Unlocking Creative Leadership With Andy Polaine


Apple | Google | Spotify | Stitcher | iHeart


Need some quick advice? Jump on a call with me, and I'll provide some insight and action. This is NOT a sales call where I try to get you to hire me. Promise!

Click here to schedule a call. 

Episode Overview:

"Unlocking Creative Leadership With Andy Polaine" is a dynamic leadership program led by the expert, Andy Polaine. Rooted in the principles of creative leadership, this program equips participants with the knowledge and tools necessary to thrive in today's rapidly changing business world. Polaine's extensive experience in design thinking and innovation shines through as he guides participants in harnessing their creative potential, fostering innovation, and cultivating collaboration within their organizations. With an emphasis on practical application, participants gain not only a deep understanding of creative leadership but also the skills to implement these concepts effectively. By the program's end, individuals emerge with a renewed sense of purpose, armed with the ability to lead and inspire in a rapidly evolving landscape.

Additional Resources:

* Website

Skot Waldron (00:01.171)
Andy, this is quite a treat for me to have you on the show. As someone who coaches creative leaders, I love it. I wanna pick all your brain stuff right now.

Andy Polaine (00:13.406)
Pleasure, thank you for having me.

Skot Waldron (00:15.395)
Yeah, this is good. I love that we connected and that we got in touch. Um, I don't have people like you on the show all the time. This is where my heart is. Creative leadership is where I've, you know, I come from, uh, anytime I get to educate this audience, let's do it. So that's what we're here for.

Andy Polaine (00:33.302)
Great. Let's go.

Skot Waldron (00:36.039)
Tell me, first of all, give me a really quick brief of your background and why you ended up where you are.

Andy Polaine (00:46.984)
Okay, that's always difficult, the quick version is. Quick version is wanted to be a film director, ended up studying a kind of multi different media kind of program and including film, but when interactive multimedia early 90s, very early 90s, like 1990 or 91 started, and I kind of got sidetracked by that. So I got into

Skot Waldron (00:49.607)
Quick version, Andy, quick version.

Andy Polaine (01:11.05)
What is now like interaction design and UX and all the rest of the digital pre web pre, you know, a lot of stuff and worked in that industry for most of my life. Also been teaching quite a lot of that. I got interested in the sort of design of organizations and organizational change as the design process. And a friend of mine, Ben Reason said, who I co-wrote this book about service design with said, well, we do this thing called service design.

And that for me was like, oh my God, this has a name, the way I think has a name and a methodology. So I sort of segued into that quite a lot, teaching it and also doing it. Before I set up on my own again now, I was at Fjord, which is now Accenture Song, it's part of Accenture at the time, and was a design director and then original design director in Asia Pacific. They're helping design teams and working with clients and Accenture stakeholders.

And then I left and I had been doing a lot of sort of mentoring and coaching as part of my work and also part of my teaching. And I realized that I really liked doing that. And so that's what I've been doing for the last, well, about three, three and a half years is coaching design leaders, creative leaders from everyone from sort of senior lead up to, well, up to VP and CDO, actually Chief Design Officer.

Skot Waldron (02:37.403)
Let me ask you this, your opinion. What is the desire level for creative leaders as a whole in our industry to seek out leadership development? Are they aware that they need it? Are they wanting it? Are they like, what's, what do you feel is the need out there?

Andy Polaine (02:39.638)

Andy Polaine (03:00.338)
Yeah, I think there's a need, right? And whether how conscious people are of it or not is another question. I mean, I've definitely worked with people who I've kind of thought, well, you could really do with some coaching and they're really unaware of the fact that they could. And so there's that. I think there's quite a lot of a need. I think there's a lot of people feel like, one of the things that happens is when you rise up in design, particularly if you're in-house, like working in a bank or a...

Telco, wherever it is as a design person or even a startup, you're often the most senior design person in that organization and it's really lonely. And on top of that, you're kind of like, oh, I don't know what I'm doing and I've got no one. You obviously can't talk to your boss or your kind of necessarily your peers or certainly not your reports and say, listen, you know, I really feel like I have no idea what I'm doing and I'm really anxious about this and I'm really fearful about that. And so, you know, that's my job really is to be that person they can speak to who's also been through some of that stuff.

