6 things to do so you’re not a jerk at work

photo Jerk1. Don’t be a jerk.
Whether they cop to it or not, the majority of people absolutely know when they’re being a jerk. They hurt someone’s feelings, make someone look stupid, argue for no real reason, throw someone under a bus. And when it’s not that obvious, there’s a visceral feeling in your gut that tells you I’m not being a very agreeable person right now. With the rare exception of a small group of oblivious humans who are completely unaware of other people’s feelings, most realize when they’re being a jerk, even if they pretend they don’t. You know. Look in the mirror, and don’t be one.

2. Keep your ego in check
I believe ego is the #1 producer of jerkdom in business, and the #1 thing that brings men down. Yes, some women, too, but I find overblown ego is a largely male flaw. Maybe it has something to do with testosterone or alpha-dog dynamics. Whatever the reason, it inspires epically wrong decisions. Just read the paper about the executive, or politician-du-jour whose career is ruined because of some horribly misguided, ego-driven choice.

Keeping your ego in check is easy to say, but very hard to do. Besides the inner workings of the male psyche, often times credit leads to raise, promotion or bonus, so people try to make it all about them, what they did. Point that spotlight right over here. What they don’t realize is everyone wants credit, to feel good about their efforts. Yes, it’s okay to take some of the credit if you actually deserve it, but taking all the credit only causes people to dislike you. So don’t be driven by ego. If you make it all about you, others will make it all about what a jerk you are.

3. Be all about the work
It’s amazing how much time people spend on everything but the work…the politics, the gossip, the griping, the frivolous, task-avoiding conversations. Just think how much the quality of the work itself would improve if they shifted all that wasted effort to making the job better. Don’t get me wrong, a small portion should be given to politics, so you don’t get naively blind-sided. And griping is your right as a worker in America. Just limit the time, please.

When you’re so deeply concerned about things other than the work, it taints your decision-making. If you care more about sticking it to someone else, protecting your job, or trying to look good in front of your boss, people don’t respect your decisions because they know they are wrongly motivated. If you care about the work, and nothing but the work, the people may not agree with your decisions, but they respect them. Pretty simple stuff.

4. Know where your job ends and someone else’s begins.
Some people focus so much on making sure colleagues are doing their jobs that they screw up their own jobs royally. How annoying. Worry about what you’re doing. Get that right, then if there’s any time left, which there really shouldn’t be, perhaps offer to help others with their jobs. Even then, you’re probably not qualified.

No task is completed in a vacuum by one person. It takes an assembly line of activity to get to the result. Do your part. Let others do theirs. Because when everyone performs his or her own particular expertise, the job almost always goes more smoothly, and turns out higher quality.

5. Respect that great ideas can come from anywhere.
I see this storyline all the time: Sally or Jimmy are labeled as “good workers” but not the ones who come up with big ideas. Don’t write people off like that. Now yes, big ideas are more readily available to some than others, but that doesn’t mean everyone can’t have them. You never know.

Rather than dismissing some outright, be opened-minded to ideas from all directions. And if you’re the boss, rather than pointing the finger at other’s lack of ability, perhaps look at yourself. Are you inspiring them enough? Giving clear, motivating direction? Recognizing their nuggets that can be turned into gems? Or are you just looking for the easy way out where people walk in with brilliant, finished ideas, neatly wrapped in a bow? Good luck with that one.

6. Listen, then decide.
If you’re the boss, you get paid to decide. That’s your job. But that doesn’t mean you must be an autocrat, and only consult your own head when making a decision. Listen to the people who work for you, if you hired properly, they should have lots of good ideas and valid points. Then, even if you don’t use their thinking, they will respect that you actually listened and considered it. Not that hard.

Remember, it’s easier than you think to not be a jerk. And don’t kid yourself that you didn’t realize you were being one. You choose to be a jerk. And you choose not to be.

CCO, The Baiocco And Maldari Connection

#TheBamThinks #12


Simplicity Liberates Creativity. Complexity strangles it.

Screen Shot 2014-06-27 at 11.40.10 AMNothing creative in advertising has ever been born out of complexity. Extensive experience has taught me this, and not just once, but over and over again. I’d risk saying complexity rarely yields brilliance in any creative field. Maybe it works for intricate art pieces or elaborate symphonies, but when you’re trying to grab people’s attention with something that will be one of 10,000 messages they see in a day, it better be simple.

But complexity is a disease in the industry. Every step of the way, the project gets more complicated, with unnecessary meetings, additional opinions (that usually don’t add anything), inordinate amounts of processes and semantics and acronyms, last-minute comments from higher-ups, and political agendas being played out in the work.

By far, complexity slays more good ideas than any other issue. Why? It’s incredibly difficult to be creative when you’re bound in chains of endless boxes to be ticked, in a straightjacket of contradictory points of view. It becomes impossible for creative greatness to make a Houdini-like escape from these shackles.

I think down deep, we all know complexity gets in the way of greatness. So why can’t we stop it? The simple answer: it’s hard. We all want to add something to the project to feel we’ve contributed. And if we cut something out, inevitably someone will be angry that his or her stuff isn’t included. We also don’t want to eliminate things we deem important to the consumer. But when everything is important, that means basically nothing is important because it all becomes of equal importance. Complexity often hides the fact that we really don’t have a clear idea. We shroud the work in convolutedness, and hope no one will notice. Also, when it’s our money on the line, suddenly all rational thinking goes out the window. If we’re paying for it, then of course people want to hear it, and not only it, but ALL of it, every last benefit there is. We have a hard time thinking how we behave when viewing other brands’ work. We give it zero attention unless it demands it.

