and I like to think, they both view me as Alpha.