After a decade of managing digital producers, I've noticed that the very best all have a few things in common.
What's great is that these things can absolutely be learned.
What's not so great is that they're not obvious and some are even counterintuitive!
#1 Great producers shape how work is done
Early in our careers, we follow the rules. We use those templates, we follow those processes and we implement those requests from leadership exactly how we've been told/ taught to.
About 3-4 years in, some producers experience a kind of flip — a moment where they start to question everything. Why are things done this way? They grumble. It doesn't make any sense! And instead of doing what they've always done, they switch focus from just doing the work to guiding how the work is done, creating the conditions for teams to thrive even if it means a departure from the status quo.
#2 Great producers don't focus on getting shit done
Producers are people whose natural inclination is to get shit done, so being in a perpetual state of doing instead of finishing feels like failure.
It's why most producers focus on finishing: completing tasks, hitting milestones, delivering. Because every day things are left unfinished is uncomfortable.
Great producers get comfortable with this discomfort because they know that more important than finishing, is super high quality doing. The best result isn't hitting the deadline — it's solving the problem.
#3 Great producers don't design solutions, they find them
As producers move up the ranks from junior to mid-weight, to senior, they are increasingly exposed to situations where the answers aren't obvious, and how you're going to get them is just as ambiguous.
Many producers struggle with this. They try to fill the gap with experience, information or ideas they already have because it's you can't control or manage exposure to outside influences.
"For something to operate healthily and succeed, no matter what it is, it simply has to find a symbiotic fit with the context around it - like a piece in a jigsaw puzzle.*"
Great producers understand that you shouldn't try to put a square peg in a round hole. If they don't have the answers, they go looking for that missing piece of the puzzle.
*Thank you Alex M H Smith, Founder of Basic Arts, for the near constant inspiration.