The work, the work, the work. This is what ad people fret over and obsess about. The work has to be much better, or else. Or else no raises, no promotions, no trophies, and no second home, no country club memberships, and no private schools for the kids.
What ad people do not obsess over is how to make better work. We do not obsess over how to make “the work” better because the prevailing assumption is one must simply work longer and try harder.
It’s a ridiculous claim and yet it’s an incredibly popular idea throughout the industry, and the culture at large.
Creative People Need Some Space to Think, Okay?
In a work environment where Slack, text, email, and project management software are always on and always dinging for attention RIGHT NOW, the team’s performance is bound to suffer. When the team is tasked with making better work or else, it’s all the more reason for team members to shut down notifications and go for a long, contemplative walk.
I’ve been leading creative teams for 14 years and working on them for much longer. I’ve learned a lot in the process.
People must be free to think, free to speak truth to power, free to go for long walks, and free to dream. When anyone or anything impinges on this creative freedom, trouble ensues.
Take The “A” Train to the Land of Accountability
Accountable is the “A” word of the moment. This is so because we lack accountability in so many aspects of public life and in business too.
Tugba Yanaz, VP at Flex, writing for Entrepreneur, says, “Driving accountability is hard work. Establishing accountable relationships within your team requires years of experience grounded in trial and error, a whole lot of success and failure, and the ability to self-regulate one’s emotions.” Yanaz also argues for pro-active confrontation:
Every leader needs to have the fortitude to have uncomfortable, difficult conversations. You need to instigate those crucial conversations when commitments are missed. Shying away from crucial feedback can be a selfish act, taking away the growth potential of an employee in exchange for the comfort of a manager.
Ad agencies are many things, but highly accountable to their people is typically not one of them. Thankfully, there are always notable exceptions.
You Don’t Get “A” for Effort (Not Sorry)
When the leadership team of a company fails to manage themselves in a way that sets an exemplary model for the whole team to follow, it’s time for a time out.
Here’s a question: What are we the ad people of this nation made of? Do we care about the right things? Or, are we self-obsessed and delusional? Same as it ever was…
Ad agencies become pressure cookers where people have too many meetings and too many tasks on their plate. When this happens, people are not their best selves, which means the best ideas are not being sought, nor found.
Stress kills people and ideas. Ergo, the conditions that create stress must be managed. You do this by becoming more accountable to yourself, your team, and your customers. When those are your north stars, you’re in alignment.
“Words Will Never Hurt Me” Is the Dumbest Saying Ever
writes: “Other people’s words have a direct effect on your brain activity and your bodily systems, and your words have that same effect on other people. Whether you intend that effect is irrelevant. It’s how we’re wired.”
Ad agencies don’t possess hard assets. It’s a people-powered business from top to bottom. When you mistreat the people who make you look good, who deliver time and time again, you will pay the price.
You may think you’re not that kind of leader or team member—you don’t mistreat people, that’s the other guy doing that. You may also be unaware of how you talk over people in meetings, judge people for the performance, backchannel your little bitch sessions, and a host of other poor practices that no manager has any business perpetuating on the job.
What’s missing in so many businesses today is bravery and integrity. Brave people do the right thing, and the right thing is to make the people who work with you or for you, the number one priority, every single day. That is the work, no matter what you may have heard about “the work, the work, the work.”