I think it's really necessary because I think as a leader, you know, you have all your complexes, all the stuff, the baggage you carry, which, you know, we do bring into work. I, you know, people think it's not personal, it's business, it's a complete lie. You know, we bring everything into work, particularly working from home now a lot. And that gets magnified across lots of people, you know, and so you've got things that kind of push your buttons in a bad way.

you know, the higher up you are, the more influence that has on everyone else. And you can kind of make for you can become really kind of toxic by accident through that. But at the very least, there's a lot of sort of insecurity and worry because also as a creative person, you're kind of moving into the sort of world of business much more and dealing with kind of business leaders that just speak a really different language, a really different kind of background to you, really different sensibilities. And that's also what adds to the loneliness.

Now it's less commonly known, I think, to have coaching in that field. You know, it's not uncommon for someone like a CEO to write it into their contract that they have a coach. A lot of senior business people have a coach, executive coach, as kind of part of parcel of the thing. And I think a lot of design folks think, oh, I should just be able to do this themselves. But, you know, I'm obviously selling myself a bit here, but I think it really helps them when they have someone they can talk to.

Skot Waldron (05:17.115)
I agree. I, um, going up in the ranks, I always say that, you know, design or agency leaders, creative leaders learned, learned leadership from people who'd never knew how to lead because they learned from people who never learned how to lead. Right. It was just this perpetuated idea. It was just a cycle that people were just going in. Uh, and so that was how, I mean, that's what happened to me. I mean, I was.

Andy Polaine (05:34.683)
Yeah, by accident.

Andy Polaine (05:41.313)

Skot Waldron (05:46.551)
I was mentored and brought up by brilliant designers, not always brilliant leaders. And, you know, they would probably admit that as well, but they're brilliant. Designers, great people who meant well, but that's where I learned to lead from. And then when I ran my agency, I was like leadership stuff. That's for the suits. That's for like the corporate people. Like I don't do that. I'm cool. Everybody loves our culture.

Andy Polaine (05:54.494)

Andy Polaine (06:00.574)

Andy Polaine (06:10.318)
Exactly, right, yeah.

Andy Polaine (06:15.406)
Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha

Skot Waldron (06:16.567)
You know, so do you feel that that's kind of the vibe out there?

Andy Polaine (06:20.542)
Yeah, I think there is a bit of that. I think there's quite a lot of that actually. And you know, part of the, I mean, it's interesting what you're talking about because that, that definitely is the area of like, if you were lucky, you happen to be working with some people or under some people who are really useful role models for you, for you and for, from whom you learned and all the rest of it. If you weren't, well, then you're not. And then you don't have that stuff. And, and literally you're talking like sort of a couple of generations of, at least, and it's not even like, it's like work generations, which are a bit shorter.

design was in a very different place in the organization, I think, than where it is now. I think it's going through yet another kind of transformation. But I think where the kind of leadership and conversations those people from those couple of generations back, I think were quite different from the kind of more intense stakeholder conversations that are going on that senior design leaders are involved in now.

Skot Waldron (07:14.407)
Tell me about the journey from like, you know, that, that early on, I'm a designer, I'm a, I'm an art director, I'm a copywriter, I'm a interact, I'm a video editor, like that, that. What we call, um, collaborator, right? That, uh, individual contributor. Yeah. So moving into now I have to lead people. There's, there's a big chasm there, but like, tell me about that journey.

Andy Polaine (07:31.486)
Hmm. Angel country piece there. Yeah.

