Rowing team practicing in the water

Finding “swing”

It is summer, and with that comes the pure joy of finding a great book or two and losing yourself in the narrative, just as I did with Daniel James Brown’s best-selling, The Boys in the Boat.

The story of the Washington State crew team’s 1936 Olympic experience not only transported me to a different era, it showed me how important teamwork and culture are in achieving successful outcomes. This hits home for Grafik and our clients, too.

A key character in The Boys in the Boat is George Pocock, a legendary racing shell builder.  More importantly, he was a thoughtful observer of how humans interact, and a mentor who brought out the best in the crew teams he worked with. One Pocock quote jumped off the page:

“To be of championship caliber, a crew must have total confidence in each other… confident that no man will get the full-weight of the pull…”

This has particular resonance for me as Grafik recently completed a communication workshop led by Michael Cassatly of Cassatly Coaching. This workshop is one of many Grafik will host this year to continue to grow as a team and become a better partner to our clients.

Our goal for this half-day workshop was to improve how we connect. Understanding how we each prefer to communicate helped us gain insight and use tools to better collaborate across disciplines. Key to this understanding was completing a DiSC assessment. By being more self-aware of our own communication preferences and how our styles impact others, a team can reduce much of the friction caused by miscommunications, many of which come through nonverbal actions.

Beyond improving our communication and collaboration with each other and our clients, Grafik is continuing to explore ways to work smarter and more efficiently, so another Pocock quote hit home:

“When you get the rhythm in an eight, it’s pure pleasure to be in it. It’s not hard work when the rhythm comes – that ‘swing’ as they call it. I’ve heard men shriek… when that swing comes in an eight; it’s a thing they’ll never forget as long as they live.”

Not being an expert in crew, the concept of achieving ‘swing’ was a new one for me, but that feeling of being totally in sync with your teammates and feeling invincible is not. I’ve felt that recently with the group working for our client, Nexus. For the past couple of months we have been working with the amazing Nexus team to develop a refined brand strategy and visual identity. While there has been a learning curve, the progress we are making collectively as a client/agency team is really moving the needle—there have even been a few ‘shrieks’ of excitement along the way. Stay tuned for the official launch in the fall.

But the real question to achieving ‘swing’ is how to do so more consistently. While we have had pockets of success using the agile framework, it is now time to fully adopt it across the agency. We have put in place a cross-functional tiger team to make this happen and champion the transition over the next six to nine months. We have defined a few goals that will guide this effort:

1. Empower the team

2. Focus on outcomes

3. Build stronger collaboration (internally & with clients)

4. Work smarter

I believe with the transition to the agile framework, coupled with our learnings on how best to communicate with each other and with our clients, Grafik will continue to “swing” for another forty years.

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