Category Archives: Management
The Dark Ages of corporate behaviour is over and Australians are demanding more from companies, according to the results of the first ever Australian Business Purpose Study 2013 (pdf). Today’s guest post is from Bec Madden at Shift.
Today the workplace plays a more meaningful role in people’s lives and so corporations are being called to account by Australians for their behaviour more than ever before.
In our study, how a company behaves is the third most important issue to Australians after their personal money and personal health. Eighty three per cent said it was very important for companies to look after their employees.
The truth is, we spend more time at work than anywhere else and the physical environment is critical to our wellbeing. Company benefits, how it supports us, how it handles hardships are key influences in how we view them and how they attract and retain us.
Ninety five per cent of Australians believe a company has responsibilities far beyond making a profit. Social responsibility is fast becoming the new currency.
With the Internet affording greater transparency there are less places for businesses to hide. People have an insider’s view into a company’s historical behaviour and commonly ask themselves how truthful they are. Ninety one per cent of Australians agree that it is this ability to be honest and human that will determine whether they’ll accept a position.
At the end of the day, the results show that if business can’t serve people and tap into core human values, then people won’t serve them.
On an African Safari people want to see the big five – elephant, rhino, buffalo, leopard and the apex predator, the lion.
On our Silicon Valley Safari we were sitting in the fertile plains of Linkedin when in wandered the Valley’s own big five apex, Linkedin CEO Jeff Weiner.
Our Teutonic guide had warned us that he might appear, and that if he did he typically responded best to ‘an interactive engagement’ of questions and answers rather than a one-way dialogue.
So as the charismatic and approachable CEO moved to the head of the room the group leaned forward with a tentative question on Linkedin’s values and culture.
Weiner didn’t disappoint, and demonstrated why he was at the top of the pyramid by distinguishing the difference between Values and Culture, and reminding everyone that to maintain your success as a leader in a business you have to spend a lot of time on ‘some very unsexy stuff, specifically people, process and infrastructure.’
He then offered to take the group through the core values behind Linkedin, and with pens and fingers tapping like camera shutters on a safari we listened.
Linkedin operates with six specific values.
- Members First,
- Relationships Matter,
- Be open, honest and constructive
- Demand excellence
- Take intelligent risks
- Act like an owner
Importantly these values are framed by a culture that encourages results, transformational behaviour, integrity, collaboration and humour.
The key, said Jeff, was to ensure that everything the company did was gated through these values, and most importantly, that people were hired against them.
Now on the surface you might think these fairly straightforward, but what made Jeff Weiner’s explanation different was the depth of engagement and delivery from the CEO throughout the entire organisation and product experience.
They were being lived, breathed and delivered, and staff could recite the mantra and give examples of it impacting the organisation and their behaviour. We didn’t need to see any posters or screen savers promoting the driving forces behind Linkedin, we could feel it in the buildings and the people we met, and it was encapsulated in the humble energy of its CEO.
The tour of the Valley was a little like looking through a window into the future of our industry, but the time with Jeff Weiner was a reminder that whilst technology and communication platforms change, leadership and culture always have, and always will, keep a company at the top of the food chain.
Steve Harris (@onecrowded) is the Managing Director of STW Group company The Brand Agency. He attended the STW Group Silicon Valley Study Tour in October 2013.
Last week I finished a book called Permission Marketing by Seth Godin. Based around the idea of customers “opting in” to various marketing promotions such as newsletters and social media, I came to the conclusion that this wasn’t exclusive to just customers.
It sparked the thought of where else we fight for others to pay attention.
It’s common practice to assume your own priorities are the most important. It’s not your fault; you’ve been ingrained with it ever since your kindergarten teacher told you that you were special. Unfortunately, they were most likely wrong, and the project you’ve been working on for the past month isn’t quite as important as you expected. The resources you requested aren’t delivered and suddenly your world begins to cave in, like a small child realising that Santa didn’t receive his Christmas list. Breathe – you’ll be just fine.
I always thought that I was the busiest person on earth and that because I worked for an advertising agency, I was inherently busier than my clients. I’d be frustrated when it took days to get a response to one email, but I never really looked at it from their prospective. Then I began dealing directly with a CMO and my 3-4 meetings per day suddenly seemed very insignificant. I forgot that I was just one person from a single agency. Most large companies deal with 5-10 agencies, each with their own specialty. It’s easy to get lost, even if you’re an expert tantrum thrower.