Andy Polaine (07:39.774)
Yeah, there is. There's a thing I call, I call the dip, which I'm sort of starting to slightly reconfigure the little sort of diagram for that, because it's kind of a roller coaster because there's multiple dips. Lots of people then in design leadership have said to me, as I've been writing this book, you know, well, actually there's several dips I had after that. And so I think what goes on, so I think there's a thing that's going on. I was just reading about an article about this today.

you know, I actually could think it goes on sort of teenage years, you kind of decide you say, people say, what do you want to do for a living? And you say, well, something in the creative arts and design and stuff. There's plenty of people around you who sort of go, oh, well, yeah, that's a difficult, difficult career is not very stable, you know, all the rest of it can't earn much money that way, you know, you sure and all that stuff. So if you opt for it anyway, you sort of bias towards being someone who's happy and comfortable with ambiguity.

And if you're not, and I don't mean to be judgmental by this, I think there's just other types of people going, no, you know, that stuff's really stability of a career ladder and everything like that is very important to me. And I prefer to do that. I think what has happened in a lot of business, certainly in consultancies, certainly in, you know, places, you know, financial institutions and stuff, there's a massive overindex of kind of risk adverse this. And that's obviously the sort of tension between innovation and which is risky.

and safety. I think what also happens though at school and certainly at uni is you kind of get, a lot of people get told they're not academically bright, right? And so they, you know, go, I'm, you know, I'm a bit stupid, but you know, but I can draw. There's a real kind of investment in the identity there around I can make a thing, I can make a thing that someone else can look at and go, I can't do that. That's amazing what you do. And I actually think it's one of the really sort of inner

psychological kind of make ups of a lot of people in design. It's not true absolutely of everyone, but it's, it's common. And that just gets replicated, right? We talked about what you just said, which is, oh, that's for the suits. You know, I'm cool. You know, all of those kinds of things, you can hear the sort of echoes of that, of how we think about ourselves as in our identities. And then what starts to happen when you move into a role where you, you make stuff less. Um, and at some point you probably don't make anything at all other than.

Andy Polaine (10:00.97)
you know, PowerPoint decks. What you're then starting to do is you move into this sort of management and leadership and those are kind of two overlapping things on the Venn diagram. But you basically start dealing with people. Your job is to deal with people more than it is to deal with, you know, pixels or pen and paper, whatever it is. And so you unravel one identity, which is quite painful, right? It's quite existentially challenging to unravel your sort of identity that you forged over.

probably, you know, 10, 15 years at least. And then to start taking on another one, which you're kind of a bit of a beginner at in many respects. So all of the kind of leadership and some of the management stuff. And so you go through this dip where you're sort of a little bit rubbish at both, or at least you feel that you are. It's like a confidence dip that you go through, and it can really spin people out. And most of my coaching is helping people through that.

Skot Waldron (10:52.975)
That is so real. It is the, I'm, I'm unconsciously incompetent of, you know, becoming a designer, I'm a young designer, I'm coming out of school, I'm doing my thing. And then I get better and better, better throughout my career. Right. And I'm just, I'm thriving, I'm crushing it and getting all kinds of awards and recognition, and then all of a sudden I'm starting to lead people and then I'm going to dip, right. I go into the dip and I'm starting to realize that I'm actually incompetent again.

Andy Polaine (11:16.402)
Yeah, yeah.

Skot Waldron (11:21.955)
You know, and it's like from competent incompetence to now I'm competent to now I'm incompetent again, and now I'm having to raise up that competency level and it's, it could be discouraging and disheartening and, uh, just frustrating for people, um, to move through that. But one of the principles that you note is that, Hey, don't forget all the things that you learned.

Andy Polaine (11:22.058)

Andy Polaine (11:37.93)

Skot Waldron (11:46.927)
developing your competency and design and art direction and doing the making of the thing. How do people take what they learned in that competency and move it over into their new competency? So we don't have to forget the fact that we used to push pixels. How do we take those ideas and integrate them into leadership?

Andy Polaine (12:03.906)
Yeah, yeah.

Andy Polaine (12:08.726)
Yeah, I'm really glad you said the competency thing. You've just reminded me of as part of the research of the book, I interviewed, um, ex colleague and friend of mine, Martha Cotton, who, uh, was the head global head of, um, design research practice at Fjord and then ended up co-leading Fjord. And it is, has now left and working somewhere else, but she talked about becoming confidence, becoming confident in her competence. And that was a really important moment, uh, for her. And actually it's an, it's, it's a mix of those two that you just talked about because.

