This article originally appeared in Management Today.
Leaders can come in all shapes and sizes – including bright and colorful creative ones. The born-and-raised Londoner, Sophie Lutman, has forged a career out of creativity that spans over 25 years. In various creative director roles, Lutman has worked with the likes of BBC, Telefonica, Capgemini, Credit Suisse, Deloitte, and EY, to bring their ideas to life. Months before the pandemic swept the UK and changed our working lives for good, she joined Siegel+Gale to head up its EMEA creative division. Like most leaders, her latest challenge has been guiding her team through the new challenges that working from home brings, including its limitations to collaborating on client briefs and stifling creativity.
Management Today: What’s the best piece of advice you ever received? OR Most important advice you’d give your successor?
Sophie Lutman: Be honest and go with your instincts. I know I won’t always have the answers, but if I can enable others to do great work and help them gain confidence, then I believe we all move forward together.
And keep it simple. Things are complex enough these days. Work to remove complexity in all aspects of your life, and that includes your work.
MT: What’s been your most challenging moment? And how did you cope/what did you learn?
SL: It can be difficult to find a shared ambition with a client, but I think it’s important to stick to what you believe is right. I try to not allow the outcomes to be dictated by budgets or time constraints. Creativity is and always should be the answer.
MT: What keeps you up at night?
SL: Not much to be honest. I use sleep as an incubation period for problem solving. Often, I go to bed with a challenge in my mind and get woken up early by a good idea. I try to trust that process and more often than not the results are reenergising.
MT: The best investment you ever made? The worst?
SL: I would think investing in yourself is probably the right answer here. Though if I had to choose something physical or tangible, then it’s probably my first mobile phone, a Nokia in the early 90s. Nearly 30 years later and I still have the same number.
MT: What leader inspires you and why? (Can be someone famous/you’ve never met).
SL: Steven Pinker is such an important modern thinker in my opinion. Staying curious is so important, and there are so many ideas to immersive yourself in that Steven tackles. They make you question the things around you that we may otherwise take for granted.
Also, Kanye West, who you might say is somewhat flawed, but arguably also a genius when it comes to self-promotion and constant evolution. He’s pretty talented and entertaining and in his line of business you can’t say fairer than that.
MT: Best time management hack?
SL: I’m actually quite lazy at heart and I’ve found that this means I look for the most efficient way to do things. That allows me to spend more time doing the things I love. So, I would say, prioritise, delegate, and don’t be afraid to say no to stuff that you know you don’t have enough time to do to a high enough standard.
MT: How do you manage stress? OR How do you switch off?
SL: Family life certainly gives me some perspective, but design is always on my mind and has been for most of my life. I find I don’t need to compartmentalise what I do as a job too much to be honest. However, if I’ve had a particularly tense day, I’ll go running to clear my head or watch some terrible, mind-numbing TV. Currently, it’s Married at first Sight UK.
MT: What do you hate/love most about your industry?
SL: Hate is such a strong word. If there were things I hated doing, I’d probably just avoid doing them. I love that I still get to design. Often in organisations, when you get to a certain level it can mean more management and less of the actual work. For me, it’s a balance.
MT: What’s the latest trend that leaders need to know about?
SL: Firstly, designing for social good. It’s going to become more important. Organisations are increasingly expected to have a positive impact on society, and design will need to reflect this evolution.
Secondly, changing speeds. I worry that we are doing everything too fast, and that’s very common in our industry. Often, this increase in speed results in a loss of quality and craft, as well as joy. I would like to see us slow down. Not all endeavours should fail fast. Some things need time to develop.
MT: What’s your non-negotiable high-performance habit?
SL: Fast broadband. I have zero patience when it comes to unreliable or underperforming tech. Fortunately, one of the few positives to come from Covid has been the everyday tech we use in society has become more resilient.
MT: What would your team say about you when you’re not in the room?
SL: I suppose I would like to think that they would say the same as when I am there as I try to be as approachable and honest as I can with people. That said, I also don’t mind if people don’t like me all of the time. If they need to have a bitch about me, that’s human, and I’m really OK with it. We all need to do it sometimes.
MT: How do you reach the top?
SL: Don’t be afraid of mistakes. Embrace them and learn from them. And enjoy what you do. I believe this is the key to success, otherwise you would just give up, wouldn’t you! I always try to remember how privileged I am to earn a living the way I do in this industry. So, creativity should always be fun in my opinion.
MT: Give us your go-to leadership book, podcast, social media account or mantra. OR What’s your top productivity app?
SL: I don’t have too many mantras. And I mainly listen to True Crime podcasts. I really find them more of a way to turn off. I did read Mark Manson’s book, ‘The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*k: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life’. It’s an interesting read. It questions the constant positivity promoted by self-help books and suggests that life’s meaning comes from struggle.
Sophie Lutman is Executive Creative Director, EMEA