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Contrary to what many may think, this is not a post about the W+K belief of ‘Fail Harder’.
When we say that, we mean it in terms of having the courage to try something different … that might redefine the category … that could impact and push culture … but what I’m talking about is literally letting someone fail because of their own inadequacy or laziness.
Once upon a time, in a land far away, I worked with a client who was universally acknowledged as ‘not being very good’.
Their colleagues said it.
Their agency partners said it.
Their researchers said it.
But this person stayed in their job.
Worse, they stayed in their job and got promoted.
Because people like me often did work way beyond our remit just to make sure we wouldn’t be embarrassed with what was going to be executed.
And what did we get for it?
Not a bean.
And then we got fired.
In essence, all we had done was give this guy credibility, wealth, promotion and over-confidence when what we should have done is let him fail because of his own inadequacy.
Sure, if we had adopted that tactic, the likelihood is we’d have been blamed for the situation rather than him – but that aside, the fact of the matter is we directly contributed to his success and our downfall.
So what caused this?
Well on one hand, there was the pressure from our employers to keep the client ‘happy’ but there was something worse than that and it was our own inherent need to not be associated with total and utter bollocks.
Sure, one persons bollocks is another persons gold – but the fact is, I’m one of those people who wants the ball when he sees everything is turning to shit.
Whether I have the talent to do that is open to debate, however at times of crisis, I will happily step up to try and do whatever I can to turn the situation around.
Sure, that hasn’t always worked because without doubt, I have been linked to more than my fair share of public humiliation … but that still hasn’t stopped me from stepping up when we feel everything is going down.
That doesn’t mean I suddenly start thinking I can do anything and everything … I don’t and I know I can’t … but what is does mean is that I will work a fuckload more hours with a fuckload more people trying to nudge, cajole, collaborate and push them into areas we feel are stronger and – to be honest – less embarrassing.
What gives me the right to decide what is – or isn’t – less embarrassing?
Absolutely nothing except my experience and standards.
Given I like Queen and wear Birkenstocks, I can see how scary that sounds – but if others are happy with coasting or worse, not being bothered, then taking charge isn’t about yout ego, it’s about self respect.
But as I said earlier, if you’re doing this over and over again – especially for the same person – then all you’re ultimately doing is helping them look good at your own expense.
While I don’t have children, I know that one of the best – and hardest – parenting methods is teaching through the actions of their actions.
In other words, letting them learn through failing.
Sometimes that is easy but sometimes that is incredibly hard – especially when your first instinct is to shelter them from any pain or suffering.
But it works.
It sets them up to be better and stronger and sharper for later life.
And while most of us don’t need such blatant lessons once we’ve entered the workforce, some of us do – and when that happens, it might be better for them [not to mention you] if some short-term suffering, humiliation and pain is allowed to happen so that longer term focus, responsibility and decisive, higher-standard actions can take place.
Preferably not yours.
At the end of the day, life’s too short to deal with idiots so don’t feed the beast, help them learn from their own stupid, lazy, ineffective decisions. I know that doesn’t pay the bills, but neither does illness brought on by stress.
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