Politics is an honourable profession. Now that’s a seriously debatable question these days, but I’m not here to ponder the vagaries of governments across the globe. Politics undoubtedly has its place in the world, but I’m here to table that if you want to be efficiently successful, it has no place in business.
We are a branding agency who prides ourselves on our ethics. We have a set of guiding principles. A Good Book that outlines our values and all manner of behaviours and actions to ensure each of our team understand what makes us Good. We have fought hard to eliminate ego inside our doors - no mean feat when you’re dealing with a lot of seriously smart people, and angst-ridden creatives! We have done everything we can to ensure our focus is purely on doing the very best work for our client’s, our client’s customers and ultimately, keeping our client’s shareholders happy. Period.
It’s the only way we can ensure the integrity of our advice. It’s the only way we can keep our calm and our heads up when we have to go to bat over a decision we really believe in. It’s the only way we can act as a cohesive and effective team. By leaving ego, politics and personal preference at the door, to have a laser-like focus on the agreed vision and goals of the task at hand.
If only the same could be said of businesses everywhere.
In its most simple form, it’s illustrated by this age-old question. ‘Are you sure you can hit this deadline?’ My answer is usually the same, ‘As an agency, we pride ourselves on never missing a deadline due to our shortcomings. Unfortunately, experience dictates that it will be you, who for whatever reason, cannot move at the speed or decisiveness necessary to deliver to your timeline.’
Ouch! Even before I’ve posted this I can feel heckles rising!
Sadly it’s true, and we all know it. Organisations large and small, across the planet, are riddled with internal politics that are nothing to do with the ideals or goals of the company. The bigger the team, the worse it gets. Very often from my experience, senior management is aware and do everything in their power to stamp it out or at the very least manage it. Acting as the oil poured liberally during a storm to calm the waters and facilitate a rescue.
Ego. Personal gain. Petty backstabbing. Jealousy. Laziness. Incompetence. And many more ugly traits, are the killers of great ideas, good companies, and aspirational visions. Internal politics, jostling for position, the next step up the ladder for the salary raise, title and corner office take over. The history, legacy, vision and goals are forgotten. The very reason for being there, for getting paid, cast aside and the needs of the customer relegated to a footnote on a brief.
I am being deliberately theatrical, but you’ll recognise the point I’m making.
Where this impacts on any service supplier, in our case branding and design, is primarily in time. If you have clarity and united focus on your goals, driven by collective values and purpose, you have the nirvana for delivering great work, very quickly. If however, as outlined above, you have multiple stakeholders at personal loggerheads who have lost sight of why they are there and what they are trying to achieve for their customers, you’re in a time sink. Not to mention, a world of pain.
Decisions cannot be made because COO - X doesn’t like CMO - Y and whatever he or she may propose, their opposite number is going to disagree with it. On top of that Department A doesn’t speak to Department B, because frankly ‘What do they know about anything?’ And the icing on the cake. Everyone can say no, but only the boss can really say yes and because she’s busy we can’t show her the first draft until a year past Wednesday.
Wonderful. Not only is the work compromised as the agency will need to keep multiple personalities with their own agendas happy, but the timeline is also now a work of fiction. The good news for the agency, of course, is that the clock is ticking. More fees, please! Not our fault, here’s a contact report detailing a long list of, frankly avoidable, meetings, changes and missed deadlines. Thank you very much.
Now the news isn’t all bad, there are companies out there who pour a massive amount of time, money and energy into getting their culture, purpose and vision embedded. And these guys are knocking it out of the park. Unified and motivated teams. Simply great products and services driven by excellence and purpose, with the customer always front of mind. And best of all, ecstatic shareholders. Patagonia is a good example of this mantra. I’d also like to give an honourable mention to Interface, who we’re working closely with to help them get there. You guys have what it takes.
So, there is no place in good business for internal politics or personal agendas. It’ll steadily erode everything you stand for and cost you dear in the short, medium and long-term. Diagnose early, you’ll be able to spot the signs and cut it out like a cancer, otherwise, it will spread to affect the furthest reaches of your team.
Unite your team around your ethos, vision and common goals and always, always have your customer front of mind in every decision. Things will immediately improve. Morale will be bolstered. Productivity will rise. Quality will improve. Decisiveness and cohesion will enter the room and trust me your creative agency bills will go down. It’s not rocket science, it’s just good business.