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Candor and Manners: How We Nurture Creative Genius

Sterling & Stone’s 40+ storytellers make for a bustling marketplace of ideas, where every stall is offering something new and exciting. But have you ever met two creatives who are exactly alike? 

Of course not, because everyone is different. Trying to find two identical strains of creativity is like searching for a pair of matching snowflakes in a blizzard or two stars with the same exact brightness in the sky. 

Every storyteller is unique, with their own quirks, perspectives, and stories to tell. Those differences make us special, so our studio is always seeking a wide variety of perspectives. 

But without some uniform systems in place, we can’t run our business. 

And we need for our storytellers to grow, so that means giving them feedback in an efficient way that protects the nest of their creativity while also nudging them out of it — and without creating chaos in the studio’s workflow.

When tending our storytelling Garden, we want to give each plant the space and nourishment to grow, while pruning and shaping them into a harmonious landscape.

DAMMIT, SEAN! Another flower metaphor? 

That was about our Garden, which is a real thing, so it barely counts as a botanical analogy.  

Whatever you say, dude. 

Point is, this balancing act of candor and care isn’t reserved for our in-house creatives. The same holds true for our clients and partners. We won’t attract the right people if we don’t stay true to our values. We must say what we mean, mean what we say, and never be afraid to speak our truths.  

We are remarkable at what we do in part because, whether it’s an internal initiative, partner project, or client work, we take full ownership of everything we create in the studio. To make all the amazing stuff that we want to, while maintaining our premium quality and keeping our timelines reasonable, everyone needs to speak the same basic language. 

We might need to tell one of our writers that their work isn’t good enough, part ways with a client, or move on from a potential partner we feel is wrong for our IP. But people who say business isn’t personal are full of shit. Of course it’s personal, at least the way we do business. Relationships and trust are everything. 

So our number one rule for communication to foster trust and longterm relationships, regardless of what the short-term situation might be, is this three-word phrase: candor and manners.

I am never afraid to engage in short term discomfort for a permanent improvement, but that doesn’t make it easy, and I used to get knots in my stomach before a confrontation a lot more than I do now that I have candor and manners to lean on. 

From letting an employee go, to telling one of our storytellers that their novel or script will be scrapped in service of a superior version, or delivering unfortunate news to the team, these three words will never make problems go away, but assuming your communication is clear and the other party is willing to listen, they will make the situation better than it would have been otherwise. 

Communicating with candor and manners is wielding a double-edged sword — one side of that blade slices through unnecessary noise to pierce the heart of any matter, while the other side ensures your message is delivered with grace and respect. 

Candor ensures your message is clear, honest, and direct. A lighthouse guiding your words through the foggy sea of ambiguity, ensuring that your intentions are illuminated and your meaning is unmistakable.

Manners delivers the truth in a way that is respectful, considerate, and ultimately, more likely to be heard and acted upon. It’s the difference between a blunt instrument and a surgical tool — both can be effective, but the latter is far more precise and less likely to cause unintended damage.

In a world where communication is often muddled by fear, ego, and hidden agendas, truth and respect (candor and manners) can set you apart.