Friday, November 30, 2012

2 Questions

These two simple questions will save you a lot of headache.

Ask them before you speak. Before you click send. Before you act.

1. Is it kind?
2. Is it necessary?

I find myself rethinking things quite a bit when I take the couple seconds to pose these two questions. In business and in personal relationships.

(This is my secret parenting tip too - I use it on my kids constantly).

Here's an example when I saved myself from myself by asking these questions. I was about to send an email out of exasperation to a fairly high up in my company complaining about one of our vendors. My first sentence was the complaint I felt I had the right to voice. My second sentence was the solution, me offering to do the work within my department rather than at this vendor.

I had my finger on the mouse, luckily I stopped. Was what I typed kind? Umm, not if you were the vendor it wasn't. Was what I typed necessary? Offering to help, yes; throwing mud at the vendor, no.

This fairly high up co-worker knows this vendor has problems. He didn't need me to point it out. I had nothing to gain by adding to the mud pile. What this fairly high upper needed was my offer to help. Only that.

That was kind. That was necessary.

I deleted sentence one, clicked send on sentence two.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012


I just spent a week working myself into a fury over a work situation. Literally kept me up at night and was on my mind near constantly.

Ruminations. They'll get the best of you if you don't watch out.

I keep finding myself in situations at work when something goes awry, I furiously work to try and solve it, put a lot of time and energy into figuring out the consequences, ruminate (read: worry) for days then, just as frantically, the problem dies out.

For whatever reason this keeps happening. The person who brought up the problem didn't have their facts straight. The accused wasn't asked their side of the story. Key pieces of information somehow got twisted. And ultimately, what appeared to be, really wasn't.

Wasted worry on my part. Time lost all around. Big fat lesson learned. Again.

Maybe I need to go back and read Take a Breath again. The advice I gave to stop and take a breath before doing anything rash. Though I wouldn't consider most of these situations rash.

Really what this comes down to is remembering to respond with patience. When someone comes to you with a problem, listen to them, then stop for a minute.

See, this is usually when I get worked up over what they are telling me, responding to their "facts" with all the sympathy and concern that a manager should and then rush off to solve their problem.

When in fact, I should really just have stopped. Just for a minute and consider that thorough investigation is really what I'm responsible for. So instead, I should go ask a couple questions of other folks, review paperwork a second time, play devil's advocate against the situation, think on it for a few and then, have a go.

Worry isn't worth it. And a lot of times, there was nothing to worry about in the first place. Next time you find yourself frantically trying to solve a work problem, stop for a sec and make sure you've got a problem worth solving in the first place.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Such a Good Example

Lately I feel like juniors have a sense of privilege that the second they are done with school the industry should have a job ready for them. When that doesn't happen, graduates are deflated and discouraged, cursing the very industry they aspire to be in.

When you search and search and no job turns up, you gotta look beyond your resume and put some other efforts in. I have counseled so many students about cultivating themselves outside of school and what is on their resume. Constantly read, research, listen and learn. Find interests, travel, explore and expand their horizons. Most times it is through these extraneous efforts that a job ends up popping up.

Following is a note I received and I thought I'd share it as an example of someone discouraged by not finding what she wanted and then deciding one day to do something about it. She analyzed what she truly loved, she spent time researching, she took other related-to-advertising jobs, learned what she could and came at the industry in a whole new way. Such a good example of initiative we can all learn from:

Dear Ms. Gorman,

I hope this email finds you well. 

I am not sure if you remember me but my name is Lizette Lee and I am from Sydney, Australia. Over a year ago, I asked for some advice with regards obtaining an internship in the US as I was then studying Pre-press and Graphic Arts. The reason for this email is that I want to take the time to re-thank you for sharing your wisdom regardless of your very much limited time to do so. You were very nice to me, even though I came from a land far, far away and was lost as a street puppy. 

I would also like to let you know as well how I am doing. After our brief email exchanges, I was fully frustrated with the results of my applications, decided to give up and be complacent with my dead-end waitress job as it was paying the bills, anyway. I must say that I never stopped reading your blog along a lot of other resources you constantly post on Twitter. After a year of suppressed frustration, I decided to re-jumpstart my career track. I also was able to determine that advertising was not really what I was looking for but rather, I realised I am more passionate with marketing. I believe I was not fully able to distinguish the both so well and it led to confusion of what I really wanted. Blogs like yours and those you link out (i.e. Baby Food for Creatives) gave me a clearer understanding and drew the big picture of the advertising world that textbook definitions could not. 