The first thing that comes to mind for me when it comes to successfully gaining consumer attention is the “opt-in” email or a Facebook “Like”. These wins allow you to reach a targeted consumer base that expresses strong purchasing intent. Unfortunately, these are typically consumers who are already familiar with your brand and just want to know when your next sale is on. This may or may not be me…
So how do I get someone’s attention?
Poking them with a stick may be effective but it’s for all the wrong reasons. You’re being ignored because you require too much effort. Don’t take it personally – it just means that in someone’s head there are greater priorities than yours, but it can be reversed. You just have to make it beneficial for them. So how do you do that?
Only provide solutions.
Everyone’s got problems. Your problems aren’t any more special than the next person’s; if they were, then they’d be listening to you. All you need to do is present a solution. If you go to your boss, client or consumers with an unresolved problem it just creates more work for them. Solve the problem and ask for approval.
Get to the point.
Long emails intimidate people; they get skipped over quickly and despite the strongest intentions of being looked over later, they never do. There’s nothing wrong with being direct – you’ll get an immediate answer and you can stop wasting your time on fruitless adventures. Put things in dot-points and ask for a decision.
Pick up the phone.
If you’ve got a problem that’s getting ignored, another email won’t solve it (even if you flag it with the little red exclamation mark). Despite the advances in technology over the past few years, you will still hear people say “Oh, it didn’t come through”. You know that they’re probably lying…but you’re not in a position to call them on it. Phone them until they answer, if nothing else, they’ll at least promise to get back to you.
Ask for help.
You’d be amazed at the response you receive when you reach out to someone else for support. Provided their job hasn’t yet sucked the life out of them, you’ll usually find someone very supportive who’ll help you achieve your goal. If they can teach you correctly today, they don’t have to worry about you tomorrow.
These are by no means an exact science, but they’ve definitely worked for me. If only vaguely, they revolve around making the life of other’s easier. I’m sure there are people you always reply to quicker than others, and it’s probably because you don’t have to do any serious thinking when you reply. And don’t we all want to think less?
How do you get someone’s attention and keep yourself top of mind?
But what happens when someone flips the board and all the pieces fly up in the air.
Chaos, tumult, worry and fear.
It’s Julia Gillard’s prerogative as Prime Minister to set the date for the next election, and most PMs like springing it on the Opposition to their own advantage.
But last week, Julia Gillard tried to return “certainty” to political life by setting the date for the 2013 election months before she needed to:
Not everything about the tenor and temperature of debate this year is in my control. But I can act to clear away the carry-on that comes with speculation about when the election will be held… I can act so Australia’s Parliament and Government serves their full three-year term and it is clear and certain when the election will be held.
The next few days saw a reshuffle as two senior members of the Government resigned. A “body blow.”
And yesterday we saw one of the worst polls Labor’s faced.
It seems like uncertainty in the only certainty in life. And it’s everywhere we look.
Founder of political consultancy Crosby | Textor, Mark Textor (@markatextor) (who helped Prime Minister John Howard win his many election victories) explored the precious quality of certainty in political life in an article he wrote for the SMH in 2011.
In Chaos Theory and its Application in Political Science, Joan Pere Plaza from the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona and Dandoy Ré´gis from the University of Louvain, Belgium, explain the growing use of chaos theory and complexity science and how its use “can be explained by human psychology and by perception[s]“.
They note how voters’ greater awareness of the chaos and division in modern politics “via the news media” – and I’d contend social media – frustrates their driving desire to feel secure and “creates a more intense focus on order as a prime value” . “In other words”, they noted, “the public becomes more sensitive to the disorder”.
They found “our fear of disorder therefore makes it inevitable that we will either find or create an endless supply of it”.
So did Julia Gillard do the right thing trying to wrest control of the agenda?
Not according to Textor, who believes “the only certainty Prime Minister Julia Gillard has provided is a continuation of instability for the rest of us until polling day.”
But we’d make a case for yes.
First, she took a decision. Being decisive is a good quality in a leader. Firm leadership and a steady hand is a key buffer against uncertainty.
