"Ignorance More Frequently Begets Confidence Than Does Knowledge"

No, this isn't a "when life gives you lemons" moment.

No, this isn't a "when life gives you lemons" moment.

~Charles Darwin

Dunning and Kruger proposed that, for a given skill, incompetent people will:

  1. Tend to overestimate their own level of skill
  2. Fail to recognize genuine skill in others
  3. Fail to recognize the extremity of their inadequacy
  4. Do recognize and acknowledge their own previous lack of skill, if they are exposed to training for that skill

Therein lies the problem. We have leaders – managers, directors, Veeps, C-level folks, owners – in our agencies and marketing departments who have experience, serious credentials and perhaps an impressive education behind them who know more than we do. But ignorant on how anything gets done in the office - and incompetent because they may have never had to do what you do.

So, can they do your job?

Probably not.

Why? Because a) they don’t know what your job is, b) they actually don’t know how to do your job, and c) they didn’t care until today (á la Ken Lay)…

Then there’s some huge, expensive mistake; profits have gone down the tubes; or there’s a whole lotta bitching going on. No matter how much you rearrange the office (Titanic anyone?) to create serendipity for that kumbaya moment, no one is happy and things just aren’t working.

Then management starts messing with the flow. [Tend to overestimate their own level of skill]

They confidently ride in on their trusty steed and sabre drawn – ready to apply rash decisions and big old Band-Aids to the mistakes; cuts in perks/benefits/staff to ameliorate mounting Red Ink; and my personal favorite, new process, tools – or worse – an organizational behavior consultant to assuage the bloodshed.

And everything turns to crap.


What did management fail to do?

Take the pulse of the staff. Ask the simple, obvious questions: what’s working and not working? [Fail to recognize genuine skill in others]

You don’t set sail without a map, compass and these days, GPS. And certainly not without a skilled crew.

So why on this Earth would management make all these decisions without a simple query and just a little bit of background? Because they are smarter than everyone else. They’ve read all the articles about the latest management trends – from Kaizen to Holacracy – and they are knowledgeable because, since it's in the pages of Forbes or Wired:  It. Will. Fix. Everything. [Fail to recognize the extremity of their inadequacy]

Yes, knowledge is power. No, I’m not saying management is stupid – or incompetent. (Some individuals are though, and they should go, post-haste.)

But management very often is ignorant of what it takes to get that stuff that you do – done. And they’re very likely incompetent when it comes to something like developing a serious spreadsheet – with all those fancy formulas, Photoshop miracles on their corporate mug shot, or writing code for a new app. They have you to do that.

People, you are stuck with your managers, so offer-up some help.

When things aren’t going well, errors made, general animosity in the office – I’ll bet you recognize it well before management acknowledges it.

You have skin in this game. If management doesn’t know what’s going on and you see problems, make them aware. And more than that, come up with a couple ideas for solutions. At least you are making an effort to fix the problems. Management just might thank you. [Do recognize and acknowledge their own previous lack of skill, if they are exposed to training for that skill]

If management chooses to blissfully go on their way and ditch your ideas, you have a couple options: either sit back and watch the implosion or get your resume tuned-up and out to prospective employers.

Now excuse me while I put on my invisibility cloak of lemon juice.

Nothing Will Ever Change

I spend a lot of time with folks in agencies who are dealing with their fair share of grief.

Well maybe it isn’t fair. Or are they getting what they deserve?

Things aren’t going well: things are late, over budget or wrong; disagreements, arguments, or the ever-popular passive-aggressive collaboration.

Finger pointing. Blame game. No one accepts responsibility for anything.

Email folders brimming with CYA and little bombs you or a coworker are just waiting for the right moment to drop.

Stop it. What a waste of time.

I will tell you what’s wrong. Lack of leadership. Lack of clear direction. Mixed signals. And a staff that has become so jaded that they. . . Just. Don’t. Care.

My ex used to say, “Not to decide is to decide.” Awesome insight from someone who didn’t have much initiative. And yet, so true. If you don’t make a decision to act, it will be done for you – in one way or another.  

If there’s anything I have learned in all these years is that things will change. If you’re not part of initiating change, then what you are about to experience is a result of it. Then you feel like a victim of it.

You have no room to bitch. Sorry. 

When you sit back and wait for everything to get better, it won’t. Your days at work will remain shitty. And you can just sit there and keep on complainin’.

So, when an opportunity comes along to do something to improve how things work, get off your chair and give it a try.

Do not tell me that it’s too hard, too much work, it’s been tried before, it won’t matter anyway. . .

And tell your manager to get on the stick. They have a job to do too.

Things will never change is a lament for losers.

And truthfully, nothing stays the same way forever. Be a part of making things better. The alternative is that you get fired for being lazy or the agency goes out of business because no one cares.

There, it was decided for you.