For now, I am re-opening my career path by doing a lot of self-studying, offering myself to work for free in marketing agencies and studying how Social Media works in a bigger perspective by reading plenty of published journals, researches and statistics. I've grown to learn that I want to build my career towards specialising in Social Media strategies when I worked as a research assistant (Mostly doing proof-reading work, but I learned a lot!) for a German(why he needed a proof-reader) researcher from the University of Sydney in the subjects of Disaster Management using Social Media. I've just started to to create/use Social Media streams(Twitter, LinkedIn) to learn from usage and stabilise a public identity for potential employers. I also started a new blog, which I hope, someday, could be as insightful as yours. Once again, thank you very much for your generosity of sharing your brain and maybe 10 years from now I will bump into you and be able to personally thank you.


Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Movin' Up

The great reward for all your years of hard work and talent is the eventual promotion to manager.

For some folks, that means managing their peers. Can y'all say ugh?

This has happened to me and from experience it is not an easy road to navigate. People who were your buddies, who lunched with you, who listened to your boss-griping are now your subordinates. Kinda awkward.

I recently coached a group of new managers, a few of whom are now managing former co-workers. These are the four tips I shared:

1. Establish a safe distance.
You definitely don't want to snub your past co-workers, but you must establish some managerial distance however major or minor you need it to be. Think of it this way, you can no longer gossip with these folks. You can no longer bitch about the company. You can't laugh as they snake office supplies or ignore their spent hours online shopping. Yes, you can still grab lunch together but maybe now not every day. Your allegiance shifted when you became a manager, you are now a representative of the company more so than a worker bee. Just a bit of social space will serve you well, especially when tough issues come up - like layoffs.

2. Firing always sucks.
There is no way around feeling like shit when you have to lay off or fire a past co-worker. It feels bad. It will always feel bad. No two ways around it. Accept that and then do the best you can when faced with reducing staff. My trick is to cut their head off. Not literally :), but mentally. It works for me if I look at them as a headless worker that may require removal from the company for whatever reason. When their head isn't attached (in my mental picture), I can be less personal and more objective about the business decisions that need to be made. May sound harsh, but this remedy came about after crying alongside folks I had laid off because I felt so bad about doing it. Boss crying = not good.

3. Be consistent.
Most people want to know what to expect from a manager. Being consistent in your methods, your style, your conversations is a good thing. Yelling one minute, coaching another is the kind of psychotic manager stuff that leads good people to quit.

4. Be you.
Authenticity reigns. I manage people with the same style I do most everything else in life. Straight-forward, to the point and quick with a dose of teaching and mentoring. Staying true to my human nature helps to make the relationships with my employees more real and easier to maintain. I am not faking anything. And you know they can see right through any behaviors that don't seem like "my style." Your style may be a whole different collection of adjectives, but the goal is the same: be you.

Friday, July 13, 2012

My Bad Advice

After years of writing advice to young entry-level talent, I recently made a blunder and handed out some bad advice. Of course, I didn't think it was bad advice when I gave it (it's the old hind-sight is 20/20 thing). Unfortunately, for the young women who heeded my advice, this admission doesn't do much for her situation.

And so it goes.

An aspiring creative recruiter discovered my blog and read more about my background. She contacted me to ask some advice about a junior creative recruiter job she was pursuing. The hiring recruiter asked a brilliant thing of her as part of the interview process. The candidate was to re-create a resume that showed her background and experience 5 years from now.

What a unique challenge to hand someone! Create your future resume. This is one of those things I wish I had thought of myself. It gives the candidate the opportunity to present their passion and drive by believing and visualizing their own future. I'd bet you can tell a lot about a person by seeing how they view their future.

This woman had a great resume, but she did not have any creative recruiting skills. Somehow she had to show her past experience was applicable to this future career. What better way to do that then by describing her aspirations on a "future" LinkedIn profile.

