Advice from Seth Godin on Leading Up
This May, Seth Godin graced the stage of CreativeMorning/NewYork to turn our heads on straight because, well, we have it all backwards. On the topic of our monthly theme, “backwards,” Seth gave us three things that we have all wrong:
1. Great designers get great clients. It’s the other way around.
2. Be patient. Patience is for the impatient.
3. Wait for someone to lead. Lead up.
The third one, Seth says, is the topic he gets the most questions about as people hesitate to take control when they don’t have a place to hide. He gives us a few techniques for leading up:
Do it on purpose.
Seth tells us to ask ourselves every day, “How am I leading up?” Lay the tracks to get our clients to be better clients, our boss to be a better boss, and if our boss is unable to be a better boss, leave and find a better one.
Tell stories that resonate with those in charge.
Storytelling is integral to leading up. “You cannot prove anything to get the people you work for to do something,” says Seth, “but you can tell them a story that gets under their skin, that resonates, that they remember.”
…But don’t worry at all about authority. Seth says that we’re a product of the industrial world, and, with that, hold a fear for doing anything beyond our job title. We now live in a bottom-up world, however, and those who take responsibility are often given responsibility.
Reflect credit, but embrace blame.
“Do small things. Do things that won’t get you fired without asking. If they work, let your boss take credit. If they don’t work, take responsibility.”
Take full responsibility when something you do doesn’t work out, he says. And if you do something right, let your boss take credit. The reason? Your boss will continue to come back to you to do those small things again, but maybe this time, bigger. After all..
It’s the work that you’re after, not the credit.
If they don’t get it, go somewhere where they do.
“You don’t get tomorrow over again,” says Seth. “You have one shot. If you want to make change, make it for people who deserve it.”
..But don’t give up too soon, because maybe it’s your fault that they don’t get the joke.
Lastly, Seth explains that no one is going to pick you. That age is over. We now live in a time where everyone has the capability of being their own media company, making the work they want to make for the audience its intended for. You can’t please everyone, so focus on finding that ideal client who identifies with what you’re trying to do.
It’s never been easier for you figure you who your audience is, who you want to change, and why your work will matter.
When Seth Godin talks, people listen. It could have something to do with the fact that he’s written fourteen books that have all been bestsellers, or that his recent Kickstarter project broke records for its size and speed of reaching its goal, or it might be that his latest company, Squidoo.com, is ranked among the top 125 sites in the United States for traffic. Whatever it is, May’s CreativeMornings/NewYork was no different, and Seth blew the audience away with “truth bombs” that revolutionized the way we think about what we do, and how we have had it backwards all along.
It’s not our fault, though. Seth explained that we all grew up in an industrial world, an industrial economy where we were taught to do what we’re told and fill in the circle with a No. 2 pencil. “We’re not in the industrial economy any more,” says Seth, “we’re in the connection economy—and connection creates value.”
Three Things We Have Backwards:
1. Many people believe that great designers get great clients. It’s the other way around.
“How much of your day is spent working to get better clients versus pleasing the clients you’ve already got?” says Seth. “And is pleasing the clients you’ve already got the best way to get better clients?”
In Seth’s talk, he points out how we have this client/employee relationship totally backwards. We’re wasting time and selling out our souls trying to work for people to get paid, versus investing the time to find the client who is capable of giving the platform we deserve.
Patience is for the impatient.
Seth calls out the strategy most entry-level designers take when they first enter the workforce: taking anything and everything to scrap by. “When you just collect scraps, and more scraps, sometimes that give you a leg up, but sometimes that makes you a scrap collector,” says Seth.
He advises that we be patiently impatient, calling the myth of the overnight success just that, a myth.
The principle of leading up.
Seth tells us to look to artists or designers that we admire, and examine how their work is making an impact. More often than not, he says, they’re “doing it by leading the people who are ostensibly in charge to make better decisions. Leading those people to have better taste. Leading those people to have the guts to do the work they’re capable of doing.”
