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A short, sobering tale for business leaders. It’s a closer look at the gap that can exist in an organisation between what we say – and what we actually do.
Mark Read is 53.
Mark is Chief Executive of one of the world’s biggest advertising groups, WPP. And as you may have read, in August 2020 when asked about the balance of people and skills within the 130,000-strong global player he leads, Mark said this:
“We have a very broad range of skills, and if you look at our people – the average age of someone who works at WPP is less than 30. They don’t hark back to the 1980s, luckily.”
Hmm. Ageism? Clumsiness? Or does WPP really believe that the best brains are indeed less than 30 years old?
Well as Mark should have known. And as you will know if you run a business or aspire to run a business, it is not Mark that decides whether his comment was ageist, clumsy or what WPP really believe.
‘We’ is the market. The audience. The consumer.
‘We’ tend to interpret what people say and do, and how they behave, as a manifest of what they value and believe in. And most of the time – it’s exactly the right thing to do. Because after all. We are not what we say we are. We are what we repeatedly do.
And even though WPP’s Mark Read apologised for his remark very quickly. The genie was out of the bottle. ‘We’ don’t believe anything that Mark Read says any more. So ‘we’ took a look at the ‘Our People’ section of WPP’s Sustainability Report. And ‘we’ learnt that just 27% of WPP people are over 40 years old. And that only 9% of WPP people are over 50.
We Are What We Do.
This is a short, sobering tale for all business leaders. It’s a closer look at the gap that can exist in an organisation between what they say – and what they actually do.
At Harlands for example we are driven fundamentally by two things.
First, we talk about Harlands moving business forward. So with any new client we take the time to understand the fine detail of where the client is now and what got them here. Then we listen hard to fully appreciate where they want to go, and by when. Then we explore the best way or ways to get there - together.
Just taking the time to allow the client to articulate this is always very revealing. Is the desired journey realistic? What resources are needed? What milestones and phases exist along the way? It all comes out. And it’s the same with existing clients too. Because the Harlands ‘plan, do, review’ approach never ends.
Second, we talk about Harlands as an evolving entity. This means we are committed to both the continual improvement, and the unique requirements of each and every, ever-changing client. And we know that we ourselves have to evolve too in order to achieve this. Learning and moving 'from good to great' in more and more areas of our business as each new
assignment is executed. We’re always learning.
Being clear on how we can expect your brand to behave and what your brand is for is one thing. Delivering on those things is another. And you, like us, have to do both.