This Blog Is Not About You - And It Is

Just like they say on Law & Order, ripped from the headlines. Well, not really.

I write about what I have experienced first-hand. Then I put it into the context of a functioning agency or department (actually how they should function if they’d just get with the program); how to make things better; what is unacceptable; and pretty much, what I think.

Basically the joy – and danger of blogging.

Every day, every interaction, every lame-brain thing that happens in an agency or marketing department is actually not about you specifically.


Well, there truly isn’t anything I haven’t seen - related to the daily trials and tribulations of an agency. So when I write about something, I may have been reminded about it by a recent experience. But I can guarantee, with absolute certainty, that I have personally experienced it. More. Than. Once.

What is utterly remarkable about my experience and what I write about is the fact that everything is unremarkable.

What is utterly remarkable about that, is that I see all this crap everywhere, and one would think we’d all learn from one another and not make the same annoying – and expensive – mistakes. Repeatedly.

So that’s why I write about stuff that you think is about you. Because it is. And it isn’t.

Go ahead, toss me a nugget. Tell me about something that is troubling your agency or department, and:
I’ll tell you if [that] I’ve experienced it
I’ll diagnose the cause
I’ll tell you how to fix it

Bet’cha can’t stump me, because after 35 years, there truly are no surprises.


Getting Rescued in Vegas

One of my favorite hang-outs, legendary blues bar The Sand Dollar, is in the midst of a Bar Rescue.

All those things that make a blues bar ‘unique’ – like a dark, dingy interior; a stage with wiring that makes all the amps hummmm; remnants of various decorator touches – you get it. Basically the ick that has built up over time and given it a certain…ambience.

Now don’t get me wrong, I do believe it improvements – like fixing the toilet and making sure everything is clean. But what they’re going to change is the bigger question.

Since I moved to Las Vegas, almost nine years ago, the ‘Dollar’ has gone through several hands. Some good, some not so good.

But a few facts here – it has (barely) survived the recession; is located near the Strip – with no real neighborhood nearby which makes it a destination instead of ‘the place around the corner’; looks sketchy from the outside (HOWEVER, I ALWAYS FEEL SAFE THERE); has had no real love in years; been closed and reopened several times; and the worst part – the string of new owners didn’t re-hire Lola – the best cocktail waitress who has ever served a gin and tonic.

The place is an institution for locals. It will be interesting to see what it gets turned into. The guy doing the rescue has decades of experience turning bars around. He has a pretty standard plan, but when you fix things for a living, you know what works – or doesn’t work – usually.

But then again, this is Vegas. Off the Strip, bars here have a completely different set of challenges. All have liquor, gaming, and some have food and / or music in some form.

The challenge is, that any one of those attractions can be enjoyed in another bar, restaurant, Dotty’s, Albertson’s, CVS, or car wash. (Yes, I can gamble at my local Fabulous Freddy’s Car Wash.)

Anyway, there’s a short article in the local City Life about the changes a comin’.

I understand there was a ‘reveal’ last night. I couldn’t make it. Dang, I wanted to see what they’ve done to the place. But will surely head there tonight.

I hope the rescue included the restroom.

Listen to Complaints

We know the adage that if you listen to a complaint you become part of the problem. The problem with that thinking is that complainers still complain. And make life difficult for those around them. And hold up progress.

But on the flip-side, they may have a valid complaint. Maybe there is something wrong, we’re not looking at it the right way (their way), or they actually have a suggestion for an improvement but no one is listening.

And then again, there are chronic complainers. That’s for another post.

When I work with a client, I like to get right into the complaint department. The fastest way to solve a problem is to find out what is wrong. Listen without preconceived ideas (such as – this person is NEVER happy), and get all that stuff out of the way. If there is something wrong, assess it and address it. It may be one of the Trifecta of Issues: process, tools or people.

Process can be modified (do get everyone compliant on the program). Most issues are with those who skirt process and cause others to have to either cover the gap or run around trying to figure out what’s going on.

Tools you use can be a huge issue. Just like process, get everyone using the same tools – the same way. Consistency is key to ensure everyone has access to ALL the information.  There could be issues with tools like software that isn’t configured right or hard to use – or staff was never properly trained to use it. (My pet peeve).

People is often the tough one. Once expectations are clear, training is done, and everyone understands what and how they should work – those who don’t want to work with the program will surface quickly. Those who don’t understand will surface as well. Not everyone is cut out to be a PM or producer. And as I truly believe, this is not a job for beginners.

In the end, experienced staff should be able to manage work without complaints (other than the minor daily crap). If complainers continue, check the top two items (process and tools), then address the third item. Hear them out, and provide them with an opportunity to fix their attitude.  Without the fix, they demoralize everyone around them. Keep in mind, there are a lot of great, experienced people who would love to work for you – without complaint.