The Musings Of An Opinionated Sod [Help Me Grow!]

Don’t Take Anything For Granted …
June 30, 2011, 6:10 am
Filed under: Comment

So a couple of weeks ago, one of my younger colleagues asked for advice on how she could get more involved in meetings.

When I asked her what she meant, she detailed all the stuff I talked about in my presentaphobia post as well as a whole bunch of additional issues ranging from how Asian culture expects women ‘to behave’ within the business environment through to how her clients mainly communicated in English and that was not her native language.

I immediately understood what she was going through and decided I’d do some training on the issue for the women in the office, which I entitled:

“How To Be A Bitch But In A Good Way”
[How to ask & respond to the tough questions without being intimidated]

Well, did that piss some people off.

I was informed that I had offended a number of people in the agency with the title of my training because they felt it was rude … I was advocating ‘being a bitch to succeed’ and by only inviting the agencies women to attend, I was potentially perpetuating the stereotype especially as I was a white male doing the training.

To be fair, they had a point – however in my defense, I was hoping that after nearly a year working with me, they’d know my goal would be to only help the young and talented in the office, rather than hinder … that my range and choice of vocabulary is always highly questionable and that I wasn’t advocating BEING a bitch, but encouraging people to harness the spirit of someone who wants to be heard [but in a good way].

As for why I only invited the women?

Well I’ll be doing training for the guys too, however the fact is around the World, women are faced with massive challenges and prejudices and no more is that prevalent than in Asia. On top of that, I found some photos from an Asian advertising bash and was overwhelmed by how many of the senior agency figures were predominantly white, middle aged and male – and that bothered me a lot.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying the people in these photos are bad people who advocate gender and cultural stereotypes [afterall I’m kind-of one of them, even if I don’t want to be one of them] it’s just that I found it sad that the industry in this part of the World was so under-represented by people from this side of the World – especially women – and I wanted to pass on some of the lessons I’d learnt over the years to help our talented women feel more confident to express themselves [as well as overcome some of the additional hurdles they face] so their talent can shine and they can help change the make up of adland management over the next few years.

Well I did the training and it went very well.

Apart from the people who attending giving me positive feedback, the couple of people who were concerned it could come across as ‘a man dictating how to behave to the helpless women of Asia’ realised it was simply the tales of a bloke from Nottingham, passing on some of the lessons he’s learnt over the years and that he genuinely had the best interests of his colleagues at heart.

But as much as I was disappointed that anyone I work with could of thought I would fail to be sensitive to the people, gender and issues of the region, I learnt [or re-learnt] some valuable lessons from all this as well.

1/ People make instant judgements and hoping they’ll “get you” should never be taken for granted – especially if you’re still relatively new.

2/ Offensive words get all the focus, even when they’re surrounded with meaning that is intended to soften their impact.

3/ Years of negativity and prejudice overwhelm any positive historical actions or behaviour.
[Unless all your actions and behaviour are directly linked to the topic at hand]

4/ It’s important to do these things, even if it causes deeply held issues and concerns to rise up and cause tension.

5/ What you do, how you do it and how often you do it is the only thing that can make a real difference.

6/ It’s genuinely great – and healthy – when people express their concerns directly and we must continually encourage that attitude at all times and with all people.
[Which this training is also designed to help people do, without the fear of being insulting or causing anger – which I accept must sound weird coming from me]

Anyway, while many of the things I talked about in the training have been said before [by me and by others] … and many people would say it was nothing they didn’t know already … and the examples I used may sound obvious or trivial … I know from personal experience, the techniques I talked about helped me [and continue to help me] a huge amount – not just in meetings, but in how I get others to understand, influence and buy my views – so for anyone out there, especially the younger advertising women in this part of the World [it is also translated into Chinese ], I attach it for you to check out, play with and use it as you feel fit.

Hope it helps. Even a little bit.


Slides 2-14
They are there to explain the reasoning behind the training [as detailed above].

Slides 17-22
They describe scenarios that people will hopefully – in a sad way – resonate with.

Slides 23-33
They describe the techniques to help you handle pretty much every situation – at least in terms of being able to express your point of view without fear of reprise, however contentious you may be being.

Slides 34-38
Give some challenges for you to try and practice your techniques on.

Slides 39-44
Describe some additional tips and reminders.

62 Comments so far
Leave a comment

Chinese looks funny.

Comment by Billy Whizz

This is great Rob. What a great way to get the chicks to dig you.

Comment by Billy Whizz

Oh Billy.

