Shit happens. Focus on people

by Karthi

Shelly Lazarus talks about the best advice she ever got.  

The trouble with most of organization is that they don’t lay enough emphasize on people and they don’t realize how important they are to the organization.  People are just another commodity that can be procured, managed and disposed.

In ‘The best advice I ever got’ (HBR article) Shelly Lazarus talks about how important it is to focus on people.

Shelly Lazarus when becoming the CEO of Ogilvy & Mather, gets the best piece of advice from David Ogilvy on how important it is to treat people right.

“No matter how much time you spend thinking about, worrying about, focusing on, questioning the value of, and evaluating people, it won’t be enough. People are the only thing that matters, and the only thing you should think about, because when that part is right, everything else works.”

In her initial days at Ogilvy, Lazarus learns how important it is to focus on people from her boss Charlie Frederick. She quotes this example, once a media planner could not get the relevant data before an important meeting due some problem with the computer. As time is running out she is scared and panicked. She keeps roaming all around shouting “What am I going to do?”. Charlie and Lazarus are watching her and after some time,  Charlie stood in her path, grabbed her shoulders and stopped her, and says “What are they going to do to you? Take your children away?”

Here are two examples on how to Lazarus focused on people to got the best out of them.

When at times at things take a bad shape and people are tensed up in the meeting, She normally ask the following question to audience.

“Just to be clear, is anyone going to die as a result of our action or inaction? Will Ogilvy go out of business? Will anyone lose a child? Because if that’s true, let me know, and I’ll get significantly more agitated”

When that eases the tension, every one tries to solve the problem at hand rather than worry about it.

Another example is when American Express fires Ogilvy, many at the organization were depressed and confused as the they were one of the biggest clients they ever had.  In that tensed situation, Lazarus speaks to concerned  people to bring up the lost morale and to gain focus.

“What happened has happened. And if you’re not interested in hanging in there, then go away. Just go away. But if you’re ready to believe again and sit around this table and go at the problem with all the hear we have, with all our understanding of the brand and with all our belief, then let’s get to work and see if we can win back the hearts and minds of the people at American Express”

Eleven months later, they won the account back.

Moral is shit happens, focus on people.