10 things I wish I'd known

This month the IDM got a new CEO. Mike Cornwell F IDM has led some of the most successful marketing agencies in the UK, so we're delighted he'll be leading the IDM into a new and exciting era. We were also intrigued to discover the 10 things he wishes he'd known at the start of his career. Here's what he said.

1. Always hire better, smarter people than yourself

This is as much about self awareness and knowing your own limitations as it is about recognising the skills of others. Acknowledging that someone can do a particular job better than you is not a bad thing!

2. The smartest, cleverest people are often the most deeply insecure

Some years back there was an employee who used to frustrate me desperately because the work he delivered was always late. Turns out it was always late because he created so many versions of it before he was happy enough with it to give it to me. It was always excellent. Learn to be sensitive to what may be going on under the surface.

3. Don't over commit

Speaking of being late... One of my early clients nick-named me the White Rabbit because I was never on time for anything. Not because I was disorganised or couldn't be bothered, but because I was always trying to cram in as much as I could before I had to be somewhere else. Over committing can result in people being let down.

4. Show, don't tell

Demonstrate brilliance (or anything else for that matter) rather than talk about it. Sounds obvious, but it's surprising how many marketing messages still go down the "do as I say" route. Real examples bring believability, whatever the scenario.

5. Pictures bring the human touch

I'm still astonished by the number of presentations, or even company websites I see, that are dry and dreary from a lack of humanity. We're all human. Pictures tell the stories and convey the emotions that we love to engage with. So use them. Wherever you can. Even if they're of cats.

6. 15-20% of employees at any company make all the difference

Not just in terms of output or work ethic, but also socially and culturally. It's something you learn to recognise over time, but look out for those who put themselves forward for things; busy people who always have time for something else.

7. Trust is earned over time, even if you award it at the beginning

Take people on trust in the very beginning by all means. There's a lot to be said for seeing the good in people and those you were right to trust will keep it. But be aware that, with others, trust can also turn out to be misplaced.

8. Big organisations work at a snail's pace

Recognise that you can't always make the changes you want in the time you want to make them. Large organisations are slow to change and this can wear employees down. Watch out for, have sympathy and learn to deal with "We tried that before, but..."

9. Never be afraid to ask the silly question

When you're young, you often don't want to admit that you don't know something. Chances are, the other people in the room don't know either. Have the courage to ask the question, no matter how embarrassing you think it will be. It's the only way to learn.

10. Learn how to ask the difficult question

At times, sooner or later, someone needs to talk about an elephant in the room. In the last 10-15 years, one of the things I'm most proud of having learned is how to ask the question that no one else wants to ask. It's not necessarily what you say, but the way that you say it. The answer may not be what you want to hear, but it will be the right one.

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