Episode 309

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Creativity lives at the center of every agency, but finding, nurturing, and retaining the best fit creatives can feel like an impossible task. Someone with an impressive resume who interviews wonderfully can suddenly feel like a mismatch once they’re actually in the role. It can feel like a guessing game, which is especially daunting for such an integral part of the team and your agency’s success.

Jamie Roberts has been a creative at agencies large and small. She grew up on the art side of the business and realized that all creatives are not wired the same. They might have similar skills but where they live on the spectrum of that skill defines their strengths and weaknesses. With this knowledge, she identified five key traits that can help agencies find creatives, or better understand the creatives they already have.

In this episode of Build a Better Agency, Jamie and I explore the spectrum of these five key skills. We discuss how understanding them can simplify hiring decisions that lead to long-term success for both the agency and the new employee while also giving more insight into how to best leverage your existing creative staff. I even put Jamie’s skills to the test with an off-the-cuff discussion on where she believes I fall on the spectrum of these five skills.

A big thank you to our podcast’s presenting sponsor, White Label IQ. They’re an amazing resource for agencies who want to outsource their design, dev, or PPC work at wholesale prices. Check out their special offer (10 free hours!) for podcast listeners here.

Understanding Creative Traits

Understanding Creative Traits

What You Will Learn in This Episode:

  • How to rethink the approach to creatives
  • Understanding creative traits on a spectrum
  • Responsive vs. deliberative adaptability
  • Abstraction vs. analytical curiosity
  • People vs. process agility
  • Collaborative vs. independent confidence
  • Broad vs. deep commitment
“There are no bad creatives, there are just bad fits.” -Jamie Roberts Click To Tweet “It’s not about the trait, it’s about how it’s expressed and the environment that it’s in.” -Jamie Roberts Click To Tweet “If you’re collaboratively confident, you're confident about the broader spectrum. If you’re independently confident, you’re confident about yourself and your work but not necessarily enough to defend it.” -Jamie Roberts Click To Tweet “Commitment is the aspiration to have mastery in the creative field you’re in.” -Jamie Roberts Click To Tweet “The broad and deep commitment spectrum helps you figure out--before you bring someone in--if you’re going to be able to retain them.” -Jamie Roberts Click To Tweet “Knowing is half the battle. Once you know what to do, then you can do it.” -Jamie Roberts Click To Tweet

Ways to contact Jamie Roberts:

Additional Resources:

Speaker 1:

Welcome to the Agency Management Institute community, where you’ll learn how to grow and scale your business, attract and retain the best talent, make more money and keep more of what you make. The Build A Better Agency podcast presented by White Label IQ is packed with insights on how small to mid-size agencies survive and thrive in today’s market. Bringing his 25 plus years of experience as both an agency owner and agency consultant, please welcome your host, Drew McLellan.

Drew McLellan:

Hey, everybody, Drew McLellan here from Agency Management Institute. Guess what, it’s another episode of Build A Better Agency. It occurs to me that I greet you the exact same way every episode, like you’re surprised that I’m bringing you another episode. Which I suspect given that you subscribe and you know it’s a brand new episode, that seems silly, but it’s habit. Anyway, I’ve got a great new episode for you. You are going to love this episode. This is somebody I’ve been wanting to bring to you for a while, but our schedules kept getting in the way of each other but we finally got it together today. So super excited to tell you a little bit about her and what she does because I think you’re going to find it fascinating. But before that, of course, I have other things to tell you.

One is we are now a few weeks out from the Build A Better Agency Summit. It was magic. It was so amazing to bring everybody together. The speakers absolutely crushed it. The content was remarkable, but even more than the content, and it was remarkable. But even more than the content was just the energy. All of these agency owners and leaders coming together in this spirit of community and collaboration and really falling over themselves to share what they know with each other. It was just so lovely in every way. I just can’t tell you, it was just joyful for me to be there and to just see everybody and all of the hugging and all of the love and all of the support that agency owners have for each other. It’s just the way I think it should be, and it’s really what AMI is all about.

Is creating this community where folks that you think of as your competitors are actually your greatest and most important secret weapon. Just it was really great. But, anyway, the reason I’m telling you all of that is for some of you, of course, you were there and you know that it was awesome, but for many of you, you missed it and we missed you. I know it’s the tail end of a pandemic, and I know a lot of you weren’t ready to travel. But I’m hoping that by May of 2022 that’s going to change. I want to let you know that tickets are already up on the website. We are selling registrations for the Build A Better Agency Summit 2022, which is going to be May 24th and 25th. If you’re an AMI member… Family day, which was awesome panel discussions, and then we all had dinner together.

