CLOSE-UP: On the Campaign Couch ... with JB

campaignlive.co.uk, Friday, 18 January 2002 12:00PM

Q: At a board meeting I rashly suggested I would resign as chairman

if we weren't Campaign's Agency of the Year within three years. That

deadline has just come and gone and we're not. We've never even been

close. My fellow directors, a vengeful and unforgiving bunch, keep

reminding me of my pledge. Should I try convincing them I didn't really

mean it, or must I fall on my sword?



I wonder if your vengeful colleagues read this column? If so, they will

know with absolute certainty that, although unsigned, this letter comes

from you: it is beyond credibility that the United Kingdom could contain

two agency chairmen not only addle-pated enough to make such a pledge

but base enough to try and wriggle out of it.



My answer will therefore be of at least as much interest to them as to

you.



So let's get this out into the open. Your colleagues do not want to get

rid of you because you have failed to honour a pledge. Although they are

too cowardly to say so, they want to get rid of you because they find

you base and addle-pated.



I conclude, therefore, that yours is an agency chaired by a person of

questionable honour and intelligence surrounded by disloyal subordinates

too spineless to stage the management revolution they must all know is

necessary. Can you really have believed you were in the running for

Agency of the Year?



As soon as you have finished reading this, call a board meeting.

Confront your colleagues with my analysis. The first of your colleagues

to endorse it with enthusiasm should be made chief executive with

immediate effect. Fire the existing one along with any other broody

buggers. Take it from there.



The spirit of leadership is heady stuff: you may find it suits you. You

may soon find yourself chairing an agency of openness and integrity. You

might even, in three years' time or so, find yourself in the running for

Agency of the Year. But I wouldn't bet on it.



Q: My client and I disgraced ourselves terribly at the agency Christmas

party. Both horribly drunk, we locked ourselves in my office where we

were very passionate and unprofessional. We're both married and I hate

myself for what I did. I suspect she does too. Can we ever resume a

proper business relationship?



As you clearly recognise, this self-induced predicament will demand a

considerable injection of imagination and luck if you are both to emerge

from it unscathed. (Whether or not you deserve to emerge from it

unscathed is not for me to say: we deal here with practical rather than

moral matters.)



The following advice is based on the belief that you and your client,

while deeply regretting your moment of adolescent folly, harbour no

permanent hostility because of the other's behaviour.



Openly to discuss your party behaviour in the cold and sober drizzle of

a January day is clearly out of the question. What you must do,

therefore, is distance yourselves as far as possible from the hideous

reality.



Arrange to meet for tea, preferably at Browns Hotel in Albemarle Street.

Think of yourselves as Trevor Howard and Celia Johnson. Bring up the

subject of mutual friends - he, Nigel, an account executive; she, Fiona,

his client - who took temporary leave of their senses at a Christmas

party and who now wish to resume their previously uncomplicated

relationship. Devise for this undeserving pair a stratagem of recovery:

it should probably involve advising them to distance themselves as much

as possible from the hideous reality by assuming two new, fictional

personas ...



Do not stay on and have a drink. From now on, think of those two at the

party as Fiona and Nigel: and refer to them as such. Shake your heads at

their recklessness - and wish them well.



Then move into an open-plan office.



Jeremy Bullmore is a former chairman of J. Walter Thompson, a former

director of Guardian Media Group and a director of WPP. He also writes a

monthly column for Management Today. A compilation of his business

advice, Another Bad Day at the Office?, is published by Penguin, priced

£5.99. Address your problems to him at campaign@ haynet.com, or

Campaign, 174 Hammersmith Rd, London W6 7JP.



This article was first published on campaignlive.co.uk

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