Archive for the 'Uncategorized' Category

Top 5 Winning Features of Successful Advertising Agencies

Below are the Top 5 Winning Features of advertising agencies that consistently won new business. The study was done a few years ago by Peter Rogen, but the ideas are as valuable today as they were then. There are more features in the book, but these top five will give you an idea of whether your leadership has got what it takes.  This is a condensed version from The Pitch Doctor, by Neil Flett of RogenSi:

1. Successful organisations had a leader with a clear vision of what the company could become in three to four years. The study showed that this vision could be so strong that the leader could picture the company at that time, its people, its positioning, its products and its profitability.

2. The leader had an extremely strong level of intention – a desire to get there and a sense of urgency to make it happen sooner rather than later.  This is a classic leader feature and definitely crucial, but in isolation is not enough…

3. The study showed that an effective leader built a team of three to four people who shared the vision and had the same high set of values. Not only did these people share these values, but the expounded them persuasively to the rest of the team.

4. The team’s first priority was always the standard of present work for clients. This is a valuable insight for anyone getting on a roll. Not only does most new business flow from existing clients in one way or another, but the client base must be strong and solid to enable the diverting of team effort to new business.

5. A new business plan was then formulated which had:
a) A philosophy;
b) Goals;
c) Honest acceptance of strengths and weaknesses;
d) Criteria for prospective clients;
e) Key prospects;
f) Key people assigned to key prospects. By allocating team members to ‘tag’ prospects, organisations were ready when a pitch occurred. There was at least one key person in the team already familiar with the prospect’s business, problems and opportunities. It was not a last minute rush to research the business in a week; and
g) Resources were allocated.

The list goes on, but it would be prudent for SME’s to keep these strategies in mind as they look to grow their companies. Again, it places an emphasis on current clients for business, knowing how hard it is to generate new business.



Hedgehogs, Fortune Tellers and Leadership

We love to know the future.  We are drawn to people who have the answers when we don’t.  After all, we make decisions based on assumptions about the future, so it makes sense that we find comfort in those that seem to know the answers.  Take these questions:

Has the housing market bottomed out yet? How low will the pound go? Is it going to be sunny in the Caribbean this easter?

Although reassuring, “expert advice” is not necessarily what we look for in a leader.  Qualities of leadership often include boldness, confidence and certainty.  As Tetlock points out – people who acknowledge their limitations (Foxes) find less public support than those who proclaim knowledge of a “truth” (even when it is unrealistic to do so – Hedgehogs). And so it is that Hedgehogs are more likely to get votes.

However, is this  leadership strategy good for us? In his new book Obliquity, John Kay points out that these “truths” are mostly at odds with actual world events.  And, unfortunately, actions made by people with these qualities can be disastrous:

It is hard to overstate the damage that has recently been done by people who thought they knew more about the world than they really did. RSA Journal – Spring 2010

His examples include Iraq and the financial fiasco,  and even Gordon Brown’s focus on “defined and quantifiable objectives.”  While there are arguably rational justifications for the choices that led to these events, it is rare that such experts correctly predict the future.  That is not to say we cannot gather useful information when investing in decisions – whether they be buying a house or going to war.  We would be foolish not to gather outside information… However things do not go according to plan!

Is this our leader’s fault? Is it the fault of the systems that we employ?  Or is it just life? As Rumsfeld famously said of Iraq – “S*** HAPPENS”.  Unfortunately, this is true.  What is more, this implicit understanding between us all – that we can never be absolutely sure of anything – allows us to easily forgive and forget.

Yet this should not prevent us from developing our understanding of good leadership.  Kay promotes skepticism and humility in the face of both the future and our capacity to make decisions as healthy practices.  Unfortunately, we all get bored with lengthy debates about pros and cons and such skepticism isn’t enough.  However, more than that, Kay suggests leadership is about keeping track of high level objectives and practicing what I would call Reflexive Leadership – that is, the ability to learn and adapt as things change and new information comes to light.  Being proficient in reflexive leadership means being able to face unknown territory with confidence.

Confidence is also one of the more conventional qualities of leadership.  That is, regardless of what is said, people who appear more confident inspire trust and more importantly, following.  Those that have confidence to face the unknown will inspire those around them.  What is more, those that have skills, systems and strategies in place to adapt and manage change succesfully will lead us into the future.

As I suggested in the beginning leadership is not about being an expert, nor is it about being a fortune-teller: Leadership is being able to see the bigger picture and to navigate and adjust to the constant flux of variations we encounter.  Good leadership consists, not of being able to proclaim the future, but to recognise and respond to it as it arises in the present.   The qualities of adaptability and creativity combined with a perspective of higher goals will cultivate the confidence and integrity that we typically look for in a leader.

Crucial to both adaptability and vision is communication, but that is another blog…

Conflict – What’s good about the fight?

