July 1, 2010

Weepers, Creepers & Leapers

Filed under: Leadership — Joe Grant @ 3:42 pm


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Agency management teams take on the personality of their dominant constituents. Think for a moment about your team of senior executives. At your agency it might be called the management group, the executive committee, or “department heads.”

Does it fit into one of these categories?

Weepers. You can spot these guys with your eyes closed because you hear them before you see them. They’re the ones crying that things in the ad business just aren’t the way they used to be, bleating a constant litany of complaints about their fellow managers, the staff and clients. They moan and whine, grumble and gripe, like a pen of ululating (new Thesaurus) animals. Their special talent in agency management meetings is the uncanny ability to look out the rearview mirror while the group is trying to drive forward.

Creepers. These seem to be the most ubiquitous — most of the agencies in the country are probably staffed with more of these than anything else. Creepers are content to float along day to day hoping not too much happens out of the ordinary. They live for lulls. Agencies managed by these types may be the salt of the earth, but these are the people largely responsible for clients leading agencies and agencies playing catch up. Creepers are more than satisfied with the status quo, happy to see the agency grow just a little larger year after year. They sleep soundly knowing the government calculates COLA increases.

Leapers. We don’t have enough of them in the agency business. Leapers call the tune, promise the impossible, and impel change. They’re more challenging, demanding and disturbing to work with than either weepers or creepers because (1) their energy must be channeled and (2) if they don’t encounter constant personal challenge and see measurable change they will, well, leap. Usually to your competition.

OK, what does all this mean to an agency CEO struggling to keep a management team focused and effective?

It’s simple. All you have to do is make sure you don’t let any one of these types dictate the group’s philosophical and operating standards. But — and this is important — you need a little of all of them. You need the weepers, creepers, and leapers each to assert their peculiar talents at just the right time.

You see, on occasion the weepers will provide essential historical perspective (“…we tried that before and all we did was lose money”). For all their deprecations, weepers are good at pointing out recurring potholes. Listen attentively to their smoldering discontents like you would to the little boy who cried wolf. Every once in a while there is a wolf.

Creepers bring to mind that old saw about the futility of teaching a pig to sing. The pig gets aggravated and all you’ll get is frustrated. So instead of trying to change how they think and perform, use creepers to row your boat. These are the guys who get the routine assignments done. In truth, good management teams in particular need dependable foot soldiers.

Ah, the leapers. The do-the-undoable doers. At your next executive meeting watch how the leapers go over, under, around or through obstacles to make things happen. These blue sky thinkers can take your agency to new places, as long as you have the wisdom to distinguish between the zany and the breakthrough. Pay attention to what they’re trying to tell you.

What I love most about advertising is we have so many variations of these types. What a business!

All you have to do is provide the proper atmosphere in your management group so they’re comfortable enough to demonstrate their specific talents, don’t kill each other, and don’t drive you nuts.

Good luck!


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