When Saatchi & Saatchi bought David Droga a painting by Picasso for his efforts in turning around its London office, we were living in very different times.
While the Picasso – that he says hangs in his kitchen and is now worth 40 times what Saatchis paid for it – was emblematic of the way that agencies used to reward staff (as well as testament to Droga’s ability to spot a good deal) the fact remains that for every Picasso carrot, scores of people would probably have been getting a dose of the shitty stick.
The days of rewarding the people you work with like this are over. And than fuck for that.
Talent management is something that agencies have been shit at historically. While work practices have began to improve, the culture of presenteeism and of staff thinking that working into the night and weekends (and to be seen to be doing both) is the only way to get on, looks as archaic as the pricey painting on Droga’s wall.
In fact, in my view, it reflects poorly on the agency – it means that either the person is not doing their job properly or efficiently or that they are not being looked after by their employers.
When I look around the office at 6pm and see a bank of empty desks, I think thank fuck. If people need to work out of the office, come in late or work from home, we honestly couldn’t give a shit, just as long as they’re blowing our minds with the work they’re doing.
There is still that culture in our industry of racking up hours like they’re Brownie points and getting a medal when you collapse because you’re burnt out. We know that this is wrong. We will make this a place where you can do the best work of your life in an environment that suits you.
To create this environment requires ’soft skills’ (and fuck off - no they aren’t exclusively ‘feminine’ ones) of empathy, loyalty and the application of common sense. It’s about understanding and developing your team’s ambitions on a basis that is right for them.
It’s something that Droga also alluded to when he was told upon his announcement that he was leaving his first job in the mail room of an agency to pursue a career as a writer - something he had long told his employers about – that he was “an ungrateful fucking prick”. He vowed never to work somewhere like that again – but sadly some of these places still exist.
Now I love a profanity as much as the next person but how you lead is how you treat other people (as he also rightly pointed out) – and there’s only one fucking prick in that conversation.
Success does not exclusively depend on how many Lions you have personally or how many masterpieces adorn your walls. Our job is to care and care for the people who work with, as much as it is for the brands we have been entrusted to nurture. Create this environment and Lions will follow (even if the Picassos no longer will).
Vicky Maguire is joint chief creative officer at Grey London