If you’re a member, you are welcome to join us on Monday the 23rd for that. It’s going to be spectacular. I am working on the speaker docket now, but I promise you that we are going to have the same quality of speaker, the same quality of content and the same quality of community and connection. We are already about a third sold out, so we invited the folks who were there to grab tickets before we publicly announced it. We have kept the event at 300 people. We’ve already sold about 100 tickets. So please don’t wait. I know it’s going to sell out and I don’t want you to miss it. Head over to agencymanagementinstitute.com and then right in the upper left corner of the nav, you’re going to see BaBA Summit. Click there and you can register today.

By the way, the price just keeps going up, so grab your ticket now while you’re going to get it for several hundred dollars less than if you keep waiting. We’d love to have you join us, and I promise it’s going to be the same magic that it was this time. I absolutely promise that. The other thing I want to tell you about is, for many of you, you struggle with trying to decide if you want to niche, and if you do want to niche, what is the right niche? In working with some agency owners doing some coaching with them, I knew I needed a tool. They were stuck, so one night we were coaching together for two days. So one of the night after the first day, I was frustrated that I couldn’t help them think through the process of evaluating the niches better.

I hadn’t done as good a job as I wanted to. I actually created a tool, which is now on the website and available for all of you. Just go to agencymanagementinstitute.com/, and then this is all one word, nichecriteria, N-I-C-H-E, and then the word criteria, C-R-I-T-E-R-I-A. All you have to do is download it, it’s absolutely free. I think it will help you logically think through what makes sense for your agency, so it’s worth a try, so give that a spin. All right, let me tell you about our guest. Jamie Roberts has been a creative in agencies, large and small. She grew up on the art side of the business, and along the way in her career she realized that she actually had this gift, this ability to, with some thoughtful questions and some observations, to really figure out that all creatives are not wired the same.

And that there are some really unique nuances in every creative that dictate how they work and where they’re going to work best, the role that they’re going to serve best, the agency they should be at. She had all of this insight and realized that she could actually help agencies find the right creatives or understand the creatives that they already have. So she created a company called Rock That Creative Job, and now she helps agency owners really assess the talent on their team, find the right creative if they’re hiring. She also helps creatives find the right job. She’s just using her innate insights and a methodology that she’s developed to understand creatives at a completely different level, and it’s very unique.

When she was telling me about it, I got super excited because I think it’s going to be really valuable for you to hear her talk about it and for you to view the world through her lens as you think about your own team. I’m excited about this conversation. She also has a great passion for the work, and I think you are going to feel that coming through. Without further ado, I want to introduce you to Jamie Roberts and I want to jump right into the conversation, so let’s do it. Jamie, welcome to the podcast. Thanks for joining us.

Jamie Roberts:

Thank you. I’m so excited to be here.

Drew McLellan:

Like I said, in the intro, we’re going to talk about the creative product that comes out of an agency and how you work with agency folks to help find the right people, fine tune the right people, get better creative. Talk a little bit about how you came to have this secret wealth of knowledge?

Jamie Roberts:

Yes, okay. If I can start from the beginning, it will probably give a little bit more context on who I am and why I’m super excited about this. Essentially, I always really wanted to go into some type of creative space ever since I was a kid. But I also really found myself from a very young age studying people, and so I felt like… even on the playground when I was a kid, it was I would just hang back and watch people and understand just the dynamics between them and how groups worked and how people worked individually. How teachers worked with the students and it was I always felt like I was like doing this little subject experimental like, “Day 43, subject is agitated when asked to leave the monkey bars.”

It was like I was always watching people. That paired with my love for design and art and creative took me through a little bit of a circuitous route in college, going through art education, fine art. I ended up in advertising because I realized that is the perfect marriage of those two things. Because what you’re developing, you really have to get into someone’s mind and understand what motivates them, drives them, makes them take action. I thought, “Oh my gosh, this is like the two things I’ve been most interested in, and now here they are together.”

Drew McLellan:

Serendipitous.

