Effective Teams: Ideal Traits for Creative Partners

Andy Rutledge describes “the client factors” that designers should consider when calculating project price estimates. I’m not a designer, and I don’t do a lot of estimates; but, I loved his post.

He confesses that the pat answer of “I need more information” before estimating costs, while usually true, is sometimes another way of saying, “What I really need is to spend more time talking with this person, getting to know her; her communication skills, her attitude, and her personality.” Getting to know the person is at the core of making a realistic price estimate.

He goes on to describe the “ideal client” and how to estimate the cost of working with someone who lacks these traits. His list of an ideal client’s characteristics jumped out at me because the constellation of traits seems ideal not just for a client, but for a coworker, boss, or job applicant. (Heck, maybe even a spouse? Just a thought.)

I had three immediate questions: What’s the essence of these “ideal” personality traits? Am I like this? (I want to be ideal; who doesn’t?) Ok, so maybe I’m not; but, what should I do?

Essence

Check out Andy’s list to see if you agree with me, but I’d distill them down to:

  1. Clarity (clear idea, clearly communicated, single stakeholder)
  2. Trust (leaves process and design decisions up to you)

In the context of professional relationships, and specifically in a collaborative situation, I think these qualities reign supreme.

Am I Ideal?

I’m not an objective judge of that, but a more appropriate question might be, “As the service provider, rather than the client, should I aspire to these same traits?” I think so. Clarity: Who can argue with clarity? Trust: Trust is a two-way street. If I don’t demonstrate my trust in them, they can’t trust me.

I would add that the service provider needs to have expertise on top of these other two traits.

What to Do If I’m Not?

If these don’t come naturally to you, I’d suggest the age-old technique of being explicit and accountable to others. Say to the collaborative partner early and often, “I think projects work best when we prioritize clarity and trust. Do you feel our communication so far has been clear? Should we discuss anything further? Do you have any concerns lurking in terms of trust? Am I holding up my end of the bargain?” If being that direct makes you nervous, maybe a thesaurus can help you be more vague and oblique; but, ultimately, if you’re not comfortable putting yourself out there … could it be a trust issue?

Andy shows no interest in complaining about clients; instead he gives us strategies to deal with the reality that most people aren’t ideal. Even better, his insight gives us strategies to become better creative partners ourselves.

He wraps up by touching on the goal of calculating reliable estimates -- to “keep everyone happy.” By reflecting on the characteristics he outlines, I think we can all get closer to that goal.

Emily is Viget's people director, hailing from our Durham, NC, office. She specializes in heart-to-hearts and asking questions that don’t have concrete answers.

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