Creative leadership in a time of crisis.

This article is about our role as leaders: in developing talent in a time of crisis.  

It is our responsibility to create spaces and places where our people can feel safe, and where they can grow.  The decisions we take as leaders during this crisis will have a lasting consequence on our organisations and on our industry.

As an industry, we were helped in making our people feel safe by the packages that the Chancellor announced in March and early April, including the furlough scheme.  It is too early to say for certain, but it looks like the furlough scheme will play an important role in the speed, shape and timing of the eventual recovery that we all know will come. 

Three observations about the furlough scheme and the ad industry;

– I can’t think of many placement teams who have found protection from it, mainly because there was a small degree of uncertainty as to whether HMRC would pay for placement teams (they will) and agencies were not prepared to risk it.

– There is a loophole in the furlough rules which allows employees on the furlough scheme to work on ideas, so long as those ideas are not for clients of their employer.  Working on speculative ideas to present later, when things return to some normality is OK.

– If I ran a medium-sized creative department, I would have furloughed my placement teams and told them to use the time to work on an entirely new book.  I would have suggested a few brands that my agency would want as future clients, with the promise of a job when things return to normal if any of the ideas get sold.

We took the decision to welcome back all furloughed alumni to the virtual School of Communication Arts for a few reasons;

  • We believe it important to show all students, current and past, that the School will always try its hardest to support them, in good times and in bad.
  • We felt it strategically beneficial to invite them back, because doing so would provide three obvious opportunities;  (i) alumni would inspire & guide existing students,  (ii) we want alumni to return to work after COVID with new knowledge, skills & connections,  (iii) because when our alumni thrive it increases the probability that future cohorts will benefit.

Our school is virtual at the moment, and will probably exist as a hybrid when we emerge from lockdown. Teaching and mentoring now happen in a virtual studio, which looks a bit like Zoom shagged The Sims. 

Students, alumni, mentors and guests can walk around the building, dropping in on classrooms, play areas, offices, etc.   We even have our own bar.

Come and meet them.  

Let’s talk about how we all thrive when we are all allowed to feel safe and grow.  Your future, and ours, depends on it.


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