We talked about all the ways she could do this. She researched creative recruiters on LinkedIn and reviewed all the skills, accolades, accomplishments and groups these folks had. We talked about her goals and how she saw herself as a contributor to the advertising and creative industries. This wasn't a poorly thought out plan.

Or so we thought.

Fast forward 3 days. Her "future" profile is on LinkedIn. She creates an amazing infographic version of it on and responds back to the hiring manager. All is well in Cecilia advice-giving land.

Coincidentally, another recruiter for another junior recruiting job stumbled upon her "future" profile on LinkedIn. Obviously these are not her real jobs, real accolades or real experiences. She is accused of fraud and dismissed from consideration.


My bad advice with good intentions. And so I ask this recruiter, and any others who may have seen this profile -- which was intended to be up only a few days and is now deleted -- to see the flip side of this situation.

This young woman showed initiative. She researched, explored and spent a great deal of time thinking about her future in recruiting and how she saw her career foundation build. And she is confident about being a creative recruiter.

Let's learn from this situation. LinkedIn is a public place with thousands of people clicking though it a day and what you put on your profile is a direct reflection of who you are.

I'm hoping she reflected her passion and drive.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Stop and Take a Breath

This is a piece of advice you will use for the rest of your career, so listen up: Stop and Take a Breath.

There are many situations where this advice applies (I know because I have been in many situations where I didn't apply said advice).

Before you send that lengthy, passion-infused email to a whole slew of folks.

When you are about to say something is when it isn't.

Prior to saying, sending, speaking, alluding, guessing, whispering anything to your boss that hasn't been thought through.

Ahead of raising your voice.

Just before you glare, smirk, or roll your eyes.

Before you ever, ever do one of these things...
Please stop and take a breath.

You will save yourself from yourself a hundred times over throughout a lifetime following this advice. Remember, I'm speaking from experience. The experience of NOT doing this.

Take a minute (more like an hour) before you send anything to your boss. Or to anyone whose title is higher than yours. Re-read or re-think what you are going to say. Take that cleansing breath and make certain you're sure about it. Be succinct, non-judgmental, and clear. If you are presenting a problem, give a solution. If you are giving an opinion, include an alternative. If you are just plain ranting, perhaps don't.

Take a quick second before you speak. Collect your thoughts, ponder your sources, have a point and (again) be clear. People will listen to those who have something to say. They tune out those who don't. Once you've been tagged as someone to tune out, it's super hard to turn that around.

Take a breath before you send any email to a big group of people. Especially if higher-ups are on the note. Re-read or re-think what you are going to say. Be succinct, non-judgmental, and clear. Make sure everyone you are cc'ing is critical to the information being provided. Check for typos. Speak and spell like an adult.

Stop and take a breath if you feel your voice rising; if you know your eyebrows are starting to slant inward; when your smile edges toward a smirk (oftentimes accompanied by an audible sound); or your eyeballs begin to roll upward.

Before you ever, ever do one of these things...
Please stop and take a breath.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Storm off the Stage

I was in awe of Gerry Graf in this article about a Creative Week panel where he immediately walked off the stage after hearing a fellow panelist state, "I think creative people are interesting. I think creative departments are shit."

In one simple statement of "I'm done," he made everyone well aware of what he stood for.

It makes me wonder, what "issue" would I storm off a stage for?

I'm thinking we all should have at least one thing in our life that is worth storming off a stage for. One single thing that embraces all our beliefs and values. I can't put my finger on what mine is, but I hope with all my might that when the moment comes that someones go against it, that I instantly and confidently storm off the stage.

Friday, April 13, 2012

The Four Agreements

I've been reading a lot of non-fiction lately, so here's another lesson regarding a book I just finished. Finished for the second time I might add, as it's not the easiest read.

It's called The Four Agreements and if you manage to get through it, there are 4 lessons in it that you can twist to apply to your work life.

1) Be impeccable with your word: This seems similar to what we all learned growing up - be honest. Yet being impeccable with your word stretches a bit beyond that. Not just speaking the truth, but doing what you say you will. At work, it's easy to agree to things, say generally what we might do and then let our commitments fade into the night. Now that I manage people, I find that this rule is the hardest and most important thing I can do. People who report to me are looking for honesty, they are looking for someone who will do exactly what they say they will. The easy thing is to kinda say what you're going to do, and then kinda not really do it.  We all must practice each day being super, super true to our word; what you say is just as critical as what you do.

