Workplace culture

I was the ripe old age of four when I experienced my first life lesson. Remarkably, to this day I can remember the impression it left on me.

One morning in early 1965 I came down stairs, entered our lounge room and was greeted with a beautiful royal blue, powder coated Mobo Junior Scooter.

‘Sturdy boys want sturdy toys! …toys that will stand up to boisterous handling and come through smiling.’

My old man enthusiastically wheeled it in front of me. My ma hugged me and gave me a kiss on the cheek. Here you go luv, enjoy! What the…?

It wasn’t my birthday for a few months and Christmas had been and gone. My folks were generous at the appropriate times but were never prone to such random cases of generosity. Even though this event took place in my parent’s lounge room almost sixty years ago I can still remember being excited and knowing that I would cut a swathe through the usual rusty three wheelers on the local rec. Respect! I was a little confused though. Why a beautiful royal blue, powder coated Mobo Junior Scooter?

Mum then revealed the comic Bimbo (Remember this was the early sixties) turning to a competition prize page. There it was. ‘My’ entry had won first prize. Mum had entered an artwork of Santa made from tangram-esque shapes into the comic’s art competition. She had entered on my behalf, or rather, had cheated on my behalf. Despite my tender age I can still remember experiencing imposter syndrome and I reckon that it was my first real life lesson around honesty and integrity. I probably didn’t reflect too long though. After all, I was only four and a half and I had some serious showing off to do at the rec. Obviously I was yet to experience my second life lesson of ‘The world hates a big head!’.

Throughout my career in graphic design, particularly early on, I have benefitted from ‘credit where credit’s due’ experiences. Being acknowledged by my mentors and peers for efforts made in delivering a great result, winning that important project or being considered award worthy has been profound on how I have developed as a creative manager. An attitude of paying it forward has been core to my managerial style as I believe a nurturing and encouraging culture is imperative for personal development, confidence building and pride generation. I see it as an essential managerial trait but for some, acknowledging the efforts of others is not. This is nearly always the case in politically charged, often toxic, hierarchical organisations where it’s easy for non-contributors to hide behind their titles.

Good leaders can incentivise their team members by privately or publicly ‘applauding’ their efforts for a job well done. This in turn encourages the team to acknowledge and appreciate others’ contributions and this builds team cohesion, trust and better collaboration.

I still consider myself a student in the art, always learning from younger colleagues and associates I work with. I’m still a fan of great design when the idea is king and I where I can appreciate the calibre of craft for a job well executed. Both leave me breathless!

With forty years in the business, I can give lots back. My experience is the foundation of my creative coaching business, Friend_Thorp. But the creative frisson that occurs when working with like-minded souls is undeniably exciting. So, here’s to working with those who also maintain the rage. Those who can mine the riches of my experience and who in turn teach me more. With forty years in the business, I could chest beat and blow my own trumpet but then again, the world hates a big head, eh?

FOOTNOTE: My mum continued her creative endeavours on my behalf and she/I secured three consecutive wins at our village horticultural show in the Best Miniature Garden category! Fame is fleeting and popularity is temporary but I appreciate the life lesson mum!


Written by Mick Thorp

Mick Thorp is Coach and Creative Director at Friend_Thorp and has over thirty five years of creative leadership experience across brand identity creation and implementation, shareholder communications and integrated campaigns. As a creative director and mentor, he has helped to coach, nurture and develop outstanding teams of award winning, business creatives and has provided opportunities for account managers, typesetters and finished artists whom have continued on to excel in their respective disciplines. Mick has worked on some of the major design projects commissioned within Australia in the last 20 years and has had work published nationally and internationally and has been awarded in recognition for his efforts in branding, typography and print design.

March 1, 2023

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