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

Why Leading A Department Is Part-Time Guard Dog, Part Cat Time Litter Tray …

I hope I’m a decent leader.

While I know there will be some people I’ve worked with, who definitely won’t hold that view … I hope the majority do.

Because – believe it or not – I try hard to be.

Sure, I make some mistakes.
And I can definitely be a pain in the ass.
But I am committed and invested in being the best boss I can be.

I consider myself fortunate because over the years, I’ve had incredible ‘teachers’.

From my parents to mentors to some old bosses … and of course, a few who were so shite, they taught me what not to do, haha.

And while there are many things I believe, adopt and hold dear, one of the most important is: always back your team in public and resolve disputes in private.

It sounds obvious … and it is … but it’s not always followed.

I’ve heard some shocking examples on Corporate Gaslighting … stuff that doesn’t just sound vicious, but the act of megalomaniacs.

But in terms of backing the team, there were few better than football manager legends, Brian Clough and Sir Alex Ferguson.

Yes, I accept they may have had some usual ways of doing this – and demonstrating this – but players knew that unless something exceptionally terrible had happened, their managers would always back them should they face public or managerial scrutiny.

Of course, there was a cost for this …

A cost that was simple but exhaustive.

And it was that the gift of being backed was reciprocated with dedication, focus and effort.

And that – to me – is key.

It’s OK to make mistakes.
It’s alright to sometimes mess things up.
But it can’t be because you were lazy or distracted.

I’ve said it many times, but I believe my job is to ensure that when someone in my team leaves, as they all will at some point, they go because they have a better job than they ever could have imagined.

Chosen for who they are, not just what they do.
Known for what they’ve created, not how well they’re known.
Chased for what they’ve changed, not what they maintained.

OK, there are some exceptions to that – mainly personal reasons, like love or a chance to chase something they’ve always wanted – but I believe I have a responsibility to them to help develop their natural talent, find and release their distinct strategic voice and move things out the way so they can create the most interesting shit of their lives.

It’s why my absolute worst scenario is someone leaving for a sideways move.

Oh my god, I would honestly feel I’d failed them.

And that’s why I place so much importance in backing them and showing my belief in them.

That doesn’t mean it’s blind faith.

We have very honest conversations a lot.

From gentle chats to bi-annual check-in/reviews … but they’re in private and focused on being through the lens of me wanting them to win.

Whether I achieve this is something only they can say. I hope most would agree with it [even those when we’ve parted ways] but if not, then I can assure them I’m working harder to be better.

The reason I say all this is because I saw something recently that I thought was a perfect example of backing the team.

It’s from the British Police.

Now they are getting a lot of stick at the moment. A lot totally deserved.

But this time it’s not them trying to justify an indefensible act … it’s something that resonated with me, because of Otis’ dysgraphia.

It was this.

The British Police – or maybe it’s all Police these days – have a bad reputation.

It’s manifested in mistrust and a lack of people wanting to sign up.

And while I fully appreciate they have a tough job and want to get better [as we saw with West Midland’s Police hiring my mate, Kay, to be their ‘artist in residence’ to better understand and connect to youth culture] … it’s acts like this that are more likely to help the public see the human side of the force as well as the compassionate side.

Anyone who runs a team knows it can be a painful job.

Some days it can feel more like being a cat-litter tray.

But when they know you’ll back them, they’ll back you with their talent, focus and commitment.

Well done Carlisle Police … we need more backing of people with neuro-diversity. Because the more we back those who are different, the more they will show the difference they can make.

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Never Been Prouder …
July 18, 2023, 8:15 am
Filed under: Agency Culture, Attitude & Aptitude, Birthday, Colenso, Colleagues

Last Friday I wrote a post about how Otis kinda trolled me like I kinda troll my colleagues on my birthday.

Well I wrote that before my colleagues decided to give me a birthday gift from them.

Obviously, having made them eat a years worth of cakes that celebrate their nemesis, flaws or fucked-up tastes, they wanted to get their own back.

And they did.

Unfortunately for them, their evil made me so happy it led to one of the best birthday’s I’ve had in years. And what – pray tell – did they give me?

Well, it was this …

And this [The T, not the Hula Hoop. I bought that for a colleague. Don’t ask]

And this …

It was all just so perfect!

It was also proof my team know me so well.

And they’re bastards.

Just so there’s no misunderstanding, if you click on the link, you’ll discover why Sharp and Ritson appear in my pressies.

They’re not my nemesis – I respect and appreciate their brains – I just don’t like how they’ve allowed clients to misunderstand the contexts of what they teach [though I appreciate this is not entirely down to them] so we’ve ended up with a common process to building brands that has left so many brands looking common.

As for Julian.

A quick look on Linkedin will tell you why I have issues with what he does. Or more specifically, how he does it.

I should also point out I’m not saying I’m right – far from it – I’m just saying there’s a lot of context and counter examples that can be given and far too often they’re not.

I get it, we all do that to a certain extent … but in this more competitive landscape and economy, having breadth of approaches and examples of brands who have found interesting and sustainably effective ways to move forward is, at least to me, more valuable than a single approach that ultimately ends up being more about fitting in than getting ahead.

God, this has gone heavy for what was supposed to be a post about cheeky-bastard fun, so let’s ignore all of this and focus on the Fuck U balloons … especially as they’re filled with the same amount of hot air as the average planner.

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Truth In Advertising …

So our office is being renovated which means for the last few months, we’ve been crammed into a couple of rooms while a building site envelops us.