You know, one of the things she says, you know, I've spent the last 20, 30 years kind of having the same conversation. Uh, for her, it's all about kind of the value of research and the value of qualitative research, um, uh, as well as quant and the rest of it. And you know, it's at some point she kind of having felt insecure about this sort of stepped into this moment for no, I, you know, I can do this. I can take, uh, this practice that I know very, very well, and it's very important and has a lot of value for the business.

And I can articulate this in a way that lands with those people, right? The lands of people who don't understand, may not care about research, but in a way that's important to them and therefore, you know, it gains traction and therefore, you know, we are able to do it and provide impact to the organization. You know, and it was a kind of repetition of that, that got her that, that confidence in her competence. But I think the, it's a really good example of

of where you don't let go of the, the particular lens you bring as a designer. If you just become like another suit, I've seen designers do this. And I, again, I don't really judge them, but in some respects, if you get into a sort of leadership position in an organization and you kind of just act like another MBA only without, and sort of jettison that early bit of your, um, identity and your lens and this kind of viewpoint you bring.

which is usually around, you know, a deep understanding of people, a really good understanding of kind of relating to people. Usually quite good skills in storytelling and the designer's secret superpower, which is to make that stuff visual. Like the ability to take a complex idea or an abstract idea and make it tangible in some form, you know, whether it's a sketch or a prototype or whatever, that's incredibly powerful. It can create sort of instant alignment. If you kind of throw all of that out, well, then you're kind of just another MBA.

Andy Polaine (14:34.502)
And that seems to me to be a massive waste. And so I think you need to have that confidence that those things actually matter. And that's kind of why you're there. Otherwise, they might as well have just hired someone else.

Skot Waldron (14:47.963)
That's good. That's really good. I feel like as I've moved in, was I moved into leadership, I was just creating, you know, keynote presentations and proposals and, you know, I felt like I had to design my keynote present because that was the only designing I was doing, you know, or, or else when I would come in and just say, Hey, um, that's not looking quite right. Can you scoot over so I can just get in there for a minute and, you know, do something, so there's, there's that too. Right. So.

Andy Polaine (14:57.718)

Andy Polaine (15:04.794)
Yeah, I've been there. Yeah, elbow someone out the way.

Skot Waldron (15:16.811)
I think that when we look at what do we bring with us to leadership that we took with, I think it's an interesting thing about our profession is that a lot of us do come up through the ranks. We did start as a maker. We do become that leader. And then we have the younger people that are looking to us for mentorship. And I think it's...

Andy Polaine (15:32.094)

Skot Waldron (15:41.643)
A lot of the times in design or in the trade of what we were doing with the thing we used to make, they're looking at us for mentorship on how to be, how to do the thing just like that. Um, and that's just the stage of life that they're in. And I think we always, as leaders need to keep this mentality of, yeah, I'm going to teach you to be good at that trade, but I also need to

Andy Polaine (15:46.058)
Yeah, yeah.

Andy Polaine (15:59.519)

Skot Waldron (16:10.767)
We also need to shift this mentality of I'm not, that's just the maker. Like now I am somebody who needs to inspire and I need to encourage and I need to listen and I need to lead and I need to liberate and I need to, like, how do I do that now? So I can teach them to also do that when they become one because eventually they probably will become one.

Andy Polaine (16:32.206)
Yeah, well, hopefully, you know, it's, that's, that's the perennial question, right? And that I guess that's the work, right? Which is how, how do you do that? You know, I think one of the key things in kind of life as well as in your design leadership or any other kind of leadership, actually, and one of the things I'm realizing is this is much broader than just design or creative industries have some people from medicine and stuff. So, you know, exactly the same.

and engineering for that matter too, which is learning to kind of be yourself, right? And being comfortable with being yourself. Because every time you're sort of puffing yourself up and trying to be something you're not, is another little coin in the imposter syndrome box, right? And so, you know, with that obviously comes the question of, well, who am I? What am I about, really? If I'm going to be myself, what am I being authentic to?

