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Jack Foster Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

As soon as one person has to ask another person for an approval, a hierarchy is created. No company can survive without such hierarchies, without checks and balances, without managers and managees.

But the more of these you create, the more your company splits into two camps — them and us, ins and outs, favored and unfavored.

Eliminate as many of these approval steps as possible.

Start with the demeaning ones, the ones that require people to get approval to spend the company’s money — travel vouchers, expense reports, overtime authorizations, and so on.

Every time a person has to ask for such an approval, his or her self-image is damaged, since it says very clearly to everyone that the approver is more responsible and more trustworthy than the approvee.

And this of course is elitist rot.

Just because a person has more authority does not mean he or she is more responsible. Indeed, an argument could be made to the contrary — that the more authority people have, the less responsibly they often behave. (“Power tends to corrupt; absolute power…”)

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Jack Foster Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

It is now proved beyond doubt that smoking is one of the leading causes of statistics.

Fletcher Knebel

Knowledge is power, if you know it about the right person.

Ethel Watts Mumford

We are here and it is now. Further than that all human knowledge is moonshine.

H. L. Mencken

Over the years I worked with hundreds of creative people in advertising agencies. These were people who got ideas for a living. On demand. Every day.

They came in all shapes and sizes and colors and signs and personalities. One had a doctorate in anthropology, one never got past third grade. They came from close families and from broken homes, from penthouses and from ghettos. I worked with gays and straights, with extroverts and introverts, with flashers, drunkards, suicidals, ex-priests, ex-touts—the list goes on and on.

But they all had two characteristics in common.

First, they were courageous, a subject I will deal with in the next chapter.

Second, they were all extremely curious. They had an almost insatiable curiosity about how things work and where things come from and what makes people tick.

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Jack Foster Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub
Medium 9781576751640


Jack Foster Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

Napoleon, they say, never asked his men to win a battle. That was what he wanted. Instead of victory he promised them food when they were hungry, furloughs when they were homesick, recognition when they were forgotten, rest when they were weary, shelter when they were cold.

In the same way, you should avoid trumpeting corporate goals. “We’ll be one of the biggest agencies in town” may well be what you want. But “You’ll be rich and famous” may well be what they want.

At least once a year, sit down with people and find out what they want. Then work with them on achieving those wants and goals and aspirations.

I remember being stunned during one such meeting to learn what one of our art directors wanted. What she wanted more than anything, she said — more than a raise, more than a title, more than a business of her own, more than more responsibility or authority or recognition or meaningful assignments or leisure time — was the assurance that when her car broke down, someone would come and fix it free of charge right away without any hassle.

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Jack Foster Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

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