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

Saying What Everyone Wants To Hear Will Catch You Out In The End …

I used to know this person who everyone liked.

Always smiling. Always laughing.

They were the life and soul of every party.

But then, when I spoke to people who actually worked with this person, the response was kind of different.

The common reply was something along the lines of:

“They’re nice as a person, but working with them ….”

And there would be this pause as words they didn’t want to say out loud, were said in their silence.

What they were trying to say was the problem they had working with this person was they wanted to be popular.

Sure, we all want that to a certain extent, but this person was obsessed with it … to the point they would always give whoever they were talking to, the answer that person wanted to hear.

Never saying the word “no”.

At least to people who they felt were – or could be – important or influential to them.

And while that is fine in general – or private – conversation, it causes huge problems when it comes to making great work because different promises get made to different people which means everyone is working to different goals and expectations.

Worse, it means when shit hit the fan – which it always will – this person will constantly blame someone else for the issues rather than take responsibility for what has happened.

Of course this shouldn’t be a surprise because their focus was never really been about the work – despite what they might say in public – it was just about their personal relationships.

Look I get it … no one likes conflict.

No one likes to tell someone no, especially if you like that person.

But when you let your ego be more important than the work, everyone loses.

As I wrote before, to get to great work you’ve got to accept it will leave scars.

That doesn’t mean the teams need to work in an atmosphere of toxicity or aggression – far from it, you generally feel the joy the teams have had making great work – but it does mean the tough conversations have to be had openly and early to not just ensure expectations and standards are agreed by everyone involved, but to give the teams the space, time and safety to make work that is fearless and infectious.

Popularity seekers scare the crap out of me.

Sure, they’re nice to have a cup of tea with, but to work with them is horrific.

Not because they lack talent, but they lack integrity and like all relationships, if you can’t trust the person by your side, you can’t have a relationship that can lead to exciting and new places.

But if more evidence was needed, I’d say this.

Tough conversations may not be nice, but not only do they increase the odds of getting to great work … they build stronger trust, respect and relationship between client and agency.

Not having tough conversations may be easier, but I don’t know of any great work that has ever come from it. And eventually, that leads to relationship breakdown … because if there’s one thing I know about this business, when things go good – everyone claims ownership – but when things go bad, most clients tend to point the gun at the agency.

19 Comments so far
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I was going to say I bet this was a recent experience but this blog is so time unsensitive that it could have been in the 90s. Nice post though. The friend seeker is good to buy drinks but that’s it.

Comment by DH

Relatively recently – at least in the worst case I’ve experienced – but it’s not that unique and, scarily, will be becoming more common as client budgets become harder to extract.

Comment by Rob

I am assuming this occurred in America because I have encountered more of these individuals here than anywhere else. Even London. I believe it is part of the way corporate America operates. Where popularity is rewarded because the c-suite are paranoid about their position so would rather be surrounded by superficial agreement than competent challenging. It is a toxic environment that pushes medocitity to the top and makes medocitity excessively egotistical.

Comment by George


Comment by Billy Whizz

Sweeping generalizations, much?

Comment by Yes, a yank

With some thought I could have and would have phrased this comment much better. You are right to call me out. Apologies.

Comment by George

You didn’t even put up a fight. Classic limey.

Comment by Billy Whizz

Well it’s not unique to America George but as you know, I did experience some situations there that I’ve never had before. That could be as much to do with the fact America is in about as weird situation as it has ever been as well as the companies I was interacting with were very different to the ones I’ve ever dealt with [] but I think it is prevalent in all organizations or individuals who are frightened of being left behind but don’t want to do anything to change.

Comment by Rob

It’s very late there isn’t it George. Do you want to use that as your excuse? Hahaha.

Comment by Rob

when the fuck did you become donald trump auntie?

Comment by andy@cynic

Says the person who thinks you get popular by insulting everyone.

Comment by Billy Whizz

Tough love is still love.

Comment by Rob

When I first started at cynic I was shocked at how open we were with clients about issues we disagreed with. Never in nasty or aggressive ways but we would call out things I had seen other agencies regard as normal practice. But that was how we built such strong relationships because it was always focused on the quality of the work and honesty was a major part in that. It’s obvious but many people would rather be liked than respected. A really good post Rob.

Comment by Pete

you fucking creeping bastard. youre also a stupid prick because you should have said this shit when you worked for me not when you fucked off for the google dollar.

Comment by andy@cynic

To be honest I can’t imagine Andy ever not telling someone that he disagrees with them.
Always under promise and over deliver. Maybe that means playing good cop/bad cop with accounts… but if it saves a massive mistake or over-run, it’s well worth it.

Comment by Rob (Other one)

“no one likes conflict.” – nonsense, you love it.

Comment by John

Wow, wordpress is super clunky with all the advertising on it.

Comment by Marcus

i dont understand why the fuck anyone would want to advertise on this shithole. even isis would find it fucking depressing.

Comment by andy@cynic

I’d understand it if it was money launderers or plastic surgeons.

Comment by DH

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