so it’s been a while since i’ve talked with you.
i was in detroit all last week and used the weekend to re-juice so i can be gone again this week. as with everything, it is important to plan. plan the food you’re going to eat, the exercise your going to get, the money you’re going to save and… the blogs you’re going to write. i haven’t done that yet but will.
so i was flattered and excited to get an email this week from someone asking me out to lunch to get some thoughts and advice. it’s made me think a lot about a lot of things. how much i miss mentoring – don’t get to do it a lot with my current job as i’m on the road all the time. but mostly it’s made me think about all the great advice i’ve received in 20 years of being in the ad business. that’s what i want to talk about and remember here.
as a side note, i also wanted to mention that nowadays, with technology changing as much and as quickly as it is, i’ve always made a point to stay relevant. sometimes that’s translated as the older you get the less relevant you are. but being 42, i can see now that while it is great to be young and smart and energetic – they lack one thing that only time can give – experience. so if you’re young, remember that you don’t know it all until you’ve done it all (or even a little bit of it) and been able to learn along the way.
so back to the advice
1. a college professor told us that in order to get anything out of class, you had to sit up front. you are forced to pay attention when you sit in the front row. i totally have done that ever since (GEEK!) but it does work. i don’t tell ROF that in church i really yearn to sit up towards the front couple of rows but i do. i figure if it’s worth your time, it’s worth paying attention and if you know me – that’s hard sometimes. need all the help i can get.
2. this advice you wouldn’t hear much anymore, unfortunately. i think so many managers are afraid of being micro-managers and therefore do a lot of assuming. i had one of the quirkiest but best bosses ever when i was about 24 years old. i was an account coordinator and worked for an account executive doing pretty much what my company does today – working with buick dealer groups all over the country. this boss told me stuff like: never chew gum when around a client – EVER, don’t park in the front of the client’s place of business and put on lipstick or make-up, always drive the area around the dealership and look for conversation points to make with your client like: do you get fleet business from XXX across the street, looks like you’re building on out back how is that going, etc…
3. this same boss also taught me something that i didn’t really pick up for a while. it’s important to be yourself when you’re with clients. this sounds so stupid like ‘no shit’ but think about it. he didn’t drink and although he used to drink and could easily be influenced to drink – he decided that was not the kind of AE that he wanted to be. so he didn’t. it didn’t stop him from “going out to drinks” or letting his clients drink the night away – he didn’t. because he liked to work out early in the morning. so that was his boundary he set with himself and his clients. and if you knew our clients – you would know how hard that would be. also, when you’re a young director or executive and you’re looking to impress your clients, you tend to mimic them a little. the lesson? people will respect you for your differences as much as they’ll bond with you on your similarities. people that matter, that is.
4. “you take direction great, but in order for you to grow, you need to take initiative”
this advice has shaped my entire career and life. this was from a boss at an internship i did in a fashion photography studio in chicago. i respected her for telling me the hard things. there are people that will do exactly what you tell them. they may do exactly what they know but they do not take initiative to think things all the way through or go the extra mile or even suggest a completely different direction. this advice meant one thing to me as a 22 year old and means something different to me at 42 – 20 years later. it’s not about speaking out of turn or “being heard” it’s about seeing a need and filling it without being asked. this is when you know you’re playing in a different league from the rest.
5. always have a POINT OF VIEW
another piece of advice i got when i was about 34 years old and running an office of 7 people. i remember exactly where i was when i got this tidbit and it wasn’t directed at me. it was at our entire table/office. but this struck me as a unique selling proposition for yourself as a business person. this isn’t spew your thoughtless opinion of everything out to everyone (yikes) – this is to really think through something and come out with a thoughtful POV. this translated for me into a smart media strategy for my clients. this gave me the passion to believe in what i was doing and i believe my clients trusted me for the direction they were looking for. this also takes place around the table at a dinner party. know what the worlds events are and decide what your point of view is. it is even more fun if you are just discovering your POV and can discuss what you’re thinking.
6. the art of the conversation is ALWAYS about talking about someone else
i consider one of my strong points talking to people i don’t know. it wasn’t really until recently that i realized that not everyone likes it as much as i do. or i guess feels as comfortable. but here are some tips i’ve learned from the best along the way. first, know that everyone likes talking about themselves and they will almost like you instantly if you ask them questions right off the bat. the secret here is that you need to genuinely be interested in hearing the response and being able to react. this is where my improv lessons at second city in chicago came in handy. but we’ll come back to that. keep asking away. what is a really fun conversation is when you meet someone for the first time and they know this secret and then you just have this great back and forth interaction (otherwise called a conversation). unfortunately, lots of people will just answer and answer and answer and really not even think to ask you about yourself. my mom has actually told me before that she will have had an hour long conversation with someone and they not once have asked about her. UN-believable. now that she has pointed it out, it’s hard not to notice! here are some good questions to ask someone you’ve never met:
– how long have you been doing this, coming here, friends with so-so ….?
– are you originally from <insert city>?
– do you have any vacations planned this year?
you get the picture. and if you like talking about yourself so much – START A BLOG! then you can blah blah blah all over the place 🙂
oh yeah, i almost forgot… my second city impov experience. there was a game we played called “yes and…” and the point was that in improv was that you always have to keep the ball moving. you have to give your team something to work from so no matter what you say – answer positively and then add to it and pass it on. this is part of the art of answering questions – lots of great advice from improv class! here is how that works:
“do you have a vacation planned this year?” bill asks energetically
“yes” bertha drops the ball and the conversation
“do you have a vacation planned this year?” bill asks energetically
“i do! i’m going to costa rica in april. and what about you? bertha gets a clue
of course, i’ve received so much more advice but it’s late and i’m flying out tomorrow again and i want to go be with ROF!
hope you have a great week!