How do you do it? You do it by simply asking the people around you, or in your charge, or whose projects you produce, to assess your current capabilities.
Yeah, scary, I know, but in the end, I think the positives outweigh the temporary sting of criticism.
So, here's a few questions that I have asked for honest answers from composers, sound designers, creative technologists and other artisans that I have collaborated with or whose projects I've managed:
- How am I doing?
- What can I do to be better at my job?
- What can I do to make your job easier?
- How are my communication skills?
- If I wanted to be amazing at my job by this time next year, what should I focus on?
Similarly, if you're a Studio Manager, an Executive Producer, a Creative Director or a Managing Director leading a post production company, consider taking a moment to ask yourself (and your partner/s, if applicable), –beyond the creative brief, apart the logistics, and aside from the revenue:
- How do I create value, not just for myself, but for my suppliers, my customers, my employees, and my community?
- How can I manage my people in such a way that we can grow exponentially greater together than if I go it alone?
- How can I motivate my team by leveraging common purpose, rather than simply blunt directive?
Mind you, some professions and situations do require blunt directive –Triage, Fighting Fires, Life and Death circumstances, and Stage Management, to name a few– but VFX, editorial, color correct, music and sound design, even with a looming media buy, shouldn't be one of them. If it is, you might want to consider taking a project management class while you're at it.
Either way, if you think it's nerve racking being on the listening end of all these questions, you're darn right; we artists, creative types and those who are attracted to creative business in almost any capacity often find it difficult not to feel hurt or insulted by other people's suggestions for improvement, no matter how well intentioned they're offered. And unfortunately, not everyone possesses a diplomatic communication skill set with which they might capably frame honest analytics with painless language.
Nevertheless, if you can sublimate the impulse to respond defensively, you'll discover in the weeks thereafter, that no matter how ego bruising, the changes and improvements you've subsequently made to improve your personal and professional skill set will far outlast the sting of criticism.
Upping your existing skills, your communication strategy, and your emotional intelligence game aside, if you don't know how to code yet, you might also commit to learning entry level coding or web development. I recommend trying your hand at Python programming; you may never need it or use it, but that's not the point.
We simply owe it to ourselves to make some attempt to understand the fundamental energy that is driving so much of the innovation in the world today, and which might be summed up as absolute logic in the service of product design applications and other purposeful or creative activities. You know, just like all that stuff you already do everyday, employing a combination of aesthetic, intuition and technique.
In that regard, you don't have to change a thing. But at the very least, coding may give you some idea of the challenges your clients increasingly face, and the processes by which their thoughts and decisions are shaped, and this new knowledge set just might make you a more accurate, empathetic and valuable collaborator and communicator.