Assembling the Team (and Removing My Blinders!)

After spending literally weeks looking inward, refining the TEN 7 Mission and Values, something amazing happened on the journey to the new TEN7 website: I got to start interacting with other people! We held our kickoff meeting for the project, where I officially became the “client,” ready to collaborate with the talented team that was assembled.

The makeup of that team is extremely important. I wanted this experience to not only be authentic, so I could get a feel for what it’s like to work with TEN7 on a website, but I also wanted it to push me out of my comfort zone. I needed people I could trust to help me take my blinders off, and see a wider perspective for what our website could and should become.

Key players on the team include:

  • TEN7 Director of Operations Dani Adelman. She is the glue that will hold us all together and keep us moving smoothly down the path.
  • Strategist Lynn Winter, who regularly works with TEN7 on projects. I know and respect Lynn’s ability to help clients analyze and develop their web content strategies. While she’s very familiar with TEN7, she still brings an outside perspective that will help us build a forward-thinking website that supports our mission.
  • Ernesto Morales, owner of Studio Malagón design and branding agency. Ernesto was a trusted referral for this project, having worked with Dani on projects in the past. From my first meeting with Ernesto, I was impressed with his approach. He believes that design serves as a bridge between an organization’s values and their voice. That’s exactly what we need as TEN7 works to “Make Things That Matter.”

When we all gathered via zoom to officially launch this website journey, it was exhilarating! I felt good about the talent we had assembled, and I was also grateful to have had the time to work on the mission and values before our kickoff. I could tell that the work resonated with the team as I heard many of the key terms (”matter”… “honest”… “approachable”… “kind”) naturally cascading through our conversation.

The first meeting was centered around a creative brief, project goals, and a deeper dive into our audiences. I was conscious about assuming the role of “client” and not trying to lead the discussion. I firmly believe a good, collaborative team can produce work that is even better than the sum of its parts. This was a chance to see that process in action, being led along rather than trying to lead.

I knew that I was in true “client” mode when I saw team members listening to my ideas and concerns, playing them back to me, and offering suggestions that took me in directions I hadn’t considered. For example, at first I told Ernesto that I didn’t want to make any changes to the TEN7 logo. Then, as our discussion continued, the trust that I developed in his judgment and in the team made me reconsider. I backtracked and told Ernesto I’d listen to whatever ideas he had, even about the logo!

Seeing the process from this new perspective is providing me with insights and reminders that I hope will guide us in future work at TEN7.

  • Help Clients Understand They Are Being Heard
    Throughout the kickoff, the team asked good questions, genuinely solicited my thoughts, and often fed my ideas and suggestions back to me. Not only did this reinforce confidence that they were listening, it also helped me refine and revise my comments as we progressed.
  • Remember: Trust is Everything
    Obviously I wasn’t starting from scratch with this team. I already knew most of them and I had high confidence in the talent we assembled. Still, there is inherent nervousness when you start a project as large as a website redesign. Establishing trust is the key to getting the best ideas on the table.
  • Internalize the Client’s Values
    I can’t tell you how it made me feel when the language of our mission and values naturally started showing up in our discussion. Hearing that language and seeing the way it was being internalized played into the trust level. I knew we were all focused on the same North Star for the project.

We’ve had a number of meetings since that kickoff and we’re getting to the point where the really exciting stuff starts. Next month, I’ll be able to share some of the aesthetic work that we’re doing around design, typography and our new color palette. The team is firing on all cylinders at this point and I’m excited to reveal where it’s heading.

As always, if you need some help, I’m just an email away.