The next 9 years

I’ve blogged a lot about a modern account handler needing to be part futurologist. This is from last years Cannes festival but the blueprint that these guys talked about is becoming truer than ever. Refresh memory here:

http://www.rga.com/about/featured/the-next-nine-years

And also keep an eye on these guys. Mobile has just overtaken the desktop according to some statistics. Mobile internet = personal internet = primary internet. The biggest thing to happen since the internet? More here & a fantastic presentation on mobile trends:

http://mobiento.com/blog/

Makes you wonder that once Smart TV takes off whether this will eventually overtake broadcast, mobile & desktop web platforms?

Tips from the top

I came across this excellent resource the other day that might be of interest for any junior account handlers looking to break into the business. Check out Career Player (set up by a former colleague Rob Wescott) & its full of very good interviews in the advertising section with some of the best.

This one is from a former deputy chairman of mine – Tony Harris & is one of the best account handlers I’ve ever had the pleasure to work with. Something for everyone in this interview:

http://www.careerplayer.com/graduate-jobs/advertising-and-pr/advertising/account-management/tony-harris—deputy-chairman.aspx

SARAH, John Barnes & Neo

In a difficult situation time is normally a very scarce resource. That’s why you need to get used to making it.

Sure – our principle job is to satisfy the needs of clients as efficiently & quickly as possible. But as my grandmother used to say ‘a stitch in time, saves nine’. Particularly when shit is really starting to unravel.

The great John Barnes – the England, Liverpool & Watford centre forward used to talk about how when he is in the zone the world around him seems to happen in slow motion. He used to talk about mentally slowing down or speeding up the play according to the situation. Great sports performers often talk about being able to activate a sixth sense – almost intuitively – when under pressure.

Malcolm Gladwell talks a lot about this phenom in Outliers & relates it back to practice, practice, practice. His 10,000hr rule was widely critized for oversimplify a complex set of factors but in general the fields of behavioural psychology & sports psychology support the general principle that intuation/instinct is honed on the practice field.

In his excellent book – Agency Account Handling – Michael Simms likens this to the batting cages at Coney Island. I was lucky enough to work with Mike on a number of pitches & his analogy goes something like this:

At the beginning of the practice the firing robot was switched to slow & there were a torrent of baseballs being fired at what seemed like an incredible speed. Eventually he was able to ‘get his eye in’ & started to see the balls individually rather than as a constant stream. This meant that he could flick the switch to medium & after some more practice he was able to pick out individual balls to strike them sweetly out of the cage.

As an account handler there are always multiple balls being fired at you. You need to decide which ones to strike, fend off or leave. Whatever you choose – emotionally & psychologically you need to slow them down to get the best result for the team.

We work in a very stressful business where problem solving is a core value that we bring to the table. Mastering the moment is key to success. There is no magic bullet but creating the conditions for ‘bullet time’ – like Neo in the matrix – can really help you.

Looking for & understanding the following conditions can also really help:

– yourself, information, timing, the communication climate, the message.

These elements will give you the power to control the situation & that power gives you the time to evaluate your options, make a decision & communicate it.

When dealing with a very serious problem there are often 5 steps that we all naturally go through. Psychologists call this SARAH.

Shock, Anger, Resignation, Acceptance & Help.

Understanding this can help you manage the emotions that your audience is likely to be experiencing.

Overall, managing difficult situations need a sense of perspective. Take a walk. Think. Breathe. Slow things down. Take glasses of water into meetings to take a sip & buy yourself a few extra moments to think. Anticipate the recievers reaction. Consider alternatives.

But don’t let your emotions (or others emotions) prevent you from getting to acceptance, help & a win/win situation.

Even with limited information it should be possible to make the situation work for you. But this is learnt through experience. Those 10,000hrs come from years & years of practice with difficult conditions. And you have to accept that it will take many, many tricky phases before you can slow things down to be really effective.  But with each one you are learning.

With El Classico behind us there are lessons from CR7 that even in the most difficult conditions through reading the signals, slowing things down in your head & making the right analysis you’ll stick the ball in the back of the net for the team. Only through training, discipline & focus comes the intuition to augment talent.

Good advice

The below is probably the simplest piece of advice you can possible be given or give as an account handler to your team.

It’s not a model. It’s not from a management book. Or gleaned from a blog, presenatation or seminar. It’s just a simple piece of life advice that has served me well whenever things start to heat up. All account handlers generally need to accept that they are expected to be buttoned down and organised. Things will go wrong, and when anything goes wrong, it is your fault, even if it isn’t. Because everything is. But this isn’t the advice but more the basic principle that you’ll need to be accountable for the good of the team.

Peter Mead (the former agency leader of Abbott Mead Vickers/BBDO) used to be asked what made him a great CEO. ‘I’m a great account manager’ was his reply. What could he mean? I suspect it’s that something all great account handlers have – a natural curiosity about the world around them & an entreprenuerial drive to make things happen.

But in order to make things happen you need to be a step ahead – to be ‘on the ball’ so to speak. So here are the 3 simplest words you’ll ever here about account handling. But 3 very helpful ones.

Get in early.

Now, this isn’t to avoid jibes such as ‘half man/half day’ or ‘thanks for popping in’. No. It’s much more important than that. It means that you can get on top of the detail, get it organized – maybe even get it done – so that you can focus on what’s important.

The phone rings less, you feel fresh, the hustle/bustle begins to fill up around you, timesheets are taken care of, timing plans can be written in relative peace etc etc. Be on your second cup of coffee when others are brewing their first.

You’ll have control over the admin & can better support the team as they spin gloriously out of control into new creative territory.

Missing out on a creative briefing or not having time to mediate an important conflict just because you have  questions to answer on a billing spreadsheet is frankly not good enough. Sweat the small stuff & make time for it. Update the status, fix the contact report, book those team meetings. But get in early to make this so.

This way you can focus on creating your own personal RDF & get on with impressing people.

If you really have nothing else to do then download an audiobook. Read some blogs. Look out the window & take in the world around you. Whatever.

But get in the habit of starting your day before anyone else. Because the team need someone they can rely on.

 

Being always on…

“Knowledge is ultimately available to everyone. Only true intuition, jumping from knowledge

to an idea, is yours and yours alone.”

– Bill Bernbach

Being always on can be stressful today. Particularly when we need to soak up so much stuff & look for connections so that great ideas can be made. Now the guys at BBH have come up with something very cool that you can check out here.  Called ‘while you were off’ it helps you stay up to speed with stuff. I personally perfer my feedly account but will give this a spin & wanted to share.