What do you do at the office, Daddy?

It’s the classic daughter’s question. (But why daughter, rather than son, I don’t know.)

It was easier to answer in the old days of directors, who directed something specific, or managers who had something to manage. But we live in a team world. Being the office equivalent of a left wing back is harder to explain than being the on-site Federer or McIlroy. I remember in my early days as an aspiring agency boss being sent on a course called Finance for Non-Financial Managers. It was an excellent course and I learned a lot about the numbers I needed to take seriously, and the ones I could leave to somebody else.

Having written books on better decision-making and meeting practice (and having grown up in advertising, where target-marketing is second nature) I must admit to having had potential readers in mind. And here I’m not talking about generalisations. I had particular people in view – actual people with whom I have worked, and who were neither the most decisive individuals, nor kings or queens of the conference room. Is decision making a skill that we can all improve at? I firmly believe so. Equally knowing how to prepare for and run an important meeting is a hugely valuable ability, as those of us who frequently sit in such meetings when no such paragon is involved, will swiftly agree.

So if it’s helpful to explain to your daughter how crucial meetings and decisions are, is there one more key acquirable attribute you should mention as part of your in-office armoury? Apart from being good with people, which should include being empathetic, considerate and well-behaved, there is one additional skill I would advocate above all others. It relates to IDEAS – being good at coming up with them, being good at helping develop other people’s ideas, and always being ready to think your way around a problem and into an opportunity. Ideas are vital if we are to progress. If things get tough, ideas are essential for our survival. Of all the things we humans produce, ideas are at the same time the most fun to work on, and the most valuable.

The funny thing about idea skills is that a great many people are unduly modest about their own ability in this regard. Very few people will admit to being unpopular, or a bad parent or a poor driver, but you often find people saying that coming up with ideas is not their strength. Why, I can’t imagine. Admittedly a whole industry of external idea buffs has grown up. And within companies there is often a self-appointed coterie of thinkers outside the box, or whatever. For what it is worth, my decades of experience of working with client companies, and inside and with agencies tell me that almost every educated, ambitious, conscientious staffer (at whatever level) is very much an ideas person. Or, at the very least, they are people with potential. Let’s face it, you can’t survive outside the office without having ideas, so why should it be any different when you settle down at your desk or work station?

So I suggest you tell your daughter that the company pays you to have ideas, to work them up in meetings – alongside colleagues and their ideas – and to play a part in making important decisions. With a good showing in those three skill areas, you will be doing well, and your daughter should be impressed. Especially with the bit about being good at ideas!
This is David’s Marketing Society post for February. Read more at https://www.marketingsociety.com/the-library/what-do-you-do-office-daddy#YX6Stxpphkdx055L.99