A good business leader knows when to follow; when to accept that the professionals you’ve hired really do know better than you.
I heard a fantastic story today, which reminded me of the importance of trust in business.
The woman who told me the story worked in marketing for years, and was a senior marketer for a car manufacturer. She always had to get sign-off for her campaigns from her boss (who was not a marketer and did not know anything about advertising).
He would always make one change and then approve it. This was frustrating to both her and the agency. So the agency came up with the “blue boat” strategy. Most cars are depicted at a 3/4 angle, very straight forward. So what they would do is add a boat into the background of the ad.
Then this boss would say, “Love it – but please take the blue boat out of the background”. He got to contribute and the agency got to have their complete design without it being butchered.
Dangerous game. What if the boss had liked the blue boat?
It would be much easier to be completely straight with the client in the first place. Hard though.
I remember at Ansett years ago (clearly) when every ad had to be approved by Sir Peter Abeles. At the time Ansett had engaged a fabulous agency, which had won awards for its creativity: the Campaign Palace. Schedules were all-important for the business market at that time so the agency created this series of ads ‘When you’ve got to dash – we’ve got the dots’. There was a chart with the timetable with dots … simple but clever.
It went to Sir Peter and he only changed one word: ‘When you’ve got to ‘travel’ we’ve got the dots.’ It didn’t quite have the same impact. Maybe it was lost in translation …
Sometimes I look at ads and I bemoan the creativity or connectedness with the audience – but then I have no idea what the brief was nor how many fingers were in the pie.
The ability to trust the advice of professionals in business I believe is the sign of a true leader.
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