We have had the pleasure of working with the wonderful team at SPARK Creations & Company Inc., on a number of exciting projects over the past 6 months. SPARK Creations recently contacted us to design and develop a new, fresh, vibrant, energetic, and professional website that would provide all of the flavours of SPARK Creations that are expected from their client base.
The team at SPARK Creations had a very short timeline and wanted a customized WordPress site that would fit the spirit of their company, show off their unique approach and culture, and highlight their professional services to current and future clients. We partnered with them to bring their vision to life, and we are all thrilled with the results.
In addition to the SPARK Creations website, we have been working to design and produce a suite of branded SPARK Creations assets, including a series of online team culture assessments (take one here!) and other business development materials, so stay tuned for those!
We love working with companies like SPARK Creations. They are passionate about what they do, knowledgeable about their business, fun to work with, and they believe in our team and our work. We look forward to ongoing collaborations with them!
When you work for someone else, sometimes your values match the company’s and those of its leaders, and sometimes they don’t. Depending on your level of seniority, you might also be impeded by a lack of control over priorities, deadlines, hiring, or projects, and this can make it feel like you don’t get to make the decisions you would make if you were “in charge.”
No matter how much control you have over your surroundings, you still choose how to behave. You can always make the decision to stand up for what’s right, carry yourself with grace, and be honest and transparent. I know this is hard work, especially if you need the job (and who doesn’t), and trust me, I am constantly working towards a level of managerial courage in my work: I am a diligent, ever self-aware work in progress. My goal every day is to behave in a way that I can be proud of, and for me that is reflected in how I partner and communicate, not just in what I accomplish.
When I started using the term “managerial courage” it was really to describe my need for a leader’s bravery: their willingness to stand up for what’s right, have their team’s back, refuse to sign up for an impossible deadline, or admit they don’t have all of the answers. Managerial courage means being willing to risk being unpopular, for the right reasons. It means being straightforward with employees about their behaviour and other people’s perceptions of them, and letting them make choices about whether to change, leave, or tough it out.
When I was in the thick of my management career in video games, I sometimes struggled to do the right thing. I often felt pulled between conflicting priorities and duties: meet the deadline, stay within budget, get more out of people, add features, change things on the fly, create fewer bugs, mitigate risk… and do it faster… and don’t forget to innovate and improve quality! And, through it all, my team needed strong and clear direction, vision, and goals. They wanted a healthy workplace, opportunities to do their best work, time to learn and grow their skills, hone their craft, and make a great game. Knowing which priority to follow and which to ignore, and how to lead through this chaos, was always a huge challenge. The more senior I became, the clearer it was to me that the need for bravery and honesty was paramount.
My failures in courage have taught me some big lessons. Once, I was asked to terminate an employee who didn’t report to me and whose performance was unknown to me directly. My job was to walk him to the HR manager and sit with him while she delivered the message. I was uneasy about this, as it was a long walk to the HR manager’s office, and the employee didn’t know where we were going at first, or why. It felt terrible and wrong to bring him to a meeting in that way, and to watch it dawn on him as we approached the HR department that he was probably being fired. To make matters much worse, the HR manager was late to the meeting, so the employee and I shared a very painful ten minutes, with him asking me what was going on, and me (obedient junior manager) telling him that I wasn’t allowed to say, but that HR would be there soon. By the time the HR manager finally arrived, he was in tears, and I wasn’t far behind. I will never forget the feeling of choosing to not tell him what was going on, because I was afraid of getting into trouble. I have held countless termination meetings since then, and each time I think of that experience, and I strive to be kind and respectful, honest and clear, and on time.
It is difficult to be courageous when the pressure’s on and you’re feeling the squeeze between what the company is asking for and what your employees need. Every so often, you have to say no and stick up for something – a person, a project, an idea – that deserves to be protected or celebrated, even when no one else will speak up. Be clear about the costs to quality with a deadline your team can’t hit. Refuse to hire a candidate who looks great on paper but who you know will be a bad fit. Be willing to let someone go if they have no place on your team, even if you like them. I was lucky to have a few great managers who modeled this behaviour, and while they occasionally got in trouble for it, it was clear that they always felt the risk was worthwhile.
This isn’t about digging in your heels when you don’t get what you want, or when the going gets tough. It’s about doing the right thing, striving to make your environment better, speaking up for the greater good. It’s about integrity, celebrating other people, fighting for the best interests of your team, trusting and being trusted. It’s about not holding on to information just because it makes you look important. About not treating employees like children and then being upset when they act childishly. It’s about being vulnerable and kind. Finally, it’s about believing that professionalism and compassion can co-exist, and striving to prove it every day.
For another blog about leadership choices and the environment they create, please see Your Company’s Culture is You.
There is an eagle in me that wants to soar, and there is a hippopotamus in me that wants to wallow in the mud.
– Carl Sandburg
It’s January again – time for some people to leap out of the house for the Polar Bear swim, and for others to pull the covers back over their heads and stay cozy for just a little while longer.
Either way, it’s a new year, full of promise and opportunity! Whether or not you are a fan of making New Year’s resolutions, the team at Project House would love to be part of your business solutions, big or small.
What are you going to tackle this year?
- Perhaps you want to make your office space more effective and inspiring?
- Give your website a makeover?
- Breathe new life into your company culture or brand?
- Organize training for new managers?
- Create a thank you program, or hold a Spring event for clients or staff?
- Break a big business goal into manageable pieces?
Is there a project you’re itching to kick off? Whether you’ve got a Big Hairy Goal, or you just want to ease into things and enjoy the journey, we’d love to help – please reach out to us at hello(at)projecthouse(dot)ca.