Over the course of my eleven-odd years in advertising and digital marketing, I’ve been lucky enough to work with some of the greatest bosses one could ask for. They’ve taught me not just how to do better ads, but also about how to be a great boss. So, every now and then, I find myself recollecting – and scribbling down – their words and deeds, trying to constantly teach myself how to be a better leader. Here are some of the notes I’ve written over the years – from my bosses to myself.
First: don’t worry about the boots you’re stepping into. You’ve been hired for a reason. Either you’ll continue where your predecessor left off. Or bring a new, much-needed perspective to things.
Be happy with what you’ve inherited. Change comes later.
Not every role needs you to change things around.
Give yourself time to judge the people you’re working with. Understand them first, form opinions later.
Spend time with each of your team members in your first couple of weeks. Have several meetings – with the whole team; art; copy; ACDs; ACDs + teams. Understand how they work and what work they do. Allow them to decide how they work, so long as it isn’t too out-of-sync with the way you work.
Get to know your team at a personal level. Have those non-work conversations. Every day.
Remember your own ambition: to build India’s best digital creative team.
Lead by example. Don’t waste a minute of your day. Work harder, think smarter.
Remember your principles:
- Every brief is an opportunity to do great work for a brand. Aim for a great idea in every piece of work that crosses your desk.
- Chase perfection in execution. Every word of copy, every element of art.
- Every post, every tweet, needs to be perfect. Be ready to pick fights about this.
- Aim to crack a beautiful idea every time. Something that people have never seen before. Something that’ll blow their minds.
- Corollary: Sometimes the simplest ideas work best.
Compromising with yourself kills greatness. If there’s even the slightest hesitation in your mind, speak up. Take work to the client only when you’re thoroughly convinced by it. You aren’t here to win a popularity contest – you’re here to do great work.
When you’re assessing work, be frank. Be honest. Be brutal. But be constructive. Your team looks to you for the solution. Provide it.
You’re in digital marketing. And more often than not, you will need to move the client along to where you are. Be ready for fights, heartbreak, disappointment and long hours. You’re getting paid to deal with that kind of shit.
Don’t get trapped in your cubicle. Get up. Move around.
Shut the lid of your computer when you’re working on something. Twitter won’t do your thinking for you.
Get out of office to brainstorm more often.
Follow your own creative process. (Below is mine.)
- Re-read the brief.
- Do some research online. Soak in the world of the brief.
- Make the words collide. Don’t stop making the words collide.
- Refer to the Wall Of Tech.
- Think visually.
- Your idea needs to make people laugh or cry or whoop or feel ashamed – basically, evoke an emotional response.
Find inspiration around you. Open your mind to people, culture, design, technology, art.
The quickest solution isn’t necessarily the best. Wherever possible, take the time to think through your actions.
Put yourself in your client’s shoes when working on a brief. But don’t keep those shoes on for too long.
Drink lots of green tea at work. It calms you down. And reduces your cholesterol 🙂
Keep the focus on the work. But remember it’s talented, motivated people who can give you that. Focus on the people and the work will take care of itself.
Stay calm. Don’t yell. Unless you absolutely have to.
Praise in public. Criticise in private.
Don’t overdo the praise. Avoid the superlatives. Because when you then use a superlative, it’ll mean so much more.
When you’re interviewing a candidate, interview them like Google would. It’s easier to wait three months to find the right candidate than to hire the wrong one in a month.
Try to get people to work during office hours. Rather than before and after them. Creative people get inspired by the life outside the agency doors. And deserve to enjoy their personal lives too.
Be strict. Don’t be rigid and inflexible.
Your door always needs to be open.
You succeed when your team succeeds.
You need to protect your team.
Trust your team to get the job done. But be ready to step in at any point if things go wrong.
Collaborate. Get to know tech, media, search and everyone else. They’re just as special as you think you are.
Delegate. But always know what’s going on.
Run a weekly job stat meeting with the team. And daily ones with the ACDs.
Continue to give credit where it’s due. You don’t need to be seen as the writer on every job. And remember, your name appears on the credits by default – so make sure the work is brilliant.
And, lastly: if you’re not having fun, then you’re not doing it right.