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

Manners Are More Powerful Than Menace …
October 22, 2013, 6:10 am
Filed under: Comment

When I started in this industry, there was a guy I worked with that was simply horrible.

I don’t mean talentless, I mean horrible.

He was rude to his team … rude to his colleagues and – on occasion – rude to his clients.

I watched him thinking, “what a dick” and while his actions undoubtedly got results, I saw that his team feared him rather than wanted to work for him … which meant that as soon as they had learnt everything from him – or had an offer from another company who viewed working for this arse as a great foundation in the industry/discipline – they were off.

I was lucky I never worked directly with him or for him, but I remember one day watching him shout at a colleague for some ridiculously small thing, and vowing I would never, ever be like him.

Now, if I’m honest, some people would claim I failed in that goal.

They would say I am a grumpy bastard who is petty and particular about all manner of things.

And – if I’m being honest – the only people who can truly answer this are the folk who have worked with me or for me … however as much as I admit that I can be a fucking prick to people who have a massive title but [1] can’t even achieve the basic standards expected of someone in that position &/or [2] have no interest in taking any responsibility for what they have to do/encourage, I would hope I am not someone who is basically always looking for a fight.

Anyway, that’s by-the-by, because that’s not what I want to talk about.

Being a head of a department is hard.

Yes, I know you get more money and benefits, but that doesn’t mean the job is easy.

Very rarely do you get trained for it and then, when it happens, you suddenly find yourself thrust into a position where you are always copping someones shit.

Your team mates stop being your team mates and start expressing/demanding their personal needs and wants.

Your managers stop being your managers and start placing more expectations and responsibility on you.

Your clients stop being your clients and start holding you responsible for more than you are responsible for.

In short, you can become a cat litter-tray for everyone’s needs, wants, demands, tears, fears and tantrums.

Hey, I’m not criticising anyone, I was/am definitely guilty of it and I expected my bosses to ‘sort it out’ because at the end of the day, no one will look out for you as much as you.

Now dealing with that is part of being a boss … however how you deal with it dictates how you will develop your team and that’s why I subscribe to this point of view:

While I understand why the guy I used to work with felt ‘being a dictator’ stopped all the internal issues and arguments that can consume your day, the fact is, it also opened a can of worms he never knew existed.

The fact is, you don’t have to be mean to people.

You don’t have to be objectionable for the sake of being objectionable.

You shouldn’t tear someone down just because you have the power to do so.

Encouragement and support are not evil words.

Letting people discover their own ways, styles and mistakes is not dangerous or stupid.

In fact, it’s those things that help people develop and grow.

It makes them better at what they do.

It makes your job easier to do and best of all, it makes you look good.

But that doesn’t mean you have to act like Paula Abdul.

Being encouraging doesn’t mean relinquishing standards or boundaries.

Not just because if you do, people will try to cross them time and time again … but because part of being a boss is about setting a direction, vision and goal that everyone wants to be committed going after.

Being the head of a department means walking along a really thin tightrope.

Dangerous, scary but ultimately amazing and fulfilling – especially when your team grows and develops and then moves on to do things that they never imagined they could be doing. That’s just sheer bloody awesome.

And that’s why one of the best bits of advice I ever got was that you should always be enthusiastic, positive and eager to help, listen and get involved … but never be to the point where someone can take advantage of your generosity or miss out on their own development and experience, because in an industry where reputation is everything, the best way to build it – apart from doing great work – is to do no harm, but take no shit.

28 Comments so far
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Yesterday you said don’t listen to advice. Today you talk about one of the best bits of advice you ever got. Make your mind up.

Comment by DH

I worked with you for 5 years so am perfectly placed to answer your question. Yes you were, but you were worse to clients who started talking shit. The end.

Comment by DH

And you never sorted anything out for me. That was George’s job.

Comment by DH

Some of my comments might not be entirely true but if I’m positive about you, Andy will never forgive me and he lives closer to me than you do.