Martial artists know it, mediators know it and kids in the play ground know it. The best way to get out a of a loggerhead is – to let go. There is an exercise in Aikido where one person tries to get out of the wrist-hold of another. As one person struggles, the other grips tighter and the conflict becomes more intense, and so on… However, as soon as the one caught in the grip relaxes, the other relaxes their effort and the first person is often free to get out.

As mediators, we know this is the place we would like our parties to get to. Unfortunately, the more protracted the conflict, the less likely the person is to let go. This is true both in personal relationship conflicts, like divorce, through to state warfare.

From future-focused and problem-solving models of mediation through to more facilitative approaches, mediators often encourage those in the conflict to loosen their grip on the destructive cycle of conflict. Simply giving people space, listening and giving them a chance to reflect can work wonders – we know this.

However, I am also interested in is what keeps people in a confrontational mode. We know its fear. We know that when in conflict, the last thing we want to do is give in. However, behind this “knowledge” is an attitude that the conflict is bad and we should get rid of it. Yet if we really want to support Continue reading ‘Conflict – What’s good about the fight?’

“Its Not a Cultural Thing”

Trappings typical of an East-end neighbour conflict.

The people

The mediators: Two men in their mid-thirties, one of Morrocan descent, one Australian. The parties: A middle-aged first or second generation Bangladeshi woman, married with three kids living next door to a recently single white English born mother (mid/late twenties) of a 1 year old daughter. So a lot of cultural differnce, but I am going to foucs on the two party’s very different styles of communication.

The young woman desired and was able to communicate directly with her neighbour. This was evident from the beginning and actually part of the conflict: The council had told her not to have ANY communication with her neighbour while the dispute was still officially being dealt with.  This included the mediation process, so there was already there was a bit of resentment toward the mediation service as some other hoop she had to jump through. She had stated in her intention that she did not think the conflict was that big a deal and she was willing to apologise from the very beginning of the meeting.

They both claimed that it was not a “cultural” thing (there is a lot of fear about being seen as racist/prejudice = stupid/criminal) But in actual fact it was very much a “cultural thing.” The Asian woman wanted to address the two (male) mediators directly but did not seek much direct contact with her neighbour. We even pointed this out, (admittedly, we also sided with the mediation culture expectation that the two parties should be addressing each other – It is after all their conflict, not ours!)  So in this case, the Bangladeshi Continue reading ‘“Its Not a Cultural Thing”’

Man in The Mirror

Note from a friend, for a friend…

MICHAEL- The Man in the Mirror.

His Death as a Reflection of a Changing Paradigm.

I remember watching Michael accept an award, and while he gave his speech, different members of the audience (us) shouted, “We love you Michael!” and each and every time he’d stop, look at them and say, “I love you, too.”

Here’s what’s amazing.

Michael Jackson, for reasons we will delve into, was the perfect reflection, embodiment, mascot of our collective consciousness as a western society at the time that he lived.

We were celebrity-crazy, he lived to be loved.

We were racist, he tried to be another color.

We were homophobic, he tried to have a mainstream sexuality.

We were obsessed with an idea of external perfection- plastic- he plasticized. That was our addiction that he internalized.

Michael Jackson was a crystal mirror. He reflected us back. He was the purest innocent sponge, and absorbed and embodied our mentality.

We are confused about celebrity. It is our own beauty and ethereal royalty, it is what we all are. And whether internally or externally, we don’t know how to treat it, to hold it, to be with it, to be it. Whether consciously or unconsciously, we look for Continue reading ‘Man in The Mirror’

“Pooh’s Expodition” – A Parable of Leadership

A view on how things at the top may be perceived lower down – from the perspective of A.A. Milne’s characters in Winnie the Pooh:

One day, they are all walking along to discover the Pole, and Pooh is making up a song about the whole affair, when Christopher Robin says “Hush!”, because they are just coming up to a Dangerous Place.

And Pooh says “Hush!” to Piglet, and Piglet says “Hush!” to Kanga, and Kanga says “Hush!” to Owl (while Roo says “Hush!” quietly to himself), and Owl says “Hush!” to Eeyore, and Eeyore turns round and says “Hush!” in a scary voice to all of Rabbit’s accumulated friends-and-relations, and all of Rabbit’s friends-and-relations turn round and say “Hush!” to each other, right up until the “Hush!” reaches the very end of the line and the smallest friend-and-relation, Alexander Beetle, who is mortified to find that the entire Expotition is saying “Hush!” to him and has to bury himself in a crack for two days and then live quietly with his aunt for the rest of his life to recover.

For more of the story, go to Winnie the Pooh.

Acting & Conflict Resolution

People often ask me, “What do acting & conflict resolution have in common?”

Well most important of all is listening.  There are a number of areas for cross over, but listening is crucial.  Both mediators and actors cite the ability to listen as the most important thing one has to do in their profession.

Below are Ed Harris’s thoughts on the subject:

Both mediation and acting require the ability to get beyond ones own perspective and step into the unknown world of the other. And that’s just not as “a character,” but the act of truly listening requires the ability to be affected by what is happening outside you. This is necessary for both actors and mediators.