So, no, you’re not in charge, but none of us are. There has never been a time to take control and reverse this backwards thinking we’ve been trained to do. Now that you’re aware of it, you have no excuse.
In a later post, we’ll unpack a few techniques Seth cited for “leading up,” so stay tuned!
Woohoo! The moment you have all been waiting for.. the very first CreativeMornings/Austin talk is now live online!
The speaker is none other than Austin Kleon, the force behind Steal Like an Artist and Newspaper Blackout. Austin speaks on April’s theme of the future, by attempting to set the ground rules for future discussions between artists and designers—in terms of how we discuss our work and process.
“I think we’re living in this mass fetishization of creativity,” he says. “And you can tell that from the way we use ‘creative’ as a noun.” He goes on to breakdown some of his previous advice: Do Good Work and Share It With People, on what is good, what is work, and how we should share.
Excellent talk. Watch it here.
Daniel Dittmar was the speaker this March at our Berlin event, where he spoke on the reuse of knowledge to better your creative community. Here are a few takeaways:
Seek out like minded studios/artists/designers whose work you like, and create a connection.
If you run a studio, host an open day every so often to connect with those looking to learn.
Notice patterns, experiment often, make connections.
Next time you’re at an art opening, try talking about the art.
Create a personal dialogue with your environment, and tell stories.
Your network is like your family. Treat them well.
Surround yourself with like minded people and good things tend to happen.
View every working relationship as a co-creation to create interesting dialogue.
Integrated team participation creates a personal connection to the output.
Watch the talk.
Michael Tavani was the speaker at this March’s Atlanta event. Michael is the co-founder and head of product at Scoutmob, a venture-backed and nationally recognized local mobile company named one of the top apps in all categories by Wired and Mashable and one of the country’s most promising companies by Forbes.
He speaks on the Top 43 Lessons he learned the hard way, covering everything from launching viral marketing campaigns to hiring great employees. Read through them below.
Now is the best time in the history of the world to start something.
It’s doesn’t have to be a company, it can be a project, a nonprofit, a film..
Everyone has distribution to the whole entire world.
If you’re a creative, you’re only limited by your creativity.
There is no perfect idea.
No great ideas are great on paper.
You’ll figure it out on the way down.
It’s hard to learn from the sidelines.
It’s all about execution.
If you can execute, a good or bad idea, you can make it happen.
The idea is 1%.
Tell everyone your idea.
When you tell people your ideas, you get more from them.
Find a wingman with complementary skills.
You can’t do it by yourself.
Hire for passion. You want to have passionate people.
Send potential employees an industry article. See how they respond.
Passion is the key.
Do unscalable stuff.
You need to be a do-er.
Do stuff even an intern wouldn’t do.
Tap your local market.
Grow your initial base.
Brand is huge.
Before you do anything, create something remarkable.
If people don’t like your product, the rest doesn’t matter.
Hire a designer and copywriter.
People have to enjoy and like using your product.
Take opportunities and risks to build brands from the ground up.
Delight in all places. Even the smallest of details.
Hide Easter eggs. Everywhere.
Average loses on the web every single time.
Your competitor is a click away.
Don’t be average.
Brand, not technology, is the great differentiator.
No one shares a shitty brand.
T-shirt test: The company that’s created a solid brand is a company whose t-shirt you would want to wear.
There are a million ways to make it happen.
It’s easy to make an impact in Atlanta.
Nothing better than being in the game.
At CreativeMornings/Berlin this February, Martina Flor joined speakers across our 44 chapters globally to talk about the sensitive topic of money.
Martina tackled the topic from her own experience, speaking about how through breaking the vicious cycle of staying in her own comfort zone, she was able to produce better work and get the jobs she really wanted. These are just a few of her (beautiful!) slides from the talk. A good tip for new and old creatives alike, Martina says, “Work is a very tangible thing that we can invest to go after the jobs that we want.”
By investing your time to build your portfolio and challenge yourself to create better work, you can skip the wait period in between and just start getting great jobs, making great work.