Saturday, September 27, 2003

Lessons From The Tiger

As noted in an earlier posting, I have a lot of respect for The Tiger, who was my mentor at my first best job. I learned a ton from him, and while he was hard to work for, he was also great to work for. He gave a great speech to us one day about "great umbrage" at the team leaving early because he was out of town. Part of my job duties were to keep on the office manager to make sure we both had our daily 6-pack of Diet Coke.

The media and competitors called The Tiger "the man who would win an ass kicking contest with both arms and a leg tied behind his back." The Tiger knows how to work with the media, knows when to push, but also knows when to pull-back, which is a gift.

As noted, one of the things I learned from the Tiger was about responsibility and owning up to mistakes. His pet peeve was passing the buck, and it annoyed him to no-end to see other senior staff blame their junior staff for their mistakes. His philosophy was to accept responsibility, give praise away (letting the client know which junior person did the work) all because senior staff are paid the big bucks to get shit on, and that the junior people were learning and should never get blamed for things that should have been caught by the highers-up.

This all came rushing back to me when I was reading PR Week's roundtable, and couldn't really believe some of the comments. It was like the one thing the Tiger seemed to embody was rushing up at me - that senior people need to actualy BE senior level people, not people that were promoted because they served the time, or the client wanted senior people, or the dot-com hype and bullshit had them fast-tracked. The Tiger did fast-track our team, but it was ONLY because we had proven our abilities to him, and could be counted on. It seems that some senior level people are sad jokes of what senior people used to be.

And what happens is it becomes a a lose-lose situation for the clients. Senior people are afraid to hire rockstars, because they will outshine them. Some of the comments in the roundtable were that there are no good available people - are there no good people available, or are they trying to hire people of lesser quality that will not outshine them?

I had a similar discussion today with an amazing PR person that has had a long run at some of the top PR firms in the nation - we discussed that the current crop of senior people and media specialists can be traced back to when she was hiring junior staff and the writing tests were atrocious. The junior staff that were coming in couldn't write to save their lives, so they were shuffled into media specialists positions - um, why hire them at all, then? It reminds me of one of the people I worked with. FF couldn't write, and every yearly salary review had the same comment for him - take writing classes. He ignored them, so became pigeon-holed in his job as a media specialist (he was good, but not great at media relations) and his career stalled out at the agency.
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