And that's, that's quite an existential question. And so actually doing some work on that is really important to get a sense of, yeah, okay, this is, this is kind of how I take. And all of us will flip out and I've burned plenty of bridges and I've been a complete a-hole sometimes to other stakeholders where I just kind of, I just thought, you know, that person just pushed my buttons really wrong. Um, and that's, you know, I've learned from a lot of those situations, but I think the idea is not to be sort of perfect all the time, the idea is to have this sense of this kind of center that you can come back to each time.

And it's very much like a kind of mindfulness or a yoga. It's like not that you have to have perfect posture all the time, but you kind of recognise, oh my God, I'm slumping and I can't get back. And so when you get knocked around, you get quicker and quicker, you get back to kind of a sort of centre of you again and a confidence again around yourself. Cause you're just gonna be constantly be kind of battered around on that front. So I think that kind of, that being comfortable with yourself, I think it's a thing that comes with age a bit, but I think I've also seen younger people

get there annoyingly earlier, that's two, and be sort of comfortable with that. There's a second thing you said though, which is I think it can be a little bit of a shocker to realize that more junior people take what you say really seriously. And I'm sort of one who covers, I'm English, I have this slight, you know, discomfort with the idea of being a leader anyway, and kind of, you know, who cares what I think, and all of that stuff.

Andy Polaine (18:51.458)
And I often use sort of really lame, so dad jokes and things to, to break that a little bit. But I've realized actually sometimes what I've made some of those kind of wisecracks that someone more junior has taken that really, really seriously. And I thought, oh, I actually, I need to be a bit more mindful here. When I give feedback, it's not just, I'm just someone giving feedback. It's like, oh, this is my boss or my most senior person giving me feedback. And that can often be taken as

that's what I should be doing, when actually you might be thinking, well, that's just my thoughts on it. And so being kind of more mindful around that, it can be a little bit of a kind of rude awakening.

Skot Waldron (19:29.467)
So how do you think, I guess I'm trying to think about how to phrase this question. How do you think the view or the idea of leadership is changing? I guess, and maybe in our industry versus outside, do you think it's the same as the way it's evolving and changing or do you think just in our industry, in the creative industry, it's shifting and changing?

Andy Polaine (19:49.362)

Andy Polaine (19:59.266)
I mean, I think it's changing across the board. And I think you're seeing generational change. You're seeing also, you know, things like COVID also shifted the power dynamics often. You had, we had the sort of great resignation and now we're having the sort of great firing in tech that's been going on. I think that it differs between cultures. I mean, I've lived in different countries and worked in different countries and it differs a lot in different cultures. You know, traditionally Germany is very kind of hierarchical.

and people pay attention to the hierarchy and care about it, you know, and things like that. It's also different in different industries. I think some of the things that are similar, which is this idea of leadership being, I need to tell you what to do because every employee is really just kind of work shy, kind of, you know, trying to get away with the least amount of work they can do possible. And therefore, if I don't kind of micromanage you, you're going to just kind of rip us off.

and there's a very sort of top-down, you know, very heavy kind of micromanagement culture. That still exists around the place, you know, it depends on person to person. I think, you know, you just touched upon it in design, if you know you would have an art director or creative director who's kind of directing a lot of the craft, like, you know, literally, you know, make the logo bigger stuff, I mean, or, you know, think about this differently. In a craft sense, I think that

There's been this whole servant leadership thing, Simon Sinek has got a lot to answer for there, which can easily lead into martyrdom, where people then take the hits for their team and they just burn out, because they're trying to just constantly serve both masters and they just destroy themselves. And you can't do that either. The way I like to think of it and the way I think, hopefully, the shift is going, is to think of leadership. I much prefer to think of enabler rather than leader as a word.

