Archive for February, 2018

What you need for next level leadership

Thursday, February 22nd, 2018

flexA recent brief for a talk at a conference about leadership ran as follows:

“We want the delegates to understand that what’s got them to the senior level that they are at now, isn’t enough to take them to the next level of business leadership”.

What’s necessary for the next level?

Technical expertise and being an excellent practitioner are taken as read. Neither of those skills are enough for management, let alone leadership.

Emotional intelligence is certainly crucial.

To lead you need to understand your own motivations, and then to share them. It’s not enough to share your targets, your key performance indicators. It isn’t enough, as Daniel Pink explains in his book “Drive”, just to share rewards financially with your team. You have to share your feelings. You must understand the motivations and feelings of your team. In both respects this requires emotional intelligence.

Emotional intelligence alone is not enough either though.

You need emotional flexibility.

To grow a business you frequently need to pivot. A strategy that suited your business 5 years ago is unlikely to deliver for the next 5 years. Customers are changing, for example, becoming more demanding of meaning and purpose as well of good value. They’re increasingly unwilling to compromise and their impatience with inadequate service levels or slow tech is increasing. Revenue models and sales channels might need to change to make sense of ROPO (Research online, Purchase offline and Research offline, Purchase online), meaning a change to how you motivate sales teams. Automotive sales have been step-changed by the growth in lease to own. Other sectors will follow. A good business leader will take advantage of these changes and pivot their strategy.

To grow a team you need to pivot emotionally too. If you get stuck in a narrative of negativity about a team member or allow negative thoughts to undermine your own abilities to deal with a difficult situation then you can’t be a great leader.

Take the example given by Susan David, author of Emotional Agility, in HBR. She describes Jeffrey, who gets angry at work, with his boss, with his team, when they don’t behave entirely as he thinks they should. When Jeffrey tries to suppress his anger he’s left feeling that he hasn’t been able to bring his whole self to work. So he’s less effective and of course even more angry.

She advises that Jeffrey needs to detach from the feelings and label them. So: “my colleague makes me furious becomes:   I’m having the thought that my colleague is wrong and am feeling angry about it”. Detached, labelled, it is easier to deal with. You can even ask yourself, what if I could stop being so angry with them? Or maybe, what if I am just angry because I can’t control my colleague and I don’t like their approach, but they might have a point?

No-one is suggesting that this is easy. If you can pivot emotionally however you are more open to pragmatic solutions. You are more likely to accept that your colleagues, bosses, team members can change.

Emotional flexibility is crucial for next level leadership.

Respect is more important than a title

Friday, February 16th, 2018

trott“Any fool can buy a car, but you can’t buy respect”.

“free fall”, Robert Crais

You can’t buy respect.  You have to earn it.

There’s some jobs where hierarchy and status mean that everyone below you more or less does as you tell them.

I imagine the armed forces work like this, and the police (although the TV is littered with rogue detectives who operate outside the system and get results.)

Then there’s other workplaces where the hierarchy isn’t as clear, or even if it is a title does not necessarily mean people do as you tell them.

Whatever the system, however lofty a title or a position in a hierarchy, it means nothing without respect. And respect can’t be bestowed, as a title can. It must be earned.

Some people approach their job yearning for status, believing that they could just get so much more achieved with a better place in the hierarchy. Often they are doomed for disappointment. When that well deserved promotion comes, they might be faced with the fact that still no-one ‘below’ them does as they are told.

In media and adland a disrespect for hierarchy is not that rare. Many would argue that it isn’t unhealthy in an industry that has to survive disruption and constantly reinvent itself. If you don’t challenge the status quo you don’t get growth, especially now.  A good media sector culture will tolerate a reasonable level of challenge, in fact thrives on it, and that includes challenging status as well as status quo.

Respect however, that’s another thing. Respect can’t be bought. It isn’t bestowed by a title or a promotion. It has to be earned.

There’s a resounding example of this doing the rounds at the moment. Dave Trott wrote a memo, on paper, 30 years ago about the creativity of his team at ad agency GGT. One team member kept the memo and showed it to a colleague who posted it last week on facebook. The content of the memo is, if he won’t mind me saying so, typical of Dave. He believes difference is crucial for stand out, that most ads disappear as wallpaper and that it is as important now to break with convention as it ever was. Three decades ago Trott said: “Instead of trying to be totally different to what’s around we’re more often nowadays concerned with trying to do the same thing but better”.

As well as ads many comms strategies fall into this trap, aping the competition but trying to beat them rather than doing something completely different. To answer the brief that has been given well rather than differently. How many conversations are had about how to win Christmas like brand x (insert name of well known retailer here) rather than by doing things that haven’t been done before?

What shines out for me about this though is not just the lesson of difference, of zigging when everyone else is zagging, but the level of respect that this shows for a great creative director and a great boss. Campaign reports that Trott said that the memo had been kept by a former staffer at GGT, Andy Archer, who now teaches at art school and who had shown it to his colleague Roger Stanier, who posted it on social media. They add that: “His words, which in spite of their age appear to be as pertinent today as they were then, have clearly struck a chord with the ad industry.”

Respect, you can’t buy it. You can’t control whether people give it to you, not really. It doesn’t go along with a title or a status. It doesn’t correlate with how many people report into you, what your bonus is or how many followers you have on social media.