Comment by Jemma King

stop being a sexist prick billy. cant you fucking see mary is around.

hello darling mary.

Comment by andy@cynic

Remember Billy, it’s a fine line between stupid and brave.

Comment by Rob

You are such a sweetie.
Jemma x

Comment by Jemma King

Hello Jemma, lovely to see you here. How’s it all going. Give me a buzz or drop me an email, it is actually more personal than communicating through this blog, ha!

Comment by Rob

That page of ugly white guys is the worst page of ugly white guys since the clan started.

Comment by Billy Whizz

funny campbell didnt include a picture of himself in the dulux wall of pasty white. why the fuck do none of those fuckers have a tan? they live in a hot fucking part of the world. it cant be because theyre too fucking busy to go out, all they fucking do is turn up to wank functions.

Comment by andy@cynic

and does one of the pictures feature tarzan heseltine? what the fuck is he doing there? hes not some ad twat is he? if he is i bet its with wpp. specifically fucking ogilvy.

Comment by andy@cynic

It does. I have no idea what he was doing there either … he certainly isn’t in Asian adland, but if he was, I think you’re right about guessing he’d be at Ogilvy.

Comment by Rob

And I didn’t feature on the white wall of shame because I [1] wasn’t there and [2] wasn’t invited.

Comment by Rob

so theyre not totally fucking stupid are they.

Comment by andy@cynic

It is wrong regardless of whom it affects, but being judged before you’ve shown your abilities is an everyday occurrence for women. Good on you for doing this Robert, I am quite sure it proved helpful and will prove helpful to many.

@Billy. Don’t be a loser all the time.

Comment by Mary Bryant

* Hang my head in shame. *

Comment by Billy Whizz

Better than Mary hanging your bollocks over a meat slicer.

Comment by Rob

This post is bringing all the ladies out. Hello Mary.

Jemma x

Comment by Jemma King

Hello Jemma. I hope all is well. You should come and visit, the girls would love to see you again.

@Billy. It’s only because I know you’re not the man you are strangely pretending to be on this blog that allows me to draw a line under this. Full forgiveness will cost you a visit, but not when Jemma is here.

Comment by Mary Bryant

be gentle with billy, you know his issues. its not his fault he worked with bad influence and you know how much of a sexist bastard that george guy is.

joke mary. thats a fucking joke.

Comment by andy@cynic

Dinner. Saturday. No. Unless you are paying.

Comment by George

i pay for everyfuckingthing else so whats another fucking dinner. freeloader.

Comment by andy@cynic

I love you Mary.

Comment by Rob

stop trying to steal georges wife. it wont happen. shes too fucking smart and beautiful and youre too ugly and thick. but stop it. youre embarrassing yourself. again.

Comment by andy@cynic

youre the bastardist new age fucking guy i know campbell. or the gayest straight guy. youre just fucking weird, ok?

and women might be treated like shit but theyre 10 times fucking stronger than men so how about next time you do a presentation on how to ask ex wives to give you a fucking break once in a fucking while or how to stop conceding to current wives dreams of owning the worlds most expensive wood pile in the heart of vanfuckingcouver.

Comment by andy@cynic

and well fucking done on not falling off the impact font wagon yet. fucking amazing.

Comment by andy@cynic

It appears impact is now residing in the ‘where are they now” dustbin.

Comment by George

But it is a beautiful wood pile in the heart of Van*******couver.

Comment by George

with half a fucking roof.

Comment by andy@cynic


Comment by Rob

I know why you pitched this for the younger women in the advertising profession but it’s good for anyone in any industry. Good work and an interesting read.

Comment by Pete

Excellent. And not a union jack clad picture of geri halliwell in sight,

Comment by Simon Kendrick

More evidence of your positive conflict mantra. Great deck. How fitting you work at the agency of cultural provocation.

Comment by George

That had not escaped my notice either, ha!

Comment by Rob

What we need is a podcast so we can get the full blast of the awesomeness.
OK, but really, liked the idea and would like to send it to my friends in corporates in South Africa where the smell of testosterone in meetings is as thick as! But without narration…. dunno.
Ready to go international Rob?

Comment by Henk

are you fucking insane? dont you think he has ruined enough lives alfuckingready?

Comment by andy@cynic

I am all for chaos. And Rob seems to know how to trigger it, don’t you think Andy?

Comment by Henk (Jan) Roodt

hes the original social fucking irritant.