Second, it showed confidence. She gave up an asset she had in her back pocket (the ability to call an election at a moment’s notice) and said she didn’t need it. Tony Abbott is back on form now but the morning after her announcement he was shaky on the morning shows. “If she can give this up, what other strengths does she have I don’t know about?” He was rattled.
And third, she did the only thing a leader can do in the face of uncertainty. Take action.
Uncertainty is no excuse.
As Roger Martin wrote for the Harvard Business Review blog, poor leaders use uncertainty as an excuse to keep on doing business as usual.
Life is and always has been uncertain. If we live in an uncertain, fast-moving, turbulent world today, why would it be any different a week, a month or a year from now? If the world is too uncertain to choose today, what is it about the future than will make things more certain? At some point, do we simply declare the world to be certain enough to make strategy choices? How will we know it is the day? What criteria will we use to decide the requisite level of certainty has been reached? Or will we simply put off choosing forever, because certainty is utterly unachievable at any stage?
By boldly aiming towards September 14, Gillard’s recognised uncertainty is everywhere.
The key is to have the strategy and vision to act anyway.
Well, that’s the theory. And we have over 200 days (ugh) to see how it goes.
You might also like Leadership without easy answers in a time of spiralling complexity.
At Nextness, we very much dislike posts that treat creatives like clueless crazy children and clients like clueless stick-in-the-muds. But we love this guest post by OgilvyOne Sydney creative and Nextness Prize finalist Simon Bloomfield (@dekkard42). A perfect roadmap to getting the most out of a client-creative relationship – and producing great work.
1. Thou shalt engage early and often.
It’s a great idea to get the creative team into the room to discuss big campaigns as early in the process as possible; preferably before media/channels have been decided upon.
2. Time is the enemy of all great ideas.
Too much, not enough; when it comes down to it, it’s about finding the right balance. And knowing just what that is often comes from starting the conversation as early as possible (refer Commandment 1).
3. Thou shalt tell us what’s wrong, not how to fix it.
If I had a dollar for every debrief full of tracked changes that didn’t actually explain why the changes were being made, I’d have quite a few dollars. The problem with this is if we don’t know the reason behind a change, it’s very difficult for us to avoid making a similar mistake again. And there’s always more than one way to write a bullet point, so by telling us the issue, rather than your quick solution, we can often find a middle ground that keeps everyone happy.
4. Thou shalt not insist on thy product name in the proposition.
Again, if I had a dollar … We know what the brief’s about – we’re not going to miss it. That handful of additional words would be better served delivering a unique insight (refer Commandment 5).
5. Insight shalt be provided in abundance.
You know your product better than anyone; your creatives need to know it as well as you; then add a layer of consumer objectivity on top. So give us as much insight as you can – shopper; brand; product; category; communications; technology etc. There’s a reason why David Ogilvy was a big fan of the factory tour – it’s where real insights are often found. And speaking of Ogilvy, the next commandment is one of his…
6. Frightened people art powerless to produce good advertising.
Confining client/creative relationships to the creative presentation ensures that you won’t get the best work possible. A lot of creatives can be quite timid individuals, and they’re often a little bit scared of clients. I always remind young creatives that clients are people too. Seriously. And the best way to break this fear down is by encouraging opportunities for clients and creatives to mix in other situations, eg, OgilvyOne SWAP meetings see our clients spend a day moving through different aspects of the creative and production process, with different teams.
7. An element of respectful friction shalt be encouraged.
You need to think outside of your comfort zone in order to deliver work that cuts through, so the end result of successfully negotiating Commandment 6 is that creatives should feel confident enough to speak their mind to you. And you should be trusting enough to listen.
8. Thou shalt give thine agency a focused brief, not a lofty ambition.
Another Ogilvyism was “Give me the freedom of a tight brief,” and it’s true, nothing focuses the mind more, and yet still encourages room to play, than a brief that provides a clear picture of the problem to be solved. Too often half of the creative team’s time working on a brief is lost to trying to work out what the real problem is.
9. Always ask thyself this question before making a decision.
“How would you feel if you woke up tomorrow and your biggest competitor was running this work?” This question came from Steve Henry, founder/CD of Howell Henry Chaldecott Lury in the UK. For me it’s a reminder that the work we create for our clients is designed to elicit a reaction, so the work we present to you must do the same. So if you’re just a little bit afraid, that’s probably a good thing.
