Sanjiv Mistry, Executive Creative Director at McCann London

Sanjiv Mistry, Executive Creative Director at McCann London is our newest Q&A participant: A creative leader with a background in law, his work has been recognised with over 200 international awards.

What is the number one quality you look for in talent?

Tenacity is an underrated trait. The best people I’ve ever known in this business are able to stare disappointment in the face one day, then calmly spit in its eye the next. Making great work is not guaranteed. On any given day, a hundred different uncontrollable things could happen to derail or dilute an idea. But top talent, be that creative, account handling, planning or project management, has the unerring ability to duck and weave around those daily pitfalls and keep the idea intact. It’s so easy to live up to the ‘tortured artist’ cliché and be ultra-purist when it comes to creative work, saying you want to either make it perfectly or not at all. But that’s just not how the real world works. Taking something from a hypothetical idea on a piece of paper to become a living, breathing entity in the world takes skill, a calm head and a tenacious spirit.

What is the very best career advice you’ve ever received?

‘Write hot. Edit cold.’ Just four simple words, given to me by one of my first CDs, have stuck with me for my whole career. It’s about understanding that as creative people we all have a shouty inner critic who sometimes needs to be silenced to allow the creativity to whisper its way around our hearts and brains. No matter what we’re doing – conceptualizing ideas, writing copy, experimenting with design, presenting the work – it’s crucial to have space to let the energy and passion spill out, unburdened and unencumbered. There’s a time and place for self-censorship, but it’s not while we’re in the flow.

What part of your role as a leader do you find most rewarding?

Growth. In every sense. Seeing our people achieving big things and gaining new skills. Solidifying and expanding relationships with clients. Watching a successfully completed project open doors to other parts of the brand’s business. The most satisfying thing is to not just have been a bystander to a person or brand’s growth trajectory, but to have actively nurtured it.

What is something the industry isn’t paying enough attention to that they should?

Fostering greater ethnic diversity at senior management and exec level needs a lot of attention. It’s great that, as an industry, we’ve made huge leaps in recent years to encourage people from diverse backgrounds to join this business at entry-level positions. That is undeniably a good thing. But if we put all the focus there, yet not give equal attention to promoting top people of colour with such force and energy that they smash through the glass ceiling, our efforts will ultimately have been wasted. 

By Sasha The Mensch