Because you can enable good behavior and you can enable bad behavior and toxic behavior too. Right. We, we talk about enabling an addict and those things. We also talk about sort of enabling things like bullying and, you know, racism and things like that, um, by not doing anything about it. Um, but you can enable people to buy, uh, in positively. And what you're really trying to do there is not tell them what to do. You're trying to kind of, in some respects, kind of get out the way or take away the obstacles. Um, but sometimes those are internal in those people. So.

Andy Polaine (22:26.066)
One of the things I really learned from teaching was, now this person is kind of stuck here and it's not stuck because they're not stuck because they're stuck with the craft, they're stuck because they're kind of blocked themselves internally. And my job is to try and kind of unblock them. And that goes for also stakeholder management, right? There's a lot of fear and anxiety everywhere in work. And I think if you can think about, you know, this person is being really difficult stakeholder, you know, senior, whoever.

to our design team, what is it that they're afraid and anxious about, and how can I enable them to, you know, to not be afraid and anxious, and how can I, you know, enable my team not to kind of respond to that in this kind of high-frequency way, where it just kind of makes it worse. And I much prefer to kind of think of it like that, than telling people what to do.

Skot Waldron (23:15.407)
Let me ask you this question. I'm posing this one to you and you're not ready for this because I just thought of it like 10 seconds ago. I don't even know if I'm ready for this. What do you think the responsibility is? I didn't just think about this right now. I thought about just asking you right now. What do you think the responsibility is of schools, creative schools to teach leadership principles? Because they don't. They do what? Sorry.

Andy Polaine (23:17.458)

Andy Polaine (23:38.74)
Oh, I've thought about this a lot. So that's good. So I'm ready for this question. I've thought about this a lot. So I'm ready for this. Yeah, yeah, yeah. So

Skot Waldron (23:43.727)
Have you? Okay. Good. I want this because my, my whole thing is like, we go to learn the craft. My school taught the craft that enabled me to be better and to think through problems with Photoshop or with any other program I'm using, but also some of the design process and things, right? My school, brilliant, brilliant when it came to that. But what's the responsibility to teach leadership? Because one day they don't really say, Oh, by the way, you might be a leader one day.

Andy Polaine (23:58.783)

Andy Polaine (24:02.049)

Skot Waldron (24:13.751)
You know, but they really tell you that part of it.

Andy Polaine (24:15.264)
Yeah, so absolutely. So I do teach my master's students this actually. So I teach on a masters of a co-teacher, masters of service design, co-leader, masters of service design in Le Tern in Switzerland. And one of the courses we teach is called Leading Conversations.

And it's some of it's around conversations within your team. So when you're working together, how do you kind of negotiate some of this stuff? Some of it is around, um, you know, working with stakeholders and thinking about when do conversations happen? So I have this whole kind of thing about sort of are the right people. In able to have the right conversations at the right time in the right way. And if you unpack it and go, well, who are the right people? Good question. You know, what's the right time? Good question. All of those things are useful questions to unpack and make you think about, yeah, when should engineering design.

talk to each other and in what way, you know, is this a quick slack thing or is this something where we actually have to have a kind of a formal thing? Is it something that's a workshop? Um, because different kinds of conversations can take different forms into sort of different media and they're not all equal and the intent is not equal. And so actually sort of doing some intentional work around that. And I, that's what I try and teach the students, um, is really useful.

I think there's other stuff that they will, you know, and I talk about a lot of this stuff too, and particularly because they're service design students, service design has a very large component of sort of stakeholder management in the organization and there's a lot of sort of organizational change stuff that service design often kicks off. So it's kind of part of the, part of the job. Um, and I think it's really, really important. And, uh, you know, they're part is cause design schools have come through this kind of technical college, kind of, uh,

pathway evolution from where they did just teach the craft. And it's a very sort of Bauhausian thing as well to kind of do that. And then sort of evolved to where they are now. For me, I mentioned I studied film and one of the things that really, really early on that I learned at film school, you know, I studied film, digital media, film, video, this new thing called digital media and photography. And in film and video in particular.

