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If Working With Your Partner Sucks, It Might Be Your Fault

4 min read

I'm Jeremy Carson, and this is everything I wish I knew about the advertising and creative industry when I got started. And everything I'm discovering as a Creative Director today.
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When it comes to having a creative partner in an agency, there are really only two routes:

  1. Hired with a partner
  2. Assigned a partner

People would love to have a partner that they travel from agency to agency with, building their portfolios, doing great work, and telling each other tales of adventures full of awe and wonder!

...but for most people, that ain't happening.

You're going to get assigned a partner. You'll have to learn their strengths, their weaknesses, and their little quirks. What do they think makes a good idea or a bad one? Are they an asshole?

And here's the hard one: how do they work?

I've worked with and taught creatives for a long time. I've seen lots of different types of people with completely different working styles smashed together. And in that time, I've noticed what works and what doesn't.

SPOILER: There's no one way that works. But there are a few that do.

Let's take a look at what does...

Working Styles

Okay, whether the person is an asshole or amazing, remember: this is your job, and you're (hopefully) an adult. So, it's both of your responsibility to try to make it work. Most of the time, if you figure out what their working style is, you'll be able to coexist pretty well.

Lone Wolf (Independent)

Some creatives work best on their own. They lock themselves in a room, let those creative juices marinate, and then come out with some genius.

Working with them: I've found the best way to work with this kind of creative is to give them their space. Actually, these are usually incredibly creative people, and they love to let their brains work out the problem for a while. When they hit a wall or feel they have a few solutions, they'll come to you. I suggest setting up times for you two to work together, which will give your partner the time they need to let ideas bounce around in their head, but both of you time to evolve them as a team.

Dynamic Duo (Dependent)

I've also worked with creatives that absolutely love working together. Like, all the time. A project doesn't start until you both can sit down and hash out every detail, putting each thought on the table and talking it out.

Working with them: No surprise, you're going to be working as a team. A lot. So, make sure that if you two are planning on being inseparable, you have a healthy and open working relationship. The hardest part will accepting any and all ideas that come to mind. That means no filtering out what you think may not work, because this creative is all about the ping pong, back-and-forth creative process. They may find that their best ideas grow from another's, and without that open dialogue, a nugget could pass without discussion.

Ebb and Flow (Interdependent)

I've found this is the healthiest working relationship. Because, as creatives, our minds have the ability to create random connections between thoughts, which form into ideas. And sometimes that requires a little alone time. But, when met with another creative person, and you throw your ideas to them, they can develop it more, and throw it back to you.

Working with them: Again, the trick is to not hold ideas back, but give yourself time to generate them. Ingest everything you can on your own. Watch videos, read articles, go for a walk. Anything that can stimulate your mind. Then put down any of the thoughts you may have.

Afterwards, come back to your partner with something to talk about. Hopefully, they'll have done the same, and chances are, the ideas you leave your team working session with will be something completely new.

Conflicting Styles

Like I said, you're adults and need to figure out how to get along. But, in the end, if you just can't seem to get your style and theirs to mesh, you can involve your manager.

Just make sure, at that point, you have reasons for wanting to discuss it. Maybe they don't have the same work ethic as you do, or they don't dedicate time to the project that you think is necessary, or they don't contribute to the ideation process. But if it's just "I don't like how they work," it'll be a difficult sell to your creative director.

Meshing Well

The key is figuring out what your own style is, and figuring out theirs, and then finding somewhere in the middle that gives you both what you need.

Most people just want to make the best work they can. And their working style is simply the best way they know of doing it. Don't look at them as wrong, but rather, embrace what it is that they do and see it as a strength.

The success of the creative team model doesn't come from two random creative people working separately. It's the idea of gestalt: the sum of its parts is greater than the whole.

What you two can do together will be far greater than the combination of what you can do apart.

Thanks for reading!

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