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WORD AROUND THE OFFICE: CHALLENGES & LESSONS LEARNT

Creative HQ is home to some pretty ambitious and interesting entrepreneurs. Whether they’re designers or product leads, they all have fascinating stories to share. This week we caught up with 4 people to talk about some of the professional challenges they’ve faced and overcome and what valuable lessons they have learnt from them. 

“One of the biggest challenges I’ve faced was in the beginning, for about 4 years, when I thought that if I was given a task, I had to have all the answers and couldn’t ask for help. When it came to meetings, this would translate in me being quite defensive if someone asked me about things I was unsure about. What I’ve learnt is that the more questions you ask, and the more vulnerable you are, the more respect you get. You go on a journey with people and everyone knows what’s expected of them. It’s important to let go and put down those defensive walls because we’re all just people doing our thing – you can do a much better job, and collaborate more when those walls are down. Realising how I was acting and naming all the reasons why I felt a certain way, was the hard part, after that all I had to do was shift it.

The more recent challenge is learning how to manage people, and be the kind of leader that I want to be. I recently shifted from managing a product team of 4 experts, who were very independent,  to a new role where I manage a product. Being a startup, this means I’m also managing all the different teams, with people of all different skill levels. It’s about learning how to mitigate the different working styles, even when I feel like I don’t know exactly how to. I do feel frustrated when I don’t know the answer, but I always try to find ways to distribute jobs, so that tasks are clearly defined, to help the team perform better.

I’m continually asking myself “how might a great leader handle this”? To me, they’d be kind and empathetic and have clear expectations that people can meet.”

– Samantha Ryan, Head of Product at Choice

“I’ve learnt some really valuable lessons from working some really challenging jobs. Jobs that were boring. Jobs that were intensely physical, cold and wet, with early starts. But these experiences gave me a perspective on some of the essential gears that need to turn for our society to function. They gave me the motivation to chase the work that really invigorates me, and they gifted me experience-based learnings in resilience, compassion, patience and optimism. The hard yards opened me up to what I really want to do, while honouring and respecting those that do work that I don’t wish to do.”

– Simon Cooke, Comms and Marketing Specialist at Akina and founder of Kakariki Beer Co.

“Working remotely has meant that communication and managing tasks have to be clear and effective. As a designer, it can be tempting to only check in after completing tasks, however checking in often and giving progress updates keeps everyone in the loop and helps to foster a sense of inclusion in the process and the solution. When it comes to product development, I’ve begun suggesting small product design tests, where we introduce a small change that can be tracked via our analytics before making sweeping changes.

Framing this in a way that includes a clear hypothesis, method, and a way of tracking results gives team members confidence in the changes that are being suggested, overcoming debates about whether or not a change is worth the time to develop.

It also helps to tie product development suggestions back to business goals and values – will the changes increase retention, engagement and revenue? When these values are communicated effectively things just run smoother.”

– Marc McHardy, Design Lead and Co-founder at Banqer

“No amount of preparation can substitute action. Let’s say you are trying to create the perfect social media post: you can spend time researching this or you use that time to experiment with different options and that’s the best way to learn!

When you try to master one perfect idea, and you learn all this valuable information, it’s easy to get fixated on trying to be original. It doesn’t matter where you got your ideas from, it’s about where you take them. I find that when it comes to social media marketing, it’s best to engage with it the way you want to and see how people respond.

You’ll learn a whole lot about business marketing through experimentation. There’s a lot of value in learning by doing. I spent a lot of time researching the perfect branding for my own business, only to realise that customers wanted to engage not because of the brand or the logo, but because of the people behind it – that was quite a big lesson. Your name is your most important brand.”

– Dalaney Davis, Champion for the People & founder of Forever Straw Co.

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