Traffic Rules to Live By.

Embrace your role as a servant of the agency.

While the role of Traffic Manager carries with it a certain degree of “power,” it’s nonetheless a servant role. The agency doesn’t revolve around the Traffic Manager, rather s(he) is interwoven among the many people within the larger group. A Manager must think in terms of, “What can I do to help them do their jobs well?” not in terms of, “What are they doing wrong?” Being helpful may entail shifting deadlines or tracking down the estimate quantity. It may also mean physically walking from one department to another (as s(he) should already be doing) and asking, “Is there anything I can do to help you move things along?” Not only does this give the Traffic Manager insight into things that may not yet be in the system, but it also reaffirms (s)he is there to help everyone on the team.

Don’t choose sides.

It’s human nature to align oneself with individuals and groups. A Traffic Manager must remain impartial to not only people-related issues, but departments as well. While a Manager’s desk may be positioned in the creative department, for example, s(he) should dedicate an equal amount of time working with account service, media and interactive teams. If one department views the Traffic Manager as being aligned with another (i.e. “Always looking out for them,” “Protecting them from other departments,” etc.) it undermines the workflow structure and the influence of traffic.

Realize there are exceptions to the rules.

While Traffic Managers tend to be very linear in their thinking – step one, step two – they must also be flexible when it comes to the management of certain clients. A high-volume retail client, for example, may place ten different versions of an ad within a given week. It’d be nearly impossible to track each and every client-requested change (i.e. price point, locator, etc.) and enter them in the system. The Project Manager should be enabled to shepherd his/her project, in conjunction with the Traffic Manager. The Manager should allow him/her to speak directly with the artist regarding changes, for example, but ensure s(he) is made aware of the changes being routed.

Treat employees like individuals, not machines.

Happy employees are productive employees. A Traffic Manager should take a moment to ask Jason how his new dog is doing; ask Susan how the wedding plans are coming along. It’s important to establish personal connections with employees rather than constantly asking them if they’ve gotten their work done. If they know they’re respected as individuals, they’ll be much more inclined to work with traffic.

Understand employees don’t “want” to miss deadlines.

No one wakes up in the morning and thinks, “I’m going to miss three deadlines today and feel good about it.” Missed deadlines happen for a reason. It’s the Traffic Manager’s responsibility to determine why and, ultimately, preempt their being missed in the first place. S(he) must carefully monitor each employee’s workload and move deadlines – ideally, closer in not further out. Saying it’s the Manager’s job to ensure deadlines are met isn’t saying an employee(s) is absolved of any responsibility. It merely means a Traffic Manager should work with an employee(s) to ensure deadlines are met. If s(he) waits until Friday, expecting to receive copy, and finds it’s not done because the copywriter needed a phone number but didn’t take the time to ask, s(he) is as much at fault for missing the deadline.

Be proactive, not reactive.

When a Traffic Manager becomes reactive to missed deadlines, rather than proactive in avoiding them, s(he) becomes part of the problem… not the solution. It’s critical that a Manager think a project through from inception to completion, carefully analyzing what requirements the job may have (e.g. How long should I allow for a t-shirt embroidery sample? Is the delivery date going to fall on or around a holiday? How long will IT need to test the code and address any problems that may come up? Will the mailing list need to be re-formatted or edited in some way? What file type will the banner artwork have to go out in?). Thoroughly thinking a project through before building its timeline enables a Manager to be more proactive in pushing it through and eliminates future “crises.”

Don’t play “gotcha.”

It makes employees feel bad and, ultimately, can lead to their becoming even less productive – if not out of discouragement then merely to spite the Traffic Manager. S(he) will get a lot more work done by being a partner and sharing responsibility with employees than by being a hall monitor. No one likes a snitch – neither the people being “told on” nor the person hearing the complaints. Playing “gotcha” leads to an overall loss of respect for the Traffic Manager. Without the respect of peers, s(he) can’t effectively manage workflow and eventually becomes a distraction to others.

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