For some reason—usually money—business can bring out the worst in people. That old saying, “It’s business, it’s not personal.” is a sad excuse for duplicitous behavior.
I’ve actually heard those words, or some semblance of them, too many times by bosses and former colleagues before someone got stabbed in the back. On the other hand, there are people who talk the talk and walk the Guy’s Guy walk in the sometimes-shady world of business. So there is hope. You can be a good friend, companion, or partner, but to be a righteous Guy’s Guy, you need to be a man and treat others in business fairly. In no particular order, let’s start the series with a few big picture tips for being a savvy Guy’s Guy in business.
You are only as good as your word.
A handshake should be a bond. But, because many businesspeople have short, self-serving memories, there are contracts. And, as my attorney likes to say, “If it’s not in the contract, it doesn’t exist.” It’s sad, but true. But even when you have a contract, people renege on written agreements all the time. “I don’t have any money” and “Sue me”, are all too common declarations made during disputes. Don’t let this dissuade you. A Guy’s Guy leads by example. His word and handshake are sacrosanct. The bottom line is that you do what you say you are going to do. This is a golden rule for being a Guy’s Guy and a man. Anything less is unacceptable. That said; it’s still wise to put your agreements in writing.
Trust your instincts when making decisions.
I’m usually a pretty good judge of character, but like anyone else, I’ve made mistakes. When I was directing a sexy spirits account at an agency, a young woman interviewed for a senior account management position. She looked good on paper, and in person. She pleaded with me to hire her, assuring me she’d do a kick-ass job. My instincts told me to pass, but I’d recently been promoted to Executive Vice President and was a bit full of myself, so I hired her anyway. Mistake.
On our first trip to meet the clients in Miami, she showed up at the airport toting four large pieces of luggage for a two-day business trip. This was not a good sign. After the meetings I asked her for a recap, but she had not taken notes. She was, however, filled with ideas for dinner. When we returned to New York, I explained to her what my expectations were for the job. I gave her a few basic tasks and told her I wanted to review them in a week. When it came time, she handed me her resignation. I thought that maybe I had been too tough on her, but while she dawdled, a junior person on my team so the opening. He stepped up and did the work. I promoted him a few weeks later and learned my lesson.
The same is true for making a decision on whether to take a job or not. Every time I’ve had an unsettling feeling about taking a new job, it turned out to be a major challenge. If you have a clear mind and heart, go ahead and trust your instincts. They are usually right.
You’ll always find a-holes at work— guys that don’t have an original thought who somehow get promoted by parroting their superior’s or the client’s ideas, regardless of their merit. They only challenge the ideas of those who they consider a threat. You see; they don’t really care about the business. They only care about getting ahead. Sounds familiar? Sure, it does. So what can you do when one of these transparent characters is thrust upon you? First take a deep breath and accept their presence as part of your education. Then figure out what they want. If it doesn’t impact your career path, exhale. And do your job. If it does, stay within close enough proximity to them to know what they are up to and take note of their strengths and weaknesses. And then wait.
I entered one ad agency as a consultant and had to work with a verbose, polarizing director. He was crafty and basically capable, but I’d heard that he had a vicious temper and would explode on anyone he considered to be a threat to his domain. He was obviously insecure and I knew that he would quickly see me as a competitor. At first he was deferential to me, but that changed once he noticed how capable I was and that I was accomplishing things he had overlooked. I knew that a storm was brewing. After we disagreed on a piece of creative during a meeting he snapped and actually screamed at me. I was steaming, but I said nothing. I saw the embarrassed looks on the faces of my colleagues. They had seen this act before. About two weeks later he did it again. I’m not the vindictive type, but this time I decided that he needed to go. My plan was to outwork him and wait for him to dig his own grave. And that’s exactly how it went down. He freaked out on someone else at another meeting, and in a fit of anger turned in his resignation.
I was ecstatic, but I waited because I knew he’d realize that he screwed up and that if he quit I would inherit his job. And that’s what happened. When his job was offered to me, he fought like hell to get reinstated. And since I was an unknown and he’d been at the agency a few years, management was undecided about his fate. Ironically, they left it up to me. I was asked if I could work with him and train him as my subordinate. I declined. Buh-bye.
In summary, make your word your bond, trust your gut when dealing with people, and don’t take the bait and battle with every a-hole that crosses you’ll find on your way to the top. Things have a way of working themselves out. Be patient.
This week’s Guy’s Guy of the Week is the city of Seattle for being the first major city to raise the minimum wage to $15. Good for them!