Measuring Up: 4 Reasons to Work Well and Play Well with Others

Filed Under: Tools and Resources

How do you rate in the workplace? What are best practices? What skills do designers need in order to excel at and accelerate in their careers? AIGA and Roz Goldfarb Associates surveyed a small, but geographically diverse group of hiring managers to learn about the skills they seek in creative talent beyond visual communication abilities.This is part of a series of articles sharing theirinsights and constructive comments for designers, to offer a window onto the hopes (and frustrations) of your potential employers. We hope this information will be useful, so please offer your thoughts and questions, too. 

Scoreboard photo by Flickr user coda

Scoreboard (photo by Flickr user coda, under CC 2.0)

Ninety–four (94) percent said working on teams in a collaborative manner was essential. They specifically related this to the creative sector where the give and take on ideas can make the difference. This means the ability to work with others in tandem is a necessary requirement to fully explore solutions and the success of projects. There is little room for egos or proprietary attitudes. Of course creative ownership is always desired, but it needs to be balanced in the group setting. These work-style characteristics often translate into job briefs and reference checks. When a person is vetted for a new position and a past problem in the workplace surfaces indicating the person was not a “team player,” the results can be irreparable, most often resulting in a failed opportunity. The phrase “team player” is ubiquitous in verbal and written job descriptions. It's a quality that everyone seeks.

Seventy–six (76) percent added that teaming is essential on multidisciplinary projects. This should not be surprising in a business climate that demands the combination of many skills to produce complex solutions. It is common to require creative people to work on a team matrixed with account managers, brand strategists and people with a broad variety of skill sets. The integration process in the design community has been ongoing and continuous for several years. As a result, the bar keeps getting raised for people who know how to communicate to a broad audience both internally and externally. Being able to be a meaningful part of the team—including how one listens, contributes and communicates—means being able to express yourself to those who have different points of views and different training.

Thirty–five (35) percent emphasized that they need designers who can work well with non-creative people, specifically those with MBA degrees. Clearly this is a reflection of how the teams and workforce in creatively driven firms have become inclusive and sophisticated over the years. It is also a reflection of the communication challenges facing everyone on the team, including those in non-creative roles.

Sixty–four (64) percent indicated designers need the verbal skills to participate in client meetings, which is a strong indication of the need for designers to hone their personal communication skills. Not only are verbal and written communication abilities important, but they become even more critical when working on a team. Being sensitive to the group dynamic and how you express yourself within it may define not only your level of participation, but could ultimately lead to your being identified as someone who can assume a leadership role.

In conclusion

Whether business is local or global; a small company, a multi-office corporation or an international communications conglomerate; everyone is part of the whole and no one can work in a vacuum. Every aspect of how you communicate comes into play—including attire, attitude, talent, choice of language and personal drive. How you express ideas and interact with others is a critical part of the equation. While talent is at a premium and clearly coveted, an inflated sense of self is not. Or as one of our clients humorously put it: “We don't need any big egos around here or anyone who cannot be a part of the team. We already have plenty of those.”


4 Articles for Further Reading

Ellen Lupton, “Why Collaborate?” 

Maureen Dowd, “Don't Send in the Clones” (via The New York Times)

Michael Lopp, “Managing Werewolves” (via A List Apart)

Roger Martin and Jennifer Riel, “Designing Interactions at Work: Applying Design to Discussions, Meetings and Relationships” (via Interactions)