How To Cultivate A High-Performing In-House Creative Team

Amanda Froehlich is the Creative Operations Manager at Saint-Gobain, a multinational manufacturer of high-performance building and construction materials. She has more than 20 years  of experience in the advertising and marketing industry, with a focus on building, leading and developing award-winning creative teams for several of the world’s largest corporations. Naturally, we wanted to pick her brain to see what we could learn about managing a results-driven creative team from this in-house creative guru.

Tell us a bit about your in-house agency at Saint-Gobain and the culture within the group.

I oversee The Hive — Saint-Gobain’s creative hub. We are the internal creative team dedicated to providing strategic solutions to our internal clients. As a medium-sized, self-financed department, we work with almost all businesses within Saint-Gobain on a daily basis.

The culture within the team is one of innovation, collaboration and creativity. We work hard, really hard, and we also try to have fun doing this! Even though the industry puts an enormous amount of pressure on us to deliver, we are always striving to keep the work strategic, fresh and innovative.

What do you do to shape a positive, productive environment for your team?

There are two things that I truly believe are crucial to our success. Ongoing education is number one. I work with my team to give them the tools and resources necessary to stay on top of trends both within the B2B manufacturing industry, as well as the marketing and design trends that are continually emerging. I try to get everyone out to conferences to allow them to interact with other creatives, share experiences and learn from others. I also have a great number of tools that are available to my entire team to keep them highly functioning in the software and techniques of their trade.

The second most important thing to shaping a positive and productive environment is to allow the creatives the necessary time needed to concept their ideas. This means carving out time for them to research, find inspiration and define a methodology that can be followed to formulate a recipe for creative success.

How would your colleagues describe your leadership style?

I believe my leadership style would best be described as both coaching and compassionate. Having been a creative my entire career, I can empathize with the struggles that my team goes through on a daily basis. I work hard to empower and coach them to make the best decisions and to develop themselves on a regular basis. Empowering each of them to develop their own creative style is so important to me. I want a team that is diverse, has areas of expertise, but is also not afraid to branch out into areas that may make them uncomfortable; that’s what going to make each of them better every single day.

While we know that no two days are the same, what do most days of the week look like for you?

Wow, this is a tough question! I spent an awful lot of time in meetings with my internal clients and upper management. I also spend time reviewing the higher-level, more strategic creative work that comes out of my department. On a regular basis, I am analyzing the financials of my group and our processes to see how we can streamline things and better serve our customers. It’s a lot to pack into a typical week and it requires wearing many different hats.

As a creative professional, how do you stay creatively fulfilled when so much of your role involves management?

My creativity is most fulfilled through my personal artwork. I have a background in fine arts and I’ve always held onto that. Whether it’s drawing, painting or photography, it allows me to continue to stay connected to the creative world when I am outside of the office.

What piece of advice would you offer someone who just stepped into a leadership role on a creative team?

The greatest piece of advice that I would offer is to build a network of fellow creative leaders that can become your support team. There are so many organizations available for creative leaders now and it is worth the investment to seek these people out. They will become a sounding board for you and also help you to realize that you are not alone in the problems that you will face. We have all faced them at one time or another and this is such a unique industry where so many of us are willing to share our experiences to help others out.