2) Don't take anything personally: All I can say about this one is it is very hard! We all take everything personally, especially at work. Say someone criticizes your creative concepts, just you try and not take that personally! Very hard. When I started at my new job I had meetings set up with key people in the company to get to know them and their area of work. One guy no showed our meeting. I waited for about 10 minutes, then sent him an email asking if we were still on. No answer. This is exactly the circumstance that we all take personally, I sure did. Why didn't he come? Why didn't he reply to the email? Why didn't he reschedule? I wasted a good hour of brain power on the speculation about this person. If I didn't take it personally, I wouldn't have spent more than a minute on it. We all waste precious energy and brain power taking things personally. When at work, try try try not to do this. What others do and say has absolutely nothing to do with you.

3) Don't make assumptions: This rule goes hand-in-hand with the one above. Because right when we are taking things personally, we are making assumptions to justify how we feel. Back to the no-show guy - I assumed he was blowing me off. I assumed he got my email. I assumed he would politely provide a reason for not coming. All my assumptions fed into me taking it personally. When we assume things about our co-workers it makes life complicated. We almost always assume people feel the same way we do. When we assume everyone is in agreement things start to disintegrate before they even start. Account folks assume the creatives know the background on a client/product/project. Finance assumes production overspends without regard. We all assume all day long...because it's easy. Easier than asking questions to clarify. Questioning takes more time and mostly we are in a hurry. Questioning demands smarter folks to provide answers. Lots of problems come with questioning, but I'd counter that lots of problems come from NOT questioning, from assuming.

4) Always do your best: Don't let laziness take over your work ever. As the years go by in your career, laziness gets harder to fend off. We get better at what we do, we get promoted, we get to a point where the work is easy, we get comfortable, then we get lazy. This last rule is the reminder to never get to that point in your career. Always doing your best is the antidote to laziness. Look around at the folks working around you, I bet you see a few who aren't always doing their best and I'd bet it shows in the work they produce. I'd also bet a lot of other co-workers notice them too. When someone is disengaged, is not doing their best, it shows. And when someone is lovin' their job, doing their best work, it shows. It's just as easy to do your best as it is do be lazy, so opt for your best always.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Take the Stairs

I just finished a good book called, "Take the Stairs." It's written by Rory Vaden, a motivational speaker, and has a few good nuggets of advice about getting to success in your life.

Take the Stairs basically means most of don't take the stairs, we look for the escalator. We look for the easy, lazy way purely out of habit. Taking the stairs is a small outward gesture that reflects an inner commitment to stop doing things the easy way.

Other ideas from this book that I loved and are worth repeating:

1) Be the Buffalo - When a storm hits, cows run away from it. Cows then end up running in the same direction of the storm, prolonging their exposure to it. On the other hand, when a storm hits, a buffalo turns and runs directly toward it. Their exposure to the storm is lessened when they hit it head on.

Think about it in terms of the problems you face at work. Most of us act like Cows. Run away and run fast! Right?

A simple reminder to Be the Buffalo is what we all need. Turn and face a problem, head on and right away. The problem is addressed quicker and goes away faster.

2) Do it Scared - The author included a story about a women trapped in a high rise during a fire. She is terrified of small spaces and refused to exit the building down the stairwell. Her coworkers can't convince her to go and she ends up resigning herself to die because she cannot face her fear. She'd rather die! A fireman finds her and she still refuses to leave, telling him she's scared. "That's OK", he tells her, "Do it scared."

Such a simple statement. It acknowledges fear and yet forces action. I shared this one with my daughter who constantly answers "I'm too shy." Whether she is meeting someone new or asked to speak in front of her class, this is her standby answer. Now she's got a different way to face it, "Do it shy."

Myself, I battle with the things I simple don't want to do. I procrastinate those to no end. Perhaps now I can say, "Do it even though I really don't want to." It doesn't have the same ring to it, but maybe it'll get me to do a few of those things that I have been dreading.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Rise Above

Your definitely don't learn this in school, but important nonetheless.

