Creative work brings a lot of talented people with big personalities into the same room or onto the same team and requires them to work together in very collaborative ways for what are often very long days. With so many personalities—and a lot at stake for each shoot—comes more emotion, more psychology, and more dynamics.
And in the group setting, it's a lot easier to ruin the energy in a room than it is to bring the team back up from a downer. To keep everyone in the right creative headspace, that positive group dynamic must be nurtured and protected.
To help us embody the positivity our teams need, makeup artist Cathi Singh joins The Creative Operations Podcast. She's a longtime professional contact of host Daniel Jester, so the two of them have plenty of work memories about teamwide vibes, both good and bad.
Ready for the full chat? Beware of a few audio issues during the taping of this episode but know that the gist of the conversation is there for your streaming pleasure. Enjoy it on Amazon Music, Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or our website. Or continue reading for just a quick summary.
Set the Tone for a Great Day with Your Team
"I think your attitude, the minute you walk in the door, has something," Cathi says. "Everyone feels your energy. We're thinking about putting all this creative energy in one place and saying, 'Make something amazing in eight hours or 10 hours or whatever,' but you automatically have an influx of energy and emotions you may not have in certain offices. People might be more sensitive in certain areas, get kicked off in certain areas, and you have to navigate that."
That's why Cathi talks of those first few minutes on set for the day as a sort of feeling-out period. It's like being an instrumentalist joining in with the ensemble—you want to get a sense for the song and then add your part
"The first five minutes of being on set is also introducing yourself, but it's also kind of feeling out, what's the jam today? What's the jazz going on on set?"
Recognize and Prevent the Biggest Vibe-Killer
Having a set filled with positive energy seems doable enough—we're getting to engage in creative, fulfilling work with other talented people, so what's not to like, right? And yet there's a common culprit that steals all glee from the set, Cathi says.
"Ego is the biggest positivity killer on set,” she says. “A crew is like a body. Everybody has a part—an arm, a head, da, da, da. You know what I mean? Everyone's part of the crew. If you are going to be the ego, I think that you tear away that part. We're not a group anymore. You've taken any positivity away. We don't want you to think that you are now more important than the arm. Why is this arm more important than this arm?"
If ego disintegrates that sense of cohesion that we want for our teams, then how do we prevent ourselves and others from bringing it into the room? For Cathi, it's like a virus that needs to be contained.
"Think about the room you're in—it's buzzing, and there's no corner you can go where someone's not going to be," she says. "So if you're going to squash it, don't share it with the entire crew, please. Don't share it with every department head. Because it doesn't need to be done."
Is it an interpersonal conflict that led to a bruised ego? Work that out within yourself or with the person who upset you.
"It needs to be handled with the person it needs to be handled with," Cathi says. "Take yourself outside for five minutes, calm down, and then come back in. I've done that repeatedly." She calls it giving herself a timeout.
Avoid Overcompensating with Fake Joy
This isn't an invitation to smother people with inauthentic cheerfulness or even pester them with earnest happiness. As Daniel points out, there's a much-maligned notion of toxic positivity—“people who are so positive that you can't even vent to them because they're too positive,” he says.
There's no need to worry to any inordinate extent about spreading positivity too much—it's a good problem to have. Simply get a sense of who you're around and what they're focusing on as you go about spreading your joy.
"It's not changing your personality or changing who you are," Cathi says about remaining authentic. "It's just you reading the room, adjusting your level."
Cathi has been on crews where the day started a bit looser and chipper, but then everyone snapped into serious mode and pumped out high-quality work. The way she entered the room and carried herself with that crew looks wildly different than how she handled other clients.
"There are corporate clients where, if I roll in like that and be all bopping, they're not going to take me seriously or want me to be in their chair," she says. "A CEO might not want me to be grooving around and playing music in the room. They might want to be thinking about what they have to say, and I need to be invisible. There are moments for that."
So be yourself, be positive in your own way, and let that shine in ways that complement the work and mood of those around you.
For more encouragement, check out the full chat between Daniel and Cathi. Stream it on Amazon Music, Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or our website.