Andy Polaine (26:16.178)
you know, we were graded as a team, right? And you would have a camera person, you would have a director, a producer, a script writer. And they might have been, you know, someone might have taken two of those roles or something. But there were two parts, like, well, your film is okay. It looked amazing, well done camera person, you know, and kind of lighting person, but the script was terrible.

Or, you know, it was a complete fiasco in the making of this and stuff. So the producer was, you know, it's terrible. So I learned very early on the importance of that kind of collaborative, cross-disciplinary way of working together and negotiating those things. And it was really on us. Like if something fell apart, because we all, we all sort of just were at each other, actually, a little, I can't speak at each other's throats. You know, our lecturers would just be like, well, you know, you needed to sort that stuff out.

And I think it's really important. And I, but what I do know is I think the stuff that I'm teaching my students now, they probably will not thank me for what they do later. Um, you know, until a few years later. And then I think that stuff is, oh yeah, I remember having, you know, thinking about that stuff.

Skot Waldron (27:22.071)
Yeah, I didn't realize I wasn't learning that stuff and you don't know what you don't know.

Andy Polaine (27:25.362)
No, no, that's the thing. No, and it isn't taught in, um, in design school. And it is really, really crucial because. You know, that was a real moment for me. I can almost just like remember the exact moment where I realized, oh my God, you know, this job, but my design teams never came to me. I see my teams, our design teams never came to me. Well, really like perhaps I'll count on one hand stuck with a piece of designing. You know, usually it was around a synthesis thing.

or maybe a kind of research thing, but not the actual design. Because if people have been doing it for five, ten years, they kind of know what they're doing. It was always people stuff. You know, is this stakeholder's a real pain? This team member is really being disruptive or is problematic. Whatever it is, it was just like all people stuff.

Skot Waldron (28:15.115)
And I think the value also comes in to where me as a, you know, maker and as a whatever, I evolve into an owner, maybe of an agency or a partner or whatever. I get to that level. And now I'm not only working with creatives, I'm working with account managers and I'm working with project managers and I'm working with CFOs and I'm working with sales and I'm working with these different.

Andy Polaine (28:29.831)

Skot Waldron (28:44.731)
personalities that are all being led by somebody who was once doing that creative quote unquote stuff. And now you're having to think like a business person and manage different personalities and different dynamics in the office. And if you had the knowledge and the understanding of how to have conversations with different people, understanding different communication styles early on, how valuable would that be later?

Andy Polaine (28:46.111)

Andy Polaine (29:14.494)
Yeah, it's really great. And you know, one of the ways I phrase it to coachees is slow motion facilitation, because a lot of designers have done facilitation of workshops and stuff and you know, they're kind of reading the room, the, uh, but there's a table there and there's kind of four people working and there's one person who's kind of on their phone checked out.

I've set this activity up and told everyone to get on and then everyone turned to each other and said, what is it we're supposed to be doing? I don't get it. You know, what happened there where I communicated something, it just kind of fell flat on the floor and people don't know what's going on. There's the cadence of it, you know, people need sort of buzzing up, there are people feeling really kind of de-energized and what can we do, you know, individual stuff that's going to work for introverts, group stuff that's going to work for sort of extroverts or collaborative people. You know, it's

There's a lot of stuff there in the way we think about those skills that you can apply kind of over a longer period of time, over kind of weeks, months, years. And, um, and it's really nice for people, I think, to realize, Oh, I mean, those skills I can just use in being kind of a design leader and manager for that matter.

Skot Waldron (30:19.459)
That's great. So when you work with, when you work with individuals, what do you think is one of the core issues you're helping them battle? So managing the dip is, is part of it. Um, what, what's that main thing though, that you really help solve at the end of the day for these individuals.