Comment by DH


Comment by andy@cynic

and then you started a company with the temperamental fuck and had the best time of your fucking career and enjoyed a lifestyle you didnt deserve or think was ever fucking going to be possible. the end.

Comment by andy@cynic

You think I’m talking about you? Hahaha. While you had your moments, you were a pussycat. Besides, as your ex colleagues will all agree, away from your blog persona, you’re actually a semi-nice, semi-compassionate and semi-insightful guy. Or you used to be before the divorces. Ha.

Comment by Rob

You know how Andy gets when people see him for the nice guy he is. You’re on your own with this one.

Comment by DH

being a manager is like aspiring to be a vet. you think you can make a difference but all you end up doing is dealing with other peoples fucking shit and moaning. thats why im unemployed and happy as a fucking drunk bastard lord.

Comment by andy@cynic

I’m not sure if “unemployed” is the correct term for your circumstances Andy.

Comment by Pete

Isn’t it called alimony payment protection?

Comment by DH

This is a great post Rob. For what it’s worth, you were never like the person you describe at the start of this post but when provoked, you could certainly react like that. But that was a long time ago and I’m sure you’re much calmer and mature these days. Possibly. ; )

Comment by Pete

“But that doesn’t mean you have to act like Paula Abdul”

It also doesn’t mean you have to act like Simon Cowell but you were like that a lot with me, especially when reading my first draft decks.

I like this post.

Comment by Bazza

Were your first draft decks like deluded wannabes craving validation?

Comment by John

If only it was that good.

Comment by George

At least they were better than that Dominic guy we had working for us for about 6 minutes Baz. That’s something to make yourself feel better about yourself isn’t it? Ahem.

Comment by Rob

I can’t even remember who he was.

Comment by DH

But I can’t remember who Bazza was. Maybe it’s because he is so small.

Comment by DH

You remember me when you want freebies. Funny enough, that’s when I forget you.

Comment by Bazza

I like the title of this post and I adore the “do no harm but take no shit” message. The struggle to balance team spirit with team leadership is something few talk about, but the fact you do is why this blog is entertaining to read and, despite your protestations, valuable to learn from.
While you generally adopted the stance you are encouraging, I can remember a few occasions where you let it slip. You were, to a degree, justified in your response, but you certainly did metaphorical harm in your quest to take no shit. Fortunately I was never on the receiving end, which made the event so interesting to watch. Am I allowed to say that?

Comment by George

Anyone else think the silence from Rob’s wk colleagues speaks volumes?

Comment by DH

Not really – they’re too busy doing the work in the tiny gaps between his holidays.

Comment by John

After 7 years of waking up to insults, I wasn’t surprised when I saw the abuse you all had decided to dish out on me. However when I saw that even George and Pete had joined in, I realised I must have been an even bigger prick than I thought/was told I was.

On the bright side, this helps justify my decision to break into the W+K IT department and make sure no computer in the network will allow anyone to visit my blog so they can’t come on here and tell the World (read: the 9+ folk who have no life) the latest exploits in my professional failings.

The bad news is, you know it all already. Bugger.

Comment by Rob

You have such a quaint view of breaking into an IT department.

Comment by John

You have me bang to rights John. We all know the real way it is by outsourcing it to the Chinese government.

Comment by Rob

I think the hardest trick with managing people is to look like you know what you’re doing while you’re just as confused as them.

I love Daniel Pink’s book on motivatong people in organisations – help them do stuff well, give them a measure of autonomy, make them feel part of something worthwhile.

I wonder how many agencies live up to this.

I came accross some stuff about introverts and loved how charismatic, confident people are crap at managing creative folks, while those who think and listen tend to do it a lot better. But what kind of person tends to be venerated?

Comment by northern

So you’re saying Rob is doomed. Or more precisely, his team are.

Comment by DH

campbell gives masses of autonomy. thats what happens when youre always on fucking holiday and when you arent, youre a fucking liability.

Comment by andy@cynic

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