10. Thou shalt celebrate successes jointly.
Great results, big awards, we’re all in it together, and nothing could have been achieved without the other party. Whether you like them or not, awards keep creatives inspired, excited and motivated, and seeing you get excited by them makes them want to keep giving you their all.
The most popular talk from TED2012 was Susan Cain’s The Power of Introversion. Watching this naturally shy and retiring writer strut the stage of the world’s most high-stakes public speaking event was a captivating experience. She was clearly nervous, catching her breath and looking out at the audience with wide eyes.
Yet what she said was breathtakingly clear: our culture’s mania for extroverted behaviours means we’re missing out of the untapped power of the introvert.
Unlike extroverts, introverts are most stimulated and do their best thinking when they’re alone. But how often does that happen in an agency environment? Given our industry thrives on creative and original ideas, it pays to let introverts do their thing.
How to identify an introvert.
- When you call them, they let it go to voicemail then instantly text you back.
- If they have to use the phone, they go to a meeting room…
- …then stay there working alone until someone kicks them out.
- They try and wait til the work kitchen is empty to get their Arnotts cream selection.
- They’re reluctant to interrupt others, and hate being interrupted.
- They dislike having to repeat themselves. If you miss it the first time you miss it for good.
- They won’t raise their voice to be heard.
- They make decisions by gathering information then thinking about it alone, not by talking it through.
How can introverts thrive in the often loud, rushed and competitive agency environment? Tips for introverts.
- Advertising and communications: it’s an idea business. You have to be able to get your ideas across to your colleagues. But of course a gladiatorial meeting environment is horrific to you. Why not isolate the decision makers before the meeting and present your ideas to them one at a time? It’s calmer for you, and they can then come noisily to your support in a group situation. It’s worth a shot.
- Ditto when presenting work to clients. Why not email them or have a chat to socialise your big idea before a frightening pitch or review? Not everything has to be a rabbit pulled out of a hat. What you lose in surprise you gain in having time to persuade them quietly on your own terms.
- Being within a 5 minute walk of the office is still being at the office. Take your thinking work to the park or a secret meeting room. You’re only a call away.
- Bose noise-cancelling headphones drown out people who inflict their music choices and phonecalls on the whole office.
- Partner with an favourite extravert and let them be the charismatic Steve Jobs to your Woz (remember, Apple needed them both).
- The Internet is your friend. Online, you’re in control. Tweet and blog to get your unique perspective, work and point across.
And how can agencies get the most out of their thoughtful, considered introverts? Points for managers.
- It’s tempting to eye your introverted staff with frustration: “if you’ve got something to say, spit it out.” But it’s your job as a leader, your responsibility, to get the most out of your staff. Resolve to treat this as a key part of your people management.
- Introverts mostly self-select out of roles where they must have frequent contact with people. If they’re not needed at their desk to answer the phones, it’s no skin off the business’ nose if they do their work in a meeting room or coffee shop alone. Resolve to turn a blind eye.
- You’ll get more out of an introvert if you present them with a problem and then give them time to think. Never expect an answer on the spot; they’ll clam up.
- Don’t allow a meeting to be hijacked by a loud or charismatic voice or group. If someone hasn’t had the chance to speak, quieten the room down and give them the floor. Just because they refuse to yell doesn’t mean the introvert’s thoughts are less important.
- An introvert is not likely to be a mainstay of Friday night drinks or social events, so you may not have had a chance to get to know them. Just because you’re not buddies with them doesn’t mean they’re not promotion material. Watch your biases: they don’t have to be your pal to get the job done.
- There are introverted clients too. They’re the ones who prefer things in writing and like to keep the conversation on the work, not on their weekends. Luckily, you’ve probably promoted a few introverts inside your agency by now. So when it comes to keeping this client happy, they’ll make a great fit!
The key takeaway from Susan Cain’s research was not that introverts are good and extroverts bad, or vice versa. Just that everyone does best when they’re allowed to be themselves. Let introverts be introverts at your agency and you’ll be amazed at what they come up with.
Oh, and that shy woman who was almost too nervous to speak publicly at TED? She got a standing ovation.
- Brainstorming doesn’t really work | Jonah Lehrer, The New Yorker.
- The rise of the new groupthink | Susan Cain, The New York Times.
- Caring for your introvert | Jonathan Rauch, The Atlantic.
- Quiet: the power of introverts | Susan Cain