It also means we’ve been severely impacted by space for meeting rooms which is why recently, when we had a pitch, we felt it was only appropriate to let the prospective client know that we knew that we’re in the most uncreative space on the planet.

Hence the sign above.

And you know what, we won.

OK, the work was bloody awesome … but at a time where so many clients seems to choose agencies for reasons beyond the actual work, it’s nice to know this client not only recognised the quality of the ideas put in front of them, but actually rewarded it, because there was no other bloody reason to choose us. Unless they were a building company.

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Birthday Bastard …

Ever since I became a head of department, I have bought cakes on birthdays.

While you may think this is a humble brag, it’s actually an admission of bastardness.

OK, hint of bastardises.

Because like the badges, pencils, stickers, packing tape and fake dog shit I’ve bought for people in the past, I see the act of giving a birthday cake as much about satisfying my evil as sharing my love.

In the past I did this by simply buying cakes from the same shop, every single time … knowing it wouldn’t take long before people got sick of the bloody thing.

And boy, did they let me know about it … especially my Wieden mob and their loathing of yet another Baker and Spice cake. Hahahaha.

However, since moving to NZ, I’ve found a shop that lets you customize the design, which helps explain why Briar – our sour cream and chive crisp chomping champion – got the cupcakes above.

Sure Otis is seeing his inheritance get whittled away by his dad’s colleagues birthday’s … but it makes me happy and don’t I deserve that on their special day?

Cue: Evil, manic laugh.

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Filled By Friendship …

So I’m back.

Did you miss me?

Nope?! Don’t blame you to be honest.

But the past 10 days have been very special for me.

There was a couple of very hard moments, but being able to be there for it, was also special.

Another reminder that while I don’t have many mates, the ones I have are top drawer.

And our presentation appears to have gone down well.

I’m so happy about that … mainly because I got to do it with Paula and Martin and I adored it.

That was a very special feeling. Something I hope we can do a hell of a lot more of, very soon.

It was also so good to catch up with so many old faces I’d not seen in years.

While I actively stay in touch with people, I’m not the most social of humans … so seeing people in the flesh [so to speak] was pretty wonderful.

As I’ve said before, COVID was good to me.

I absolutely loved staying at home with my family and having breakfast, lunch and dinner with them every single day.

Of course, I appreciate we were very privileged in our situation … but that still doesn’t take away the specialness of the times.

At least for me.

But seeing all these people I knew … and hanging out with the people I love … acted a bit like a reset to me.

A reminder of how I feed off the energy of others. That it makes me feel better and happier and hungrier to do good stuff.

To be honest, that was one of the reasons I wanted to come to Colenso.

Yes, part of it was because they are one of the great creative agencies of the times.

And yes, it meant I could finally repay Jill for her generosity in following me around the World by bringing her closer to her Mum after all these years.

But another part was that the idea of being surrounded by a talented team was so enticing.

Put simply, I love it.

I love building a gang.

I love creating our own strategy identify on how we see the world and create for it.

You see after I got made redundant from R/GA, … I was fortunate to be given work that immediately made up the salary I had lost. Better yet, I could do that without having to leave the house as the clients funding me were mainly based in China and America.

I was, as they say, sorted.

But working on your own, is hard.

Even more so when you live in a village surrounded by nothing.

And even more so when you live in a village during COVID so you can’t meet anyone even if you wanted to.

Yes, I get compared to the issues many people face, it’s nothing – but it doesn’t mean it’s not real. At least for me.

Of course I could work on my own if I needed to. The reality is I’ve always done side projects through my career, so there’s been lots of times where I’ve done just that. But moments of working on your own is very different to always working on your own … so when Colenso reached out – knowing I’ve always loved them as I almost joined them in 2016 – the idea of being a member of something was immediately appealing.

Trouble was I loved the projects I was doing … working directly with music, gaming and fashion royalty.

Basically, doing stuff I’d never done before that was incredibly exciting, challenging and creative with people who were incredibly exciting, creative and demanding.

So being a greedy bastard/only child, I asked if they’d be open to me doing both.

And they said yes.

There are many reasons for their decision – from knowing there would never be a conflict with the day-to-day work Colenso do through to knowing the timezones I’d be working in, would require my time at night, not during the day – but I am eternally grateful to them for being so open-minded and encouraging, because right now, I feel I have the best of many worlds.

To be honest that’s been a rare feeling for me.

My life seems to have either been great personally or professionally but rarely both at the same time.

And right now, I’m having that.

This is all coming across like I’m a smug-bastard and that’s the last thing I wanted to do.

It was more a reminder that if you want to do something, you should ask rather than assume and being with people – whether friends, family or colleagues – is a special thing.

Yes, I appreciate that should be obvious, but it wasn’t for me … and this past few weeks, similar to the year before … has reminded me of that.

Of course it highlights what an idiot I must be, but I’ll take that for the lesson it’s just given me.

Which is why I both understand and am confused by those who actively don’t want to work in an office again.

I get it from a balanced life or health perspective – especially if you’re spending a lot of time and money on commuting – but I don’t from the benefits of people and connections.

Of course there are a million reasons that can influence this, but while technology does allow us to be close when we’re not … physical space enables happy accidents and incidental conversations to happen which aren’t just sometimes great for the work, but also the soul.

And mine is full for now.

So thanks to all who helped remind me – and refilled me – over the past couple of weeks.

Let’s see how long it lasts before the grumpiness comes back.

Though, sadly, the long posts are definitely going to remain.

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