Frank: Kindness & the client‑agency relationship
by Mimi Nicklin (@MimiNicklin) Recently, there was a phone call with one of our partners. I wasn’t on it but one of my team was and they were discussing a project with tight timelines, low budgets and high pressure. Sounds familiar, right?! Given we take huge pride in being able help solve problems, that was the focus of the call. It should have been a good one. It wasn’t.
Unkind, rude & unnecessary
Here is where I feel sad, really sad. In our plight to solve, to understand and to ‘lean into’ a solution, the partner on the phone spoke to my team member in a tone that was unkind, rude and unnecessary.
Why is it that, even in today’s transparent society, people think it’s ok to be unkind, simply because the phone call is between two people “at work”? Beyond that, why is it that, when I ask this question and use the word “kind”, the discussion is frowned upon?
Is it because “kindness”* is an “emotional” word “that women use”, or that it’s “not fit for the professional working environment”? Is it because the previous boss told them “that’s ok, it’s just business”? Or is it because the team before let it slide?
The reality today is that the blur between home and work is very thin indeed. I would even argue that, on many days of the week, there is no line. So, if you wouldn’t talk to your wife, brother, or friend like that, then please don’t talk to my team like that. I don’t care if you think “kindness” is reserved for kids or animal rescue campaigns. Kindness is a human behavior that we all deserve.
I think it’s time that we, as an industry of passionate people, say no to those behaving badly. Put the phone down. Or don’t. But either way, stop the conversation and change the direction quickly.
The upside of this is that these moments should make us, as leaders, want to step up higher, work harder, network more, speak louder. To find partners that want what we want, and to build teams that work peacefully in the knowledge that their boss will protect the baseline of human behavior, before worrying about the baseline of the P&L. Because we are a team and the team comes first.
Won’t stand for it
It may have made me sad to hear it but I woke up the next day stronger because of it. I will not stand for it — even if the industry says we should.
*Updated on 21 August 2019: “sadness” has been corrected to “kindness”.
Based in Dubai, Mimi Nicklin (@miminicklin) is managing director of RAPP MEA, an Omnicom company. An experienced leader — she’s led global and regional brands from Europe, Asia, the Middle East and Africa on both agency- and client side — she believes in the systemisation of empathetic leadership and influence. Mimi considers leadership to be 100% about serving her team, rather than the other way around, and is avidly committed to creating change for good in the industry. She is also a keynote speaker and thought leader. Her new MarkLives column, “Frank”, focuses on being frank and open about issues in adland.