In fact, there are a lot of lessons in life (business life) that you can't or don't learn in school. You just have to get out there, get job and learn by trial and error. And so I hope to spare some of you learning this one the hard way.

Learn to Rise Above.

Learn to Rise Above the politics. The pettiness. The immaturity. The fray.

Learn to Rise Above the chaos. The indecision. The safe.

You all have seen these types of things in action. You've seen meetings where the politics start taking over. Or immaturity starts leaking into people's actions. You've seen it I am sure.

Once you've seen it and learn to recognize it, it then becomes easier to know when to Rise Above it.

You'll want to engage in it most likely because that's the easy thing to do. When people are being catty, it's easy to join in. When people are becoming argumentative, it's easy to fight right back. When meetings are going on and on in their usual indecisive ways, it's much easier to keep your mouth closed and sit there doodling.

I know. Easy is our default action.

So I am telling you: Rise Above.

Rising Above requires courage and action. It requires you to stand up and say something. Something like, "why do we have this meeting? it seems redundant to that other one we have?" Instead of week after week of non-productiveness.

Rising Above sometimes hurts egos and feelings. People will want to protect these at all cost.  Rising Above sometimes requires change and newness. People will want to keep what they are familiar with.

Rising Above requires you to NOT add to the gossipy conversation going on. Which I know is hard. It requires you to treat your coworkers with respect. Though I know it is easier to make fun of them. It requires you to be bold in your decision making, confident in your abilities and respectful of everyone's skills and contributions.

I know this is hard. It's hard and takes practice. Ultimately you'll learn a skill worth having, worth envying.

Rise Above folks. The air up there is so much better for you.

Friday, February 17, 2012

29 ways

This is short and great.


Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Mike Scioscia's Rear View Mirror

One of the really cool things about working at Oakley are Fireside Chats.
An athlete/someone famous/inspiring/passionate comes in to speak to employees.

Last week Mike Scioscia was here. First, that man should be a stand up comedian. We were laughing practically the whole time. Second, as someone who knows absolutely nothing about the man, I left respecting him immensely.

One story he told was worthy of re-telling. Mike talked about the people in his Rear View Mirror.

Now if I didn't have a slight case of Alzheimer's from raising 2 kids, I'd remember the coach he was referring to, buuuuut. . . .that doesn't matter. Mikes' point was that as you look back on your life, reflect into your rear view mirror, there you see the people who helped get you where you are. You'll see the people whose impact on your thoughts, your actions and, ultimately, your career is profound.

Mike was recalling a certain catching coach who he sees in his Rear View Mirror. Mike said he wouldn't have gotten where he was without this man. This coach was like a second father to him, he mentored him in numerous untold ways and taught him so, so very much throughout his career.This coach was standing boldly and profoundly in Mike Scioscia's Rear View Mirror.

My own mirror: perhaps less profound, but mine nonetheless.

In it I see Mr. Christenson, my 6th grade teacher who gave me an early appreciation of the arts. Pete & Sonja Tripodi, my first bosses in the real world who taught me everything my young brain could absorb. My Dad, who in his own quiet presence, taught me and my sisters we could pretty much accomplish anything in this world. My list goes on.

Think about your Rear View Mirror. Who do you see?

It goes without saying that we get where we are with the help of others. Remember those who've taught you a thing or two. Who've guided you subtlely or overtly. And, as Mike Scioscia did, appreciate that you got where you are because of them.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Aspiring Creative Directors

I feel funny that I even have to write this, but it's come up enough to warrant a few words.

Y'all know that in order to be a Creative Director, you have to start out as an actual creative person. Like an art director, designer or copywriter. See you spend a few years as a junior, a few as a mid level, a few more as a senior, a few years as an ACD, then you get to be CD. There is a logical progression here folks.

I am continually surprised by students or entry-level people when I ask 'what do you want to do?' They answer I want to be a creative director. Then I counter with 'well, first, what do you want to do?' And they answer creative director. By this time it's clear they don't understand that's not an entry-level job.

Think of it as school. You can't be a college graduate without going to grade school, middle school AND high school first.

It worries me that students aren't learning (or understanding) the progression of titles in advertising.

The students must pick a discipline first: art or writing for instance. Spend a heck of a lot of years learning and growing in that discipline. Be good enough to be promoted. Learn how to manage people and departments (we often forget this one). Then, maybe, you become Creative Director.