Jamie Roberts:

Yes, absolutely. That felt just super aligned and it took me six years to get out of college because I just decided I was going to take all the classes. I was going to take all the art classes, all the design classes, psychology. I just really wanted all of that to mesh together. Fast forward to where I am now, I spent 20 years in the advertising industry in a variety of roles. I started out as a designer and moved really quickly into people management within the first three years. I was asked to take on different assignments helping people with their work, helping creatives, junior level creatives, get better at what they’re doing. Helping them navigate the world of working professional, a lot of interns, things like that. I really I wasn’t sure what I was doing at that point, but I knew that I knew people and I knew how they interacted and I knew what made them tick.

I used that to just guide myself through this variety of creative management positions, and moving through art direction, creative direction, and eventually head of creative. What I really noticed at a certain point was I was so excited about other people’s career paths more than my own, and I was really interested in what made a certain environment successful for a certain person. That led me to where I am right now because COVID hit, layoffs happened, and I just took a pause and really assessed like, “What do I really enjoy about where I am right now?” It was like this intersection of helping people, being able to help creatives understand how to approach the work, how to sell themselves, how to get the right fit, how to have the right conversations with their employers or potential employers so that they both understand the expectations of the roles.

Also, just helping them understand that not every place is for everyone. I think that’s so important because there’s nothing worse than being in a role where you’re struggling, your manager is struggling, and you don’t really know what to do about it. Because there’s a dynamic there and you can’t really figure it out. I launched the coaching business that I have based on that. Through that, as I’m coaching people, I’m coaching them in interviewing and just having conversations about promotions, moving up, and this point in time, it was really interesting launching this during COVID because there was so many people who had gotten laid off unexpectedly. They’re starting over after 10 years, they have interviewed, and you’re like, “I don’t even have a portfolio. I don’t even know where to go from here.”

Like, “What do people want to see? How do I talk to people? I thought I would have this job forever, and now the world has changed.” Especially, with agencies, losing clients, gaining clients, having successes where you never thought you would have them, and now you have to pull the team in. It was just everybody was just really reactive, so I thought I felt like I could just provide this value for people. By speaking with my coaching clients, a lot of times I would get them at the point where they needed to practice for an interview. They needed help understanding, “Okay, well, what do I say? How do I talk about my work? This is what I’m going for.” I’m speaking with them and I’m reading the job description, and I’m thinking, “This person is going to hate this job.”

This person is not going to like this at all, but it’s at the end of the road where like it’s not really, at that point, my role to say, “You shouldn’t apply for this.” It’s like we’re down the road on that. They’re coming to me because they got an interview, they want to be ready, or they’re on the second round and they really want to nail it and-

Drew McLellan:

And they need a job.

Jamie Roberts:

Yeah, and they need a job and I’m thinking, “Why would you apply for that?” They’re excited about it and I’m thinking, “You’re not going to like this,” based on just the interactions and the conversations I’m having with them, how they work, how they think. It’s like this environment is going to eat you alive, or you’re going to be super bored and you’re going to wonder why you’re there in three months. But there was, obviously, there was a little bit of a frenzy when people are laid off and they don’t know what’s going on. But I thought, “Okay, so if we back up to how I approach building creative teams, I always had this method of these kinds of five core traits that create a successful creative.”

I would use them very informally in interviews. I did a lot of interviewing for my own team, a lot of building my own teams, but I also was pulled into other panel interviews. I noticed along the way I’m looking for different things. I’m looking for things that other people aren’t looking for in these interview panels and things that are deceiving. A lot of people interview great personality, “Oh, they’re great. They’re a culture fit. They’re great.” But how do they do the work? How do they execute the work? How do they think? That’s something that I feel like can be hidden and it doesn’t come out until later when you really you’re stuck and you have a deadline and then you have someone who can’t function in the role, in the way you thought they could.

So going through that process and experiencing it myself and realizing like, “Oh, I think I should formalize this.” I think it made sense to me to want to share this and to be able to share this with people who are hiring so they know what to look for, and I can help them evaluate talent in a way that’s a little more in depth than just the general skills assessments. Because those give you the… they all point to the same thing like, “Oh, this person’s imaginative, they’re creative, they’re innovative.” It’s like, “Well, we know that.”

Drew McLellan:

Well, and in theory, everybody applying to this job should check those boxes.

Jamie Roberts:

Exactly, exactly.

Drew McLellan:

How do I find the right one for me and my team and my clients?

