May 10, 2012

SXSW Recap (Part 2): Play Nice in the Sandbox

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Maria Giudice
CEO & Founder

Note: This is the second of four posts recapping “Moms (plus one Dad) vs. Management,” a talk on the parallels between parenting and management given by Hot CEO Maria Giudice and an all-star group of panelists. If you haven’t already, be sure to check out Part 1.

Today we’re looking at Pixar manager Lourdes Alba’s tips on successful collaboration, or “playing nice in the sandbox.”

Work and play rarely occur in a vacuum. And whether you’re collaborating on a client proposal or a sandcastle, fights can and will happen. That’s why the ability to compromise, to play well together, is a skill set that parents and managers must frequently emphasize (and re-emphasize) among their respective broods.

When you’re collaborating, it’s all about working with people, not working for them, or having them work for you. It’s about creating a space of multidisciplinary collaboration. For Lourdes, who’s helped manage some of Pixar’s biggest hits—including Ratatouille, Up, and Toy Story 3—the ability to get other people and departments to play nicely is one of the biggest aspects of her job.

So what has Lourdes’s experience as a mom taught her about being a successful manager? Some insights:

Lourdes, the Mom: The most frustrating thing for a kid is feeling ignored.
Lourdes, the Manager: It’s the same with employees. That’s why it’s important to create an environment in which dialogue can happen and people can contribute ideas based upon their worldview.

Lourdes, the Mom: You can’t make everyone happy 100% of the time.
Lourdes, the Manager: Even when you’re collaborating and welcoming ideas from across the spectrum, there still needs to be an owner or influencer on a project. Management is about listening and taking action; it’s not always about building consensus.

Lourdes, the Mom: Choose your words carefully.
Lourdes, the Manager: There’s ample opportunity for miscommunication and misinterpretation in the workplace. Language is an essential tool, and mustn’t be overlooked.

Lourdes, the Mom: Don’t crush your kid’s dreams.
Lourdes, the Manager: Don’t reject suggestions outright. Always open up ideas—even wild ones—before you close them down.

Lourdes, the Mom: The family that eats together stays together.
Lourdes, the Manager: Believe in the social power of food. If you can get everyone in a space where they’re sharing a common activity (eating) it’s a very powerful support system. Bring in food, bring in beer. Create places to congregate and eat together to break down the walls of conflict and open people up to good ideas.