Archive for December, 2018

Who is your biggest critic? They might be closer to you than you think.

Thursday, December 13th, 2018

It__s_Like_Looking_in_a_Mirror_by_SamsSisterOften when mentoring, in a one to one, it will be clear that the mentees worst critic is the one they see very regularly, daily in fact.  Often when they are tired and stressed.  Often when they are at a low point.  It’s the one they see in the mirror.

Its very common.  In my latest book, The Glass Wall, success strategies for women at work and businesses that mean business, we quote a returner from maternity leave who says: “Day to day I’m just as ambitious, but I’m so grateful now when I get given a break or a step up.  I have so much guilt.  Why do I feel like that?  I shouldn’t.  It’s my due.”

In the questions sessions that follow our talks about the book, all too often questions will be raised where it becomes clear that the questioner is doubting their own worth.  “I’m so lucky,” they might say, before going on to talk about a situation that they clearly deserve.  “I don’t want to speak up about this, in case I am not the expert” is another common trait amongst capable, intelligent and awesome performers.

Where does this come from.  In my experience it is certainly not always from their managers, who are often nurturing their talent.

It might be from their peers.  There are some work cultures that operate on zero sum game basis as far as success and recognition is concerned.  In cultures without a growth outlook rewards are limited and therefore success for one person means that no one else is recognised.  The team is therefore motivated to do each other down whatever the declared culture of the organisation might be.  It’s no surprise then that people don’t feel encouraged to take risks or to speak up about something that they haven’t 100% nailed down.

In this situation your worst critic might be the chap on the other side of the desk.

Most of the time though the worst critic lives inside people’s head.  It might be the relic of criticism that you heard at school or college.  It might be the voice of unfriendly so-called friends.  It might be a parent or guardian, sibling, perfect cousin.  You can’t always shut those voices up.  No matter how much you want to.  You can however recognise that they are internal voices and cultivate a strategy to counteract it.

If you can have an internal critic you can also have an internal cheerleader.  One technique is to give yourself advice that you would give your best friend in that situation.  If you’re worrying about not being good enough at something what would you say to your best friend in that same state?  You’d probably tell them that it would be alright, they’ll sail through it, that you believe in them.  If you can do it for your best friend, you can do it for yourself.

You can also build a network of actual cheerleaders.  As I said in Nicola Kemp’s feature on my colleague Claudine Collins, we’ve built a network of internal cheerleaders at MediaCom.  We’ve got each others’ back.‎ When, as is so often the case, ‎negative internal voices dominate, or we have a tough moment, we’ve got into the habit of turning to each other to check in and to get support, to be each other’s cheerleaders and sponsors. We won’t let each other down and knowing that we have this network makes us better and stronger. And better able to deliver outstanding work for our clients.

Creativity = data + imagination + empathy.

Monday, December 3rd, 2018

homerThere’s a reason that organisations that have real diversity thrive. It is not just a tick box exercise. It’s the synthesis of people with differences of opinion, personality and thinking.  It’s the ultimate “Avengers Assemble” team (as WPP UK Country Manager Karen Blackett puts it). These teams are not groups of people who love hanging out together (they may do, they may not). They are teams whose natural inclination is to go in different directions, to go at different paces and with different motivations. Whose behaviours don’t fit one nicely orchestrated corporate values box. But who come together with a single goal. In our case to grow our clients’ business.

It’s a rare person who combines the best of what used to be described as left brain and right brain thinking. The geography of the brain might be out of date, but you all know what I mean. Imagination and speculation combined with forensic concentration on data. Yet the best answers for brand growth will come from such a combination.  And such a combination might require that diverse team working in synthesis.

Data understanding alone gets you only to the half way mark of great thinking. Imagination and empathy take you the rest of the way to brilliance.

When people bemoan the split of creative and media they’re probably talking about this really. And whatever building or logo people sit in there’s a need to combine good concrete data analysis, including a robust understanding of the difference between correlation and causation, with the ability to dream, to confabulate, to storytell.  In the end imagination is what the planner must use to fill in the gaps between the data points.

Let me give you one example of a food brand where the data team found that discount offers performed significantly better (and against expectations) if served to potential customers the night before rather than immediately before use.  They of course immediately doubled down on serving messages at this time. There was a great hike in the short term response.

This is interesting, but not as interesting as why? Why this is case and what impact that could have? The discount in question wasn’t a large one, and the food brand was in the mass market category. Let’s use that one data point to imagine the customer.  As so often there was no budget for more research.

The coupon was being predominantly taken up by people who were properly budgeting for their lunches, who were planning ahead. So far, so interesting. There’s so much more though. For any great team the nugget of data could be used to drive the creative execution not just of the offer, but to feed into broader creative development, strategic positioning of the brand, menus and service values of the organisation. Maybe a new type of offer would suit this customer segment’s lifestyle for example, 5 lunches for the price of 3 to ensure that careful budgeters commit to one food outlet, thus breaking category norms to drive loyalty and repeat business. What else can we imagine from this one data point? How can we empathise with this audience? (And for the true meaning of empathy see Trott’s blog: ”Sympathy is emotional, empathy is rational”). If they’re planning meals carefully during the week, are they budgeting for a blow out at the weekend perhaps. Would a partnership with a glossy magazine be a great move, so that the frugality has an upside, with some affordable luxury? Or the chance to win tickets to an ITV Saturday night live show?

One tiny bit of data, that could so easily be siloed in a DM team. One tiny bit of data that could lead to a brand growth transformation. In tough competitive times, no nugget of data should go unexamined as true creativity means data analytics combined with imagination and empathy.