Jamie Roberts:

That’s exactly right, and every environment is different and the environment and the client. It’s like those two things you’re creating Venn diagram and it has to really fit together. After having those experience with coaching clients and really thinking about my own experience over the last 20 years of doing this, it’s like, “Okay, I feel like I want to formalize this and I want to offer it to people to help them figure out how they can get the best fit.” Because knowing how someone thinks, how they process, how they communicate, how they ideate before you get them into those scenarios, you’re just going to fast track so much of your business because you’re not trying to struggle through the initial rounds of, “Okay, well, how are you going to brainstorm? Oh, how are you with this type of client?” You can ask someone that, but in an interview it’s often hidden. The person will say what you want them to say.

Drew McLellan:

Right, we all know the right answer to the question, right?

Jamie Roberts:

Exactly, exactly. It’s always like, “Oh, I’m great at that. Oh, yeah, I’ve done that before.” It’s like, “Okay, well, who doesn’t say that in an interview. The goal is to get the job.” My approach has always been to look for these core things, but as I clicked down a notch, what I realized was the key to this was that there’s a spectrum for each of these traits. Understanding it’s not about, “Do these people match the criteria for these five things?” They should, they really should. There might be an area that may need a little mentorship or a little holding if it’s someone that’s more junior, but it’s really about how the person expresses these traits, and there’s a spectrum there.

What that leads you to is there’s a place for everybody, and I really believe that there’s no bad creatives, there’s just bad fits. Everyone has like some super skill and it could be hidden because they just keep trying to cram themselves in a role that isn’t the right thing for them and how they think. I feel like that’s so hidden because creative recruiting is hard. It really is.

Drew McLellan:

It is, well, and a lot of times the people recruiting may or may not be creative themselves. Depending on the role there, especially, if they’re looking for a creative director, it’s probably an agency owner who may or may not have a creative bent.

Jamie Roberts:

Yeah, absolutely. There’s plenty of marketing agencies out there who are run by people who are marketers and have come up in the marketing world and they’re hiring the creative teams and they’ve never done the job. So how do they know what to look for? Or if you’re working with a recruiting agency and you have an external recruiter who is recruiting for all sorts of roles. They don’t know that deep dive. They don’t know what it’s like to be in it, and so the guidance they’re giving you is what they know but they’ve never experienced it and they’ve never… It’s only as good as what they’ve read essentially. I’m coming from a position of like I’ve experienced it, I’ve seen the struggles, I’ve seen the successes, and I’ve understood this model to be something that’s worked for me and it has worked for people on my team as they build teams.

I’ve helped other people build their teams, and it’s like, “Okay, look for these things and think about how this person expresses this.” What I’ve found is a lot of people aren’t able to suss that out, and so that’s when I thought I feel like the talent evaluations, I can provide that evaluation. It’s not like a quiz or you send the person a survey and then you get the five core strengths or whatever. You have to figure out what that means for your organization. This allows you to really dive into how that person is going to react to negative client feedback, how they’re going to handle fire drills and things that come up, and are they a reliable person? Are they able to pivot? All the things that you need, and not everyone can do.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah, absolutely. Let’s talk about the five traits. If I’m an agency owner and I’m listening to the podcast, I’m thinking, “Okay, well, whether I hire you or not, what should I be looking for?” The first trait is adaptability, so talk a little bit about that. What does that look like? How does it manifest itself? What questions or what signs should I be looking for to suss out if they really are adaptive?

Jamie Roberts:

Adaptability, essentially, that’s just responding willingly to the demands of the moment. That’s how we interpret it. It’s just how do you change course? There’s a lot of people that say, “Oh, yeah, I’m totally adaptable.” It’s like, “Okay, great.” And you’ve seen that. But what I’m digging into is the spectrum of that. For adaptability, it’s really are you responsive or are you deliberative? I can give you an example of that from my own experience. I hired this creative writer for a role to work with a client. In those meetings, the client was the type of person that was like, okay, we’ll give you the feedback on the fly and then say, “What about if we did this?” And, “What do you think about this?”

It was like, they fancied themselves as a creative as well. They liked the back and forth and okay, great. Well, this isn’t what they do, but they feel like this is the fun part of interacting with us, so we’re just going to go with it. Well, this person was amazing, had a great portfolio, great personality just really easy fit in the team. But when we got them in the room, I realized that this person is more deliberative. When the client is saying, “Well, what do you think about this?” Like, “I don’t know about this headline, what if it’s more snappy?” Or kind of the vague gener