10 Ways To Lead Like a Super Bowl Coach

If you have kids that play sports and have been around for a few seasons, you’ve probably come across some good coaches and some bad ones. We’ve all heard horror stories of (or witnessed first hand) a coach screaming at his players, veins bulging from neck and forehead, voice hoarse from over using his vocal chords.

Unfortunately, that’s the caricature many people have of how a coach is supposed to “lead”. One of my goals with this blog is to break the stereotype of what a leader looks like.

Rough sketches of Superbowl winning coach Tony Dungy

Rough sketches of Super Bowl winning coach Tony Dungy

I heard an interview with Super Bowl coach Tony Dungy last year that really stuck with me. When asked about his quiet demeanor and famously low key coaching style, he shared insight into his philosophy behind being a coach.

The topic was servant-leadership (which I’ll write about in other posts), and in that context, he explained that the real job of a coach is to give the players whatever they needed to be the best they could be. Sometimes, a coach gives encouragement. Other times, specific training. Sometimes you give them rest. Sometimes you give them extra reps. Sometimes you give them a bench to sit on for a couple of weeks if clear expectations weren’t met or team rules were broken. Equipping can come in many forms.

When it comes to leading creative teams, here are 10 key things I have learned about how to lead like a coach and equip those you lead to be the best players they can be. Good creative team coaches…

1. Involve players in creative decisions and concept development.
It will give them a sense of teamwork and ownership in everything you do. Nobody wants to feel like a production drone. As enjoyable as that is at times, creatives want to create…to help bring something new into being that didn’t exist before. That’s the heart of creativity.

2. Give players opportunities to make “above the water” decisions.
Don’t micromanage in areas that won’t sink your business. Give them room to try…and fail. Your focus should be helping them grow.

3. Establish an umbrella of mercy.
Create a studio culture where creatives feel free to share creative ideas freely. Many creatives just want to be heard. They don’t care as much about their ideas being implemented as they do just being heard and validated. Teamwork is inherently collaborative.

4. Give them additional training.
If there’s an online coarse, or specific conference that fits their skill set, additional training goes a long way in helping them (and your organization) thrive.

5. Surprise them with some unexpected “hang-time” and strategic team building.
One day last fall I surprised our onsite team with a kayak trip down the Savannah River. We talked and laughed for hours. You get to know people a lot better when you change your surroundings and do something completely out of the norm. A change of perspective brings freshness and team momentum.

6. Serve creatives by letting them go if they are not a good fit.
It sounds cold, but it’s better for your team and it’s better for them.

7. See their potential before they do.
Be their biggest champion and encourager and you’ll draw out the best in your team.

8. Give them hummus.
Not all creatives like hummus or specialty coffee, but they all like something. Find out what that is and get them some. It will show that you have taken the time to get to know them personally and that they are an integral part of the team.

9. Let them see you risk and let them see you fail.
This is leading by example. Risks are inherently risky. I know that’s redundant, but if we are really taking risks to grow (ourselves or our companies), there will be failures.

10. Let them see you own It.
We are not perfect leaders and our teams know it whether we hide it or not. If you make the wrong call, the best thing to do is own it and show how you can grow from it.

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What are some other ways you’ve found to effectively coach your creative or small business teams? You can leave comments below.

Animation Process Explained…Sort Of

Meet the 4 phases of animation.

Meet the 4 phases of animation.

Some times when I describe the animation process to a new client or someone who wants to learn about animation, it can get too technical, or too insider-ish if I start using words like: animatic, x-sheet, onion skinning, and render que.

So, a couple of years ago I designed these characters to help give a very basic tongue-in-cheek overview of the animation process. In future posts, I’ll provide tips, tricks, and resources for specific aspects of each phase, but for now I hope you enjoy this brief (and silly) description.


Say hello to the Development Guru: Progressum Instruo. He’s a wise sage who’s here to guide you thru the tangled land of developing your idea, determining a budget, and mapping out a schedule.

His special powers and years of battle-tested development techniques will help you on your journey thru the Development Jungle.

Next, witness the technical and creative genius of the Pre-Production Super Ninja:Labora Artifex.

Highly trained in pre-production visdev art techniques, she masterfully designs any character, background, storyboard, or animatic needed to successfully take you to your next stop on the animation pipeline.

Now, we introduce you to the Production Cyborg: Medio Tekhnol. Half-man and half-machine, he animates for hours on end.

Fueled by his built-in coffee brewing system and his passion for bringing characters to life he pushes thru the Plains of Production hike.

Finally, hailing from the Beasts of the Bog tribe, meet the Post-Production Beast:Bestia Fieras.

He may look a bit frightening but he’s your animation’s biggest ally and a master render wrangler, musician, and delivery warrior.

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Which animation phase is your favorite? Or, which phase do you think most people would be interested in learning more about? You can leave a comment below.

15 Practical Tips for Designing Great Layouts

Layout for a Timbuktoons IP development project.

Layout for a Timbuktoons IP development project.

Here are 15 tips for drawing great layouts!

1. Read the script.

2. Study the style manual or art direction

3. Read the script again. (Seriously. The layout must support the action and story.)

4. Make sure you understand the connecting shots for visual continuity.

5. Don’t tell them what you can show them.
Tell the story visually whenever possible. Use props and background elements to reveal key elements of the story or to shed light on the backstory without having to use precious screen with unnecessary dialog.

6. Bring the Drama.
Set the emotional tone of the scene. If the sequence your designing for is light-hearted or happy, use comfortable camera angles and round soft shapes that support those emotions. If it’s a dangerous or scary scene, use more extreme camera angles, angled shapes, and jagged edges.

7. Think of the layout/background as a character.
Your background should serve as a supporting actor for the story and main characters.

8. Pick your P.O.V.
Choose a camera angle that is accurate based on who’s point of view it’s from.

9. Stage the area for action.
Use line, shape, and perspective to guide the viewers eye to where the action will take place. Be sure there’s enough room for the amount of action and characters called for in the shot. Also, be sure the main action area is kept simple enough for the action and character posing to read well.

10. Plan for any camera moves.
If the shot calls for a pan, rotation, or tilt, be sure to set your dimensions to accommodate the camera move.

11. Support the characters

12. FG, MG, BG
Add depth (unless the shot calls for flatness) by introducing foreground, mid-ground, and background elements that compliment each other and work as a unified composition.

13. Block in basic shapes first.
Stay away from details here. Rough in your basic shapes and composition.

14. Push the shapes
Once you are satisfied with your blocking pass, how can you push the shapes to maximize the medium? Try a few versions to see how far you can push the composition (always with an eye on the established art direction and story you are supporting).

15. Add the details
Subtlety is key. Have fun and don’t rush thru the details. Be sure the amount of detail doesn’t overpower the art direction of the character, but be sure to include some unique and unexpected details. With animation, always try to do what can’t be done with live action.

I hope these tips come in handy or give some fresh inspiration for your next layout or background!

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What are some other tips (or struggles) you can share about drawing layouts for animation? Leave a comment below.