For Ogilvy & Mather, belief in and appreciation of employees is intrinsic. It comes from the agency’s legendary founder, David Ogilvy, who once famously said “If you hire people bigger than you are, we shall become a company of giants.” O&M New York has continued this tradition, understanding that an agency is only as good as its people. It’s why the leadership of O&M’s flagship office created You Matter Day, a day dedicated to the agency’s people.
Last month, O&M New York hosted its second edition of the day-long celebration, where the staff is invited to take part in a number of activities—sessions hosted by external speakers and internal O&M experts, career development workshops, and hands-on courses on everything from making a film on your smartphone and creative writing to graffiti and improv comedy.
New York Times Bestselling author Daniel Pink opened the proceedings, emanating from O&M New York’s Theater. Pink, an expert in motivation, leaned on key studies in behavioral science to illustrate to the audience what truly motivates people. What he called “If-Then” rewards (If one does something, then they’ll receive something) work for short-term, simple tasks. But what about the type of work that’s done at O&M—meaningful work that helps make brands matter? The three core motivators, Pink said, are Autonomy, Mastery, and Purpose.
The idea of management, according to Pink, is a relatively new idea that we’ve taken too seriously. More than compliance, people want engagement. Human beings engage via self-direction, which is why we crave autonomy. In terms of mastery, we can only get better at doing something with constant feedback. The idea of the annual performance review is archaic, and newer, more interactive feedback methods are starting to become commonplace throughout the world. And finally, when people have a a purpose, their production improves. Pink opined that we have for too long given short shrift to the ‘How’ we do something, at the expense of the ‘Why’ we do it. When people have a better understanding of the ‘Why’, they’ll figure out the best ‘How.’
Another highly influential speaker for the day was John Maeda, who shared his experience with the special challenge and opportunities that come from being someone who is both a creative and a leader—a tension those of us in the advertising and marketing fields know well.
Maeda touched on how the characteristics of creatives and leaders seem to be diametrically opposed. As a leader, you’re in the position of being “The Man”, but creatives, as Maeda said, “are always working against ‘The Man.'” Creatives like to see themselves as “makers”, and leaders as “talkers”. Leaders create rules, and creatives love to break them. But the typical, classic hierarchy of organizations has changed, Maeda said. Technology has broken down the traditional levels between leaders and employees. This current landscape has led to more blurring of lines, roles and responsibilities bleeding into one another. It’s important, Maeda said, for Makers to not look down on Talkers, and that Talkers should know more Makers. And, true now more than ever, perhaps, Makers can be Talkers, Talkers can be Makers.
Charlotte Beers, former CEO of O&M, had another take on leadership and branding. But rather than talk about corporate brands, she focused on personal brands. Our brand, Beers said, is defined by how we react and respond in our interpersonal relationships. But if we, as employees, don’t market ourselves, how will we become leaders? We need to be recognized, because, as Beers asked, “Who ever bought a brand they’d never heard of?” She urged the audience to “Get known, get out, get seen, get invited. Don’t modest yourself out of being successful.”
Company retreats and other types of employee-focused exercises can be very beneficial. In Entrepreneur Magazine, Kelsey Meyer noted that these initiatives can help people overcome their fears, galvanize employees to work towards a shared goal, bring out workers’ hidden talents, and ultimately create a stronger-knit team. Companies of all sizes and means can help their employees feel more appreciated simply by taking a day to recognize them.