Category Archives: Management
Have you ever noticed that when you stop focusing on something, it comes to you? Give up on meeting that special person, and there he or she is. Give up on trying to solve a problem and the answer just comes to you. The list of examples goes on and on.
I’ve heard a lot of reasons why this phenomenon happens with such regularity. Some say it’s because you free yourself from trying to solve the problem with normal means. Some just say it’s the way the world works. Some say it’s the Law of Detachment (like the Law of Attraction, but more about not caring how it comes about), some say God works in mysterious ways.
For me this phenomenon shows up in copywriting and developing concepts almost every time. I go for a walk, grab some lunch, or even go to the bathroom and the idea hits. I attribute this to the first reason — the unrelated activity frees my mind from the normal constraints, and allows in some less-than-obvious ideas.
But what about the phenomenon that all of my single friends talk about — as soon as you stop looking for a romantic partner, one appears? This can’t be about freeing your mind to find loosely connected ideas.
I believe this has to do with letting go. You let go of micromanaging the outcome. You relax, you accept that maybe you’re alright with just being by yourself, and you stop trying to create impossibly stressful and unnatural ways to meet somebody. And when you’re relaxed and okay with being on your own, you’re more attractive. It creates an environment that is ideal for growing a relationship.
Interestingly, this is also how I’ve been able to get the best work from people. I give them the assignment, the creative brief, and trust them to do their best work. Often, I’ve been so surprised by the result that it took courage on my part to approve it. The work was so creative, so innovative that I would never have seen their solution as an option. It was breakthrough work — which in advertising and marketing is the Holy Grail.
When I have micromanaged or been micromanaged, the best result that anybody could create was a watered down version of the micromanager’s vision. Nobody was happy with it (unless they really had no idea of what constitutes good), and the experience of creating it was invariably awful.
My dad used to say that the key to great management is to set the course, then invite good people to exceed their own expectations. He said that they’ll always do a much better job than you would.
Set the course, do your work, and let go of how you expect it to look at the finish line. The results may just surprise you.
Lately, I’ve become a fan of Jason Fried. He seems to get it, at least enough to talk about it. I’m especially fond of what he says regarding managing creative people (since I am one). What he says about sleep and work is so true. Think about it.
“Especially with creative people, people really need long stretches of uninterrupted time to get something done. You cannot ask somebody to be creative in 15 minutes and really think about a problem. You might have a quick idea, but to be in deep thought about a problem and really consider a problem carefully, you need long stretches of uninterrupted time.
“And this whole phenomenon of having short bursts of time to get things done reminds me of another thing that doesn’t work when you’re interrupted, and that is sleep. I think that sleep and work are very closely related. Sleep and work are phase-based events. In order to get to the really deep, meaningful (stages), you have to go through the earlier ones. And if you’re interrupted during the earlier ones, you don’t just pick up where you left off. If you’re interrupted, you have to start again.
“If we don’t expect people to sleep well if they’re always interrupted, why do we expect people to work well if they’re interrupted all day at the office?”
Creative people don’t do well punching a clock. However, they love a deadlines. The old copywriter’s mantra is, “Deadlines are legal amphetamines. That said, we prefer to work when we work best. Personally, I’m a first-thing-in-the-morning writer. Most of my friends and creative compatriots are burn-the-midnight-oil types. I can hang with my midnight-oil coworkers, but I’m much more efficient before 8AM.