Hiring, Promoting and Firing

unpublished david ogilvyI often find great wisdom in David Ogilvy’s writing. In The Unpublished David Ogilvy he lists some guidelines for managing the inter-office talent.

  • He is ambitious.
  • He works harder than his peers – and enjoys it.
  • He has a brilliant brain – inventive and unorthodox.
  • He has an engaging personality.
  • He demonstrates respect for the creative function.


This is as important to the boss as it is to the employee. I have worked with smart people who exhibited none of these traits and watched them become frustrated for not being recognized. What they didn’t realize is that being smart and talented isn’t usually enough to do great things.

Ambition means volunteering for something to stretch yourself. It means putting yourself out there and saying to everyone, “watch this, I’m going to do something new”. That is not easy for the average person to do. We are taught from grade school on to keep our heads down, not make any noise and work in a solitary