So what’s the result? Rampant complexity in a world where simplicity should reign.

When we start from a place of simplicity, creativity thrives. Great brands understand this…the Apples and Nikes and Starbucks of the world. They keep the basic idea clean, simple and compelling, then let the interpretations of that idea explode out in new and stimulating directions. That’s because while simple, the idea is still fertile and provocative. Simplicity does not mean simpleton. It’s not about dumbing it down, but about smarting it up, about being more concentratedly clever, more artfully and powerfully succinct. Once there, simplicity frees ideas up to go where they never would have gone previously when shackled.

Another great thing about simplicity: it doesn’t care what media it’s on. Pretty much every great execution on any media is smart, captivating and simple. That’s because when anyone working on the project, regardless of their particular expertise, can readily interpret the idea, that increases the odds of stellar output.

If you buy none of my logic about why simplicity is beneficial to the “creative process” then perhaps you’ll buy this basic consumer-driven reason: people like simple. Simplicity makes it easy for them. Of the thousands of ideas flying past each day, of which they are paying very little attention mind you, simplicity gives it handles, so they can grab onto it. And let’s be honest, complexity just pisses them off. I’ve seen this dynamic hundreds of times in focus groups. When an idea is too complicated, people don’t give it the effort. Worse yet, they get angry and defensive because it makes them feel stupid, like they don’t “get it.” And then they hate you immediately…because no one wants to feel like they don’t get it. A simple rule I live by: They have to get it before they can like it.

At the risk of sounding like a cheesy platitude, the most beautiful things in the world are simple. And for certain, all the best things I’ve worked on in advertising have been simple. So strive for a monk-like simplicity. And the next time you’re sitting in a meeting, and thinking why is this so hard? So complicated? Remember this simple thought: rarely does anything complex yield anything creative. Then let simplicity liberate your creativity.

Rob Baiocco, CCO The BAM Connection

TheBamThinks #10

Get rid of the “Diddle in the Middle.” The new, streamlined agency model.

Screen Shot 2014-07-11 at 1.18.06 PMSomewhere between the people who actually do the work, and the ones with the authority to make the decision, lies the Diddle in the Middle. The crush of agency middle management who don’t do, and can’t decide. These are the acronym-loving, job inflators who waste the majority of everyone’s time. They make endless strings of meetings to occupy their days, cook up pointless research projects that lead nowhere, dig holes only to fill them back up again. They are the reason for all the pushed back timelines, the late fees, and why jobs take six months when they could take six weeks, or six days.

It’s a fact, in the middle of large agencies everywhere there’s a big, flabby spare tire of people you pay for who don’t make things happen. But even worse than not making things happen, they actually get in the way of making things happen by blocking and delaying progress. You’d be better off if they were kind enough to just remain neutral.

When you’ve worked and lived this complexity on a daily basis, you know exactly what’s adding value, what’s not, what’s gumming up the works, and what could and should be cut out. The people who don’t do and can’t decide get eliminated immediately because there’s no longer time or money for them, and honestly, never should have been.

The new agency model simplifies and streamlines
It consists of three parts. That’s it. Thank God.

1. Smart people who do
These are workers who actually do work. They have ideas. They create real output. They’re hungry, of the moment, of the time, up on technology and current events. Front-liners who make things happen.

2. Experienced people who decide
Smart, seasoned, decisive managers who’ve honed a razor-sharp instinct for getting to the answer. They know when it’s going right, and when it’s going south because they’ve seen it before. With lots of knowledge to draw on, they take advantage of opportunities, and avoid land mines, all while clearly directing others to success. They, too, have ideas because they’re engaged workers, not “bosses” walking around puffing on a cigar while everyone else does all the work.

3. Strategic partners who complement
Whatever your particular core competencies as an agency, web design, branding, promotion, these partners complement what you do. And they have ideas.

The lead agency team, which can come from any discipline, moves these partners in and out on an as-needed basis, depending on the specs of a particular job. So in this model, you only pay for what you need, no more. You only pay for people who actively work on your business. This creates massive cost efficiency, because there’s nobody sitting around waiting to work; and it eliminates those jokers who just show up for the $200-a-head holiday party at Le Bernadin. It also creates massive time efficiency because you have one centralized meeting, and the people who need to come, come.

In case you haven’t noticed, there’s one prerequisite for all members: they have ideas. This industry is based on idea generation. No ideas, no job. Go work in a different field.

In fairness to this “Diddle in the Middle,” they didn’t necessarily choose their lot, although some seem to really enjoy it. Sadly, it’s a curse in corporate America that many have the ability to say “no,” and deter progress, but few have the authority to say “yes,” and advance progress. As a result, many get trapped in an inert, lackadaisical limbo, and there’s nothing left for them to do but prolong, postpone, revise, rework, and in the process, shackle any creative ideas in the chains of “make-work.” The new, streamlined agency model liberates the creativity by eliminating the Diddle in the Middle.

Rob Baiocco
CCO, The BAM Connection

#TheBamThinks #11