Comment by andy@cynic

Good deck Rob. Surprised you didn’t mention your infamous “between these 4 walls” genius manipulation tactic.

Comment by DH

he keeps the best tips to himself. what a fucking bastard.

never ceases to fucking amaze me how people will spill their guts when you precede any conversation with those 4 little fucking words. i know i fucking fell for it. but that was when id only just met campbell. never afuckingain.

Comment by andy@cynic

I did actually mention that in the training but yes, I should have mentioned that – it is the most evil genius thing I have in my arsenal of evil genius things.

Comment by Rob

what a fucking awesome guide! cheers man, definitely see this helping me in the future!

Comment by Riaad van der Merwe

This is very helpful. Thank you for doing it Robert.

Comment by Anna Choi

you don’t need my fucking pride, rob, but i’m super proud of you. for not just doing this, but posting/boasting about it. and for making it available for others to use.

and i think this is what it means to be a feminist – welcome to the club, rob 🙂

even though i might have seen through your use of the word bitch, i can also see why people had issues with that aspect of it, as you mentioned in point 2. although not because of the word itself, but as its offensive history in the boardroom.

and thank you to the young woman that inspired this post – nice work on going to rob, rather than someone who might have been ‘too busy’ or settled for just catching you a fish, rather than teaching you how to do it yourself.

Comment by lauren


Comment by Rob

Rob, thank you. I wish you were my boss. It’s rare, even in the UK, for anyone to take the time to do this, and it’s almost non-existent for women. As someone from India who works in the UK, I understand cultural nuances and how people can completely misinterpret what you’re trying to do even if you go at it from the best of intentions, so it must have been difficult (at least slightly) to make this work as you did.

People like you make this industry a better place. I mean that form the bottom of my heart.

Comment by Anjali Ramachandran

Hi Anjali – you’re very kind, but a couple of things:

1/ I assure you, you would not wish I was your boss and I have 14 odd planners who would back this fact up for you.

2/ There is a selfishness in me doing this.

[i] If it gives my guys the confidence to be better, it will
make my job easier and more enjoyable.

[ii] If the people who went through it found it useful, I
stand a chance they’ll hire me when I’m put out
to pasture.

But that aside, I’d rather do it and cause debate than sit back and keep the illusion of comfort and happiness for all ticking along, because ultimately I find that far more disturbing than having to deal with some people whose first reaction to what I wanted to do was concern.

You can’t please everyone – and as long as your intentions come from the right place – my attitude is you give something a go and see what happens.

What I did isn’t much – not being humble, it’s true – and for the record, I know lots of people who do this sort of thing, I just am sad that you haven’t met many of them yet … but that aside, your words are very, very, very gratefully received and I appreciate it very, much.

Comment by Rob

Men in the UK can be just as bad sometimes (“oh, not just a pretty face”) but for an industry priding itself on individuality, you should tell them well-behaved women rarely make history. Print it up, hang it somewhere, stick it on your desk, play a Cindy Gallup video in the office.

Comment by diemkay

Good stuff.
Sometimes these things sre so simple we don’t even think to think about them.
Given our industry’s tendency to place pretty women as account handlers only and men as creatives, planners and managers, it’s always good to see people looking to make things fairer.

Comment by Rob Mortimer

looking forward to the training on how to tone it down a bit (not for women, but you know.. for those with poor impulse control)..

Comment by niko

you’ll be leading that one then niko? 😉

Comment by lauren

I gave you that training in Amsterdam.

Comment by Rob

the presentation is good advice for anyone i think. and i also think that women have to get over the fact that they are women and whatever someone somewhere at any point in time told them about who and what they are just because they are a woman (and not a man) and how they have to behave. i believe those learnt rules of engagement are what is holding them back. they are not men either, but a certain confidence that gender doesnt make them second class, weirdly different or less valuable when it comes to opinion, experience, or thought helps. go for it ladies! but take care not to scare the y’s into calling you bitch lol

Comment by peggy

isnt the presentation an exercise in empathy? something women are said to have in abundance anyway lol

Comment by peggy

This is freakin’ awesome! And sooo relevant to junior planners too. Heck, it’s probably relevant to anyone!
Definitely going to have to try these out in the next meeting.
Thanks so much Rob!

As andy would probably say, “you’re a fucking legend”.
But he’d probably replace the word ‘legend’ with something cruder, and of a slightly ‘darker’ tone…haha!

Comment by Hamish Vallabh

i just say it as it fucking is and in campbells case its always fucking unpleasant.

Comment by andy@cynic

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