T minus 90 and Counting

“Make me redundant, Sam” is what my line boss said to me. I was two years into my job at that time, and he pushed me to grow. That statement said a lot to me: that I was ready for growth and capable, that I had his support, that it was up to me to go there, and that he was unafraid of his own position. (more…)

Why Didn’t You Say So Earlier?

The toughest question I’ve ever faced during a performance review wasn’t asked when I was being evaluated. It was asked when I was evaluating. It came from startled and slightly disappointed direct reports. Not once, but twice; two years apart. Clearly I didn’t learn from the first experience. (more…)

Don’t Replace it, Fix it

About three months back, I received a call from a client who wanted to replace their lead agency. When asked why, I didn’t get a convincing reply. I suspected a relationship breakdown, and suggested fixing it. The client was hesitant, but was persuaded. He asked for results in six weeks. That was fourteen weeks back. (more…)

An Effective and Painless Way to Select an Agency

In ancient India, a Swayamvaram was held so a woman could choose her husband from among selected candidates expressly invited for the purpose. More recently, it became a hit reality show where contestants would perform assigned tasks hoping to woo their bride / groom of choice. Sounds awfully close to the agency pitch, I thought.

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When Sponsorship Becomes Counterproductive

Every August, Obuda Island in Budapest comes alive with the sound of music, art, bands, artists and devoted fans. This is the Sziget Festival. Over the years, much of it has remained unchanged, except perhaps the devoted fans. They’ve either gone, or are looking elsewhere. (more…)

Folks at The Sharp End

Jeff Bezos has claimed a large chunk of the written, spoken and viewed word over the past two weeks. Deserved or not, I’m not going to say. I will say however, that there is another practice of marginalising human potential and talent that is largely unrecognised, unreported and unattended. It’s condescension at its worst. (more…)

Loyalty : The Soft Skill Leadership Needs to Show More Often

Towards the end of the 1987 film The Untouchables, Sean Connery’s character – fighting for life – asks Kevin Costner’s character, “What are you prepared to do?” The question references a sequence much earlier in the film. And it is a question leadership should ask of itself regularly. (more…)

Joe’s Hot-Dog Stand

Selling hot dogs, Joe saved up money over decades to send his son to an Ivy-league business school. His son earned an MBA and returned to advise him, only to contribute to the shutting down of Joe’s thriving business. Who is really at fault here – Joe or his son? (more…)

What Would you Message a First-Time Mother?

I didn’t like telling the Marketing Director the idea wasn’t sound; but I had to be honest, even if it meant putting a possible new business win at risk. Someone had hatched an ill-advised scheme for an SMS campaign to first-time mums, and here I was persuading the client against it. (more…)