Just remember in order to direct creative, you have to have been a creative first.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

It just takes a little

This advice may be more for senior folks, those who have been in the business for a long time. But, as a junior, pay attention.

Sometimes it just takes a little thing - define thing however you'd like - to make someone feel appreciated.

It might be saying thank you.  Or buying them a coke from the soda machine. Or acknowledging long hours. Or calling them out in front of the agency for a job well done.

Sometimes that one little thing makes a person feel appreciated. And I can tell you, that goes a long way.

As our days get more hectic and we are cranking on more projects, the niceness and gratefulness get forgotten. We forget to say "thanks" and "good job" and "you are so great at what you do" cuz we're just too, too busy. Well, be as busy as you want, but when someone gives their notice I'd bet that makes you stop for a second. Why not stop for a second while your valuable employees are still with you?

Because these little things add up. Either in a bad way, when time after time an employee feels slighted because no one is appreciating them. Or in a good way, when an employee feels great about what they do and they become all that much more committed to the company and the job they are doing.

Today, I was genuinely and wholeheartedly thanked by someone for showing them an ounce of appreciation on a project they'd worked their ass off on. Genuine proof that small gestures have big impact.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Taking a Dose

This week I am heeding a dose of my own advice. Taken from my one of my favorite posts I've written, titled "QUIT." In that post, I say that quitting is a fantastic way to grow yourself (and your career).

"It’s not quit in the sense of giving up when things get too hard. This isn’t about hopelessness or a sense of failure. It’s quit in a much bolder sense. Quitting to try something new, to gain a fresh perspective, or to embark on a new endeavor. Quitting is risky. And risk is an exact expression of your courage."

This week --after 13 years-- I am quitting.

My time here at Y&R/Wunderman has been amazing. I can't even being to capture it in words. It's not just years spent, it's people met, skills learned, positions held, problems solved, networks expanded, fun had, people recruited. Good times all around.

So though the venue may change, my passions remain.

I will continue to author this blog and provide advice and snippets of counsel to those fresh to our business. I will continue to mentor young creatives seeking advice on their portfolios. I will continue to dedicate my time to those who'll be the future of our industry. Those are my passions and I am so lucky to be able spend time doing them.

I hope you'll all continue to read and, when the time is right, do some quitting of your own.

"By exposing yourself to change, by making the tough decision to switch jobs, by testing your courage, by quitting – you gain so much. And if you truly believe in the choices you make, there is no question you’re making the right decision."

Tuesday, January 3, 2012


I always say the “ABOUT ME” section is really what gets you hired.

I truly believe this. It’s certainly what gets you the interview in the first place.

I’ve said this before: You MUST differentiate yourself from the other candidates.

First assume everyone has a good book -- everyone that is your competition vying for the same job. If all the portfolios are good and make it past the first round, what is it then that gets someone selected for an interview?

The ABOUT ME section!

Here are some that have got my attention recently:

When I was 8, I trained myself to do the Vulcan Salute by duct-taping my fingers (both hands) together for an entire day. I hope I'll get the chance to meet you someday and show you.  (melissa ploysophon)

When you look at me you see Cary Grant, but without the height, handsomeness, acting talent, or overall pleasure of being around.        (jon miller)

A ginger. A copywriter. A regular writer. A former Swiss farm hand. A thinker. A big fan of Nicholas Cage movies. A former furniture delivery guy in Denver. A soul searcher. A former small time Chicago music critic. A former college boy; twice. A comedian / improv performer. A storyteller. A pretty cool guy.   (dave fox)

While I’ve never been a huge proponent of astrology, I was once presented with a horoscope that read, “You have a champion’s heart with the wanderlust of a gypsy.”  Truer words have never been written.
   (emily papp)

I leave you with some simple facts that you may not otherwise know about me.
1. My love for Coca-Cola outweighs my fear of inevitable diabetes.
2. Milk does a body good, unless it's mine.
3. People say I say funny things, I think they just misunderstand me.
(douglass huber)

Interests: Classic Nintendo games, rollerblading like it's 1995, gardening, cooking, kerning and obsessively watching The Food Network.                (shivonne miller)