Respect is hard earned and given freely, and it lasts.



Advertising and marketing don’t feature as career choices for kids

Thursday, February 8th, 2018

merged_pic_2At the centenary of suffrage for some women in the UK, a report reveals that girls as young as 7 think women less smart than men.

A recent report on the career aspirations of 7-11 year olds has concluded that from a very young age most children stereotype jobs according to gender and their career choices are based on these assumptions.

‘Drawing the Future, exploring the career aspirations of children from around the world’ asked 20,000 kids to draw a picture of what they wanted to do when they grew up.

The report reveals data from a US study that by the age of 7 girls are less likely than boys to believe that members of their gender are ‘really really smart.’  Throughout the UK socio-economic background limits the scope of jobs that all children aspire to.

Most kids know about jobs from members of their family, but after that it is from popular culture and advertising.

Less than 0.1% kids want in the UK want to work in marketing.  Less than 0.1% kids want to work in advertising. The few that do aspire to advertising are all boys.

For the authors of the report this has begged the question of whether advertising has a role in gender stereotyping. Which leads them to refer to the ASA’s report from last summer on this.

The ASA report concludes that there is plenty of evidence that there needs to be a tougher line on ads featuring stereotypical gender roles, including ads which mock people for not conforming to gender stereotypes.

Every depiction that stereotypes or follows cliches, and you don’t have to look far to find examples of this, adds to the likelihood that kids will grow up with the same cultural expectations that lead eventually to Glass Walls at work that get in the way of women and top jobs.  And which ladder up to there being more FTSE 100 CEOs called Dave than FTSE 100 CEOS who are women.

According to the ASA this includes:

  • An ad that depicts family members creating a mess while a woman has sole responsibility for cleaning it up.
  • An ad that suggests a specific activity is inappropriate for boys because it is stereotypically associated with girls, or vice-versa.
  • An ad that features a man trying and failing to undertake simple parental or household tasks.

What can be done about this?

Brief and create content that challenges those stereotypes rather than reinforcing them.

In addition, the Drawing the Future report remarks that: ‘Less than 1% of children stated they heard about the job from a volunteer from the world of work coming in to school.’

If advertising and marketing is to find the talent of the future, and the diversity of talent that it needs, there’s a marketing and advertising job to be done in schools at an early age to create aspirations to join our industry.  Get out into schools whenever you can.

Ann Mroz, editor of TES, comments: ‘Our children are encouraged to shoot for the stars, but we glue their feet firmly to the ground.’  Particularly young girls.

Let’s help them reach for the moon.



Leaders have one job

Thursday, February 1st, 2018
"Marvel's Captain America: The Winter Soldier"..Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson)..Ph: Zade Rosenthal..? 2014 Marvel.  All Rights Reserved.

 2014 Marvel. 

How many voices do you need for great leadership?

Writer and leadership coach, Amy Jen Su wrote in Harvard Business Review earlier this year that you need to cultivate many different leadership voices rather than simply focussing on trying to appear confident.

She lists five different voices that she says are essential for leadership

– The voice of character, the persona that holds your convictions

– The voice of context, where you communicate perspective

– The voice of clarity that helps prioritise

– The voice of curiosity, where you are able to learn and admit too that you don’t know all the answers

– The voice of connection where you acknowledge the contribution of others

She states that “Discovering and developing your voice as a leader is the work of a lifetime.”

Indeed it is, but it is also true that you don’t actually need all those voices to be developed to the same extent.

It is honestly impossible for most people to be expert in every voice. If you are trying to be brilliant at character, context, clarity, curiosity, and connection then you might be missing something. You might be missing the fact that on your team bench there is someone else who is supremely better at context or curiosity and your true role must be to allow them to take that aspect of leadership and run with it.

At MediaCom we like to talk about the team of experts approach.  One of our favourite movies is Avengers Assemble. The plot of this fine example of a Marvel cartoon converted to the big screen involves bringing together a crack team of superheroes with very different skills. Iron Man, the Hulk, Captain America, Hawkeye, Thor and Black Widow don’t necessarily see eye to eye in every respect. They are diverse in values, behaviours and dress sense. Individually none of them can overcome the mega threat posed by Thor’s evil brother Loki. Together however (spoiler alert) they are able to save the earth.

It is Nick Fury, leader of the peace keeping organisation S.H.I.E.L.D. who assembles the difficult to manage but brilliant crew. It is Nick Fury’s voice which is instrumental in holding the team together to focus on the task in hand.

He does this not by having multiple voices, but by being the consistent voice of focus throughout the chaos of the enemy attacks.

Now when I say Nick Fury, who is after all a fictional character, feel free to imagine Samuel L Jackson who has played the role both on the big screen and on TV. Jackson’s persona is said to have informed the writing and characterisation, even before he was cast in the role.

Fury is straight and to the point. He won’t take any nonsense from any of this team, no matter how talented: ‘”I am Iron Man”, you think you’re the only superhero Mr Stark, you’re part of a bigger universe’. He believes in this team, and tells them so: ‘I still believe in super heroes.’  Sometimes he goes his own way and breaks the rules for his team: ‘I recognise that the council has made a decision, but given it’s a stupid ass decision I have decided to ignore it.’

Don’t worry about many voices. Focus on empowering your team to be super heroes.