How to Find The One*
AKA: The One person you won't kill while working with.
I always had this little nagging thought that my friend Emely and I could be pretty good partners when it came to doing creative work. We always just seemed to gel pretty well when it came to talking about trends, ideas for Instagram photos, even for creative direction for Her Campus events. But we never took that leap of faith of actually sitting down and doing actual work together because the opportunity never came up.
In comes Ad Sprint. Hosted by Ad2Tampa Bay, the Ad Sprint was a 24 hour campaign competition. The goal was simple: come up with a great holiday collection campaign for a local Tampa Bay business.
Now, if you know me, it wasn't my first time doing an Ad sprint type of competition. Two years ago, I participated in 22Squared's Mobilize Ad competition- and tanked. My focus was all over the place, I let nerves get the best of me, and my team was not exactly quite there when it came to communication and getting it all together.
But I felt a sense of perhaps redemption, that made this time around, things could be different.
And it really was different, when Em and I teamed up on this Ad Sprint. I actually felt like I had gotten work done without the anxiety, without the stress. And despite us not coming in first, I couldn't help but think we still won in some way- I had found The One.
You know, your partner in crime. The person that you could just perfectly bounce ideas off of. The person you could brainstorm for hours with, construct a whole plan and really see it come alive, nothing stopping you. The person I could actually take criticism from- and not want to go on the attack mode, or get super defensive.
It's a straight up lie to say working with others is super easy or always a dream. Of course I do like working with others- hello, I hate being alone, I'm a Leo moon- but working with others means accepting the attitudes, flaws and personality quirks of others. Someone's 'quirky' little comments can seem cute and fun at first, but a couple months in you might be twitching at the thought of them saying dumb stuff in team meetings.
So, what does it take to find The One and develop that beautiful partnership?
Lots of Patience.
You know that saying about when it comes to finding Prince Charming, it takes kissing a lot of frogs to get to that point? It's the same thing when finding your perfect coworker.
You have to give everyone a chance to really see how your personalities match- and clash!
Learn that YOU may not always be the best.
It's very easy to assume that someone else may be the problem, or that we are always in the right. But, at the end of the day, you're human too. That means you may be prioritizing your thoughts and ideas over that of others, or you might resort to speaking over others to get your point across, etc. Part of learning to collaborate with someone and making it successful is recognizing how we may be doing others wrong and learning to cut back on those behaviors.
For instance, my bad habit is I hold in stuff and hold onto it until it turns to resentment because I want to avoid drama. But, the reality is that I rob myself of the chance to being properly heard during the collaboration, plus I'm not really sharing the work with the person I'm with if I just agree and go along with what my coworker wants. We're not doing our best together if I'm not also holding you accountable.
Breaks are necessary.
Two individuals or teams of people overworking themselves is kind of like a recipe for disaster. If there was one thing that set my team up for catastrophic disaster in Mobilize, it was letting our nerves get the best of us and force us to work every single hour of that whole weekend that we could. I was EXHAUSTED, only to realize later on that so much of our work was rooted in despair, desperation and nervous ramblings. We didn't have solid work because everything came out of fear and exhaustion.
For this reason alone, I made it clear to Em that we HAD to keep healthy time boundaries. We needed to have a breakfast and lunch break, as well as small pockets of breaks throughout getting work done. Even with several breaks, we still managed to get to bed early that night so we were refreshed and ready to present 9AM next morning.
Those breaks were ESSENTIAL to my mental health because I gave my brain and body a chance to relax, but it also gave us both individually room to focus on little things we want to touch base on when we were able to return to work. It was during a break I realized how to tweak a couple things from our campaign to make it more inclusive. It was during a break Em decided to work on her public speaking a bit so she felt more confident when she would present.
You need breaks. We are not designed to work 24/7. Partnerships need time off to rest and regroup too.
Communication is key. Learn how to talk to people!
Ok, this one is similar to the one about learning your flaws and improving on this for partnerships to flourish, but I just want to make sure this one is really clear: your coworkers/partners ARE not your best friends when it comes to work. And when I say this, I want you to envision it as how my 50 year old Colombian mother says it to me when I stay out a little longer than she would like:
"I am not your friend. Don't try to act or talk to me like I am."
She used to say that to me to remind me that there is a level of respect I owed her. I think the same should be remembered when communicating with coworkers. Even with Em being my best friend, I knew that working together meant not raising my voice, allowing her to speak and work out her ideas verbally and not trying to rush her points or accidentally cut her off. Collaboration means a free flow of ideas and concepts should be taking place- make sure your communication style helps create a safe space for that to happen, otherwise, you're forcing your partner to have to speak over you to share their perspective- or just stay silent. Both are a shame.
Lastly, establish set roles and expectations.
Em and I didn't explicitly share who was going to be creative director, copywriter and account manager for this project. Rather, we brainstormed concepts first and then we chose which projects we would work on individually, allowing us to both get work done and then come together and put a solid campaign presentation together.
We both knew what we were going to work on, but more importantly, we knew when and where we would need each other. We would share our results and then allow each other to critique it if need be, and we never crossed that boundary of trying to take over someone else's work. Having that set idea of who was doing what and then allowing space for collaboration later on really helped us work efficiently and accomplish a lot.
Here's to more successful collaborations all 2021!