“Now for the answer you might not want. Stakeholder management is really similar to having clients.”

Managing your senior team is complicated. Knowing how to defend your work without stepping out of line. Katie Cadwell gives some advice on how to get your boss on board in this week’s Creative Career Conundrums.

3 June 2024

Creative Career Conundrums is a weekly advice column from If You Could Jobs. Each week their selected panel of professionals from the creative industry answers your burning career questions to help you navigate the creative journey.

This week’s question:

I hate my boss’ boss! My manager and I work in tandem. Everything is all good and plain sailing until it crashes to a halt when brought to the big wig. Yeah yeah stakeholder management this and that. I don’t care. I’ve worked in this creative in-house team for a tech brand for four years and you’re telling me that this person with no creative bone in their body is in charge of our team. Insanity! Make it make sense.

What’s the nicest (and most professional) way to say: you don’t know what you’re taking about and let us handle it?

Katie Cadwell, co-founder of branding studio Lucky Dip and The NDA Podcast:

It’s frustrating to have your work fall at the last hurdle, especially if you think it can be avoided.

I’d start by seeing if your manager is on the same page. Suggest a conversation or workshop to review the team’s creative process. By identifying when things tend to go off the rails, you will very subtly point out that their involvement derails projects.

“Ultimately, they [your bosses] don’t want to hinder you from doing your job. Because that doesn’t serve them or the business. Look to work with them, not against them.”

Katie Cadwell

Now for the answer you might not want: stakeholder management is really similar to having clients. That makes it a great chance to practice that relationship and explore how you bring them on the journey with you. A huge part of our jobs as creatives is to educate those who don’t understand design. It’s obvious they’d like to be part of the creative process (and the fact your boss hasn’t intervened, suggests they have every right to be). Perhaps you need to look at how you’re involving them.

Do they just see final outcomes, with no context? Is it being presented to them in the same way you would to a client? Or does a PDF just land in their inbox? Can you show more WIP work so they feel part of the team?

Asking ‘Can you explain why you think that?’ is a great way to dig deeper into their feedback. Often they will be coming from a strategic place and considering the wider ambitions of the business. There’s a great report by Inside Out, that outlines 12 principles for succeeding in-house under similar conditions – that might be worth a read.

Ultimately, they don’t want to hinder you from doing your job. Because that doesn’t serve them or the business. Look to work with them, not against them.

In answering your creative career conundrums we realise that some issues need expert support, so we’ve collated a list of additional resources that can support you across things that might arise at work.

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About the Author

Katie Cadwell

Katie Cadwell is co-founder of branding studio, Lucky Dip. She has spent over a decade working with the world's best agencies and nicest clients. A vocal advocate for the creative industry, she founded The NDA Podcast to shed light on some of the biggest secrets in our studios. Through conversations with creative leaders & legends, Katie interrogates the industry’s flaws – hoping to make it a healthier, happier, more accessible place to work.

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