Andy Polaine (30:25.994)

Andy Polaine (30:34.154)

Andy Polaine (30:41.038)
So it is different. And, you know, I do a first session, which is kind of like a self reflection thing, um, to, to go through this, actually, that's that I do a kind of two hour first session for this reason. And it's actually often the first time people are kind of sat down and went, yeah, you know, what has been my pathway to here and what am I all about? And all of that sort of stuff. Probably the first time since maybe deciding what they wanted to do for a degree that they've actually done that. And, um,

That's very useful to kind of get a sense of who they are. And it differs in terms of where they're going. Some people have got, so my wife is a psychotherapist, works in the room next door. And I've done psychotherapy for many years because you can't be married to one and not do that. And I think it's actually something everyone should do. I think it's really that sort of self-discovery stuff. It wasn't for any particular kind of major issue. I just was interested to kind of understand myself more. And I think it's, you know, the world would be a better place if everyone had done therapy.

Um, but then, you know, there's kind of what I jokingly say is like therapy for designers down one end and kind of very tactical stuff, almost like training down the other end and sort of coachings in the middle and it moves around. Um, so I think that, um, you know, sometimes people come and they really want something they've got like a kind of burning tactical issue. Like I've, you know, I've got this, I've just been promoted into this area. I need to put together this presentation or I need, I have anxiety around presenting.

And I really struggle with this or I've got, you know, career matrix. I'm putting it together. Sometimes that's very kind of tactical. Other people just really lost and other people get to that sort of dip, that middle part of their career. And it's often a midlife, midlife moment. So a lot, and not exclusively, I think my youngest coach is 24. Um, my oldest coach is probably about 53, but a lot of people are in their sort of mid to late thirties to late forties. And it's a kind of classic period in life where they're like, well, I've got to where I think.

I thought I wanted to be, now I'm here. It's either like, is this it? I'm not really sure that I want this. Or it's like, oh my God, I don't know what I'm doing here. And some people are much like, yeah, no, I'm really here and I wanna get to the next level. And some people are like, I hate where I work and I want to get out, but I'm not sure what I want to do. So there's different sort of pathways people take. But most of it is around helping them find what I call the shape of them. What is their shape? What are they all about? What do they do?

Andy Polaine (33:06.622)
you know, what's the roughly sort of what's their value proposition, right? What do they believe and what do they do? You know, how do they go about doing it? Who is who are the people they help? You know, what's the impact of what they do? This is a thing I stole from a friend of mine, Jeff Gotthelf, who wrote a book called Forever Employable, where some of this is in, you know, really just getting a sense of being clear about this is who I am, and this is what I do, and these are some things I want to do, and this is what I don't do.

And that second one is really crucial because you get so much stuff thrown at you, you really have to decide what you're going to say no to.

Skot Waldron (33:47.311)
Right on, right on. So Andy, I knew this was gonna be enlightening, not just because you have a sophisticated accent, but because of the things that I knew would come out of your mouth. So that's really golden. I hope that people will hear this. And if you're not a creative leader out there, these are just leadership principles in general. I just feel the creative industry is lags behind, I think the rest of the corporate world when it comes to this. And I think that's why some special need is special.

Andy Polaine (33:59.647)
Thank you.

Andy Polaine (34:07.346)
Yeah, yeah they are.

Skot Waldron (34:17.19)
care is what I'm trying to give to them. And so you've helped me do that. And I appreciate it that people want to contact you. They want to hear more of your insights, want to hire you for something, want, you know, for coaching or speaking or teaching or whatever they want you to do for them, where did they go?

Andy Polaine (34:18.378)

Andy Polaine (34:35.722)
They go to my website. It's Pauline.com. It's my surname. So P O L A I N E. Uh, and there you'll find, you know, me, my, my blog, you'll find my newsletter, which is called doctors note. I am, we had talked about this before. I am actually, um, Dr. Pauline. I don't really use it. Um, and you also my podcast, which is called power of 10.

Skot Waldron (34:59.119)
Okay. Gold man. Thank you, Andy. I appreciate you being on, um, enjoy your time over there. Thanks for educating the next generation of, uh, leaders as they come up and hopefully they're better than we are.

Andy Polaine (35:12.694)
Thank you so much for having me as your guest. I've really enjoyed chatting with you and I really enjoyed the questions.



Set up an account on GiANT (it's free forever) and access the same content that Google, Delta, CDC, and Chick-fil-A use to train their leaders.