What’s worse than a yes man?
Easy. A no man. (Or even a no woman.)
Corporate culture breeds them just as incessantly as yes men. And, unfortunately, so do many large advertising agencies.
OK. So who is the “no person?” And how do they make your advertising suck?
Imagine a smart, no nonsense woman who has the power to make decisions but needs to delegate because she’s busy and important. Then she gets people to help her.
But either these people are scared to actually say yes and move projects forward. Or the boss treats them more as gate keepers than an actual project manager. So they say no.
So the boss’ delegate, the no man, feels he has no power to approve anything. They feel their choice is to do nothing or to disapprove. For anyone who deals with them, they become a barrier to get by. And the only way the no man can feel any power is by saying no. So sometimes they say no a lot. Even if it’s for no other reason than to feel like they’re contributing. Because they can’t contribute by saying yes.
This is a pretty common phenomena in corporate culture and sometimes there are several layers of no men before you get to the yes lady. I’ve even personally presented to no men for months before ever getting a chance to present to anyone who had the power to rubber stamp something.
This is frustrating for agency creatives. But some agency presidents and bean counters love these no men because each round of presentations means more changes and more billable hours. Kah ching $$$$$$.
The no men get to feel important because they “improved” the work, the account executives have billed more hours, and the creatives have more work to do and will get to keep their jobs. Everyone wins but the advertising.
As illogical as this may sound, a lot of big ad agencies have some similar dynamics going on. Lots of layers that the work must get through and lots of people who need to contribute to making it “better” – associate creative directors, creative directors, group creative directors, executive creative directors and chief creative officers.
What can you do about no men? If you’re the boss you can empower your people to say yes. If you’re caught the middle you can try and stay as objective as possible and contribute positively to the work. If you’re a creative director you can resist the urge to “plus” the work when it’s already great.
Sometimes a contribution to a project is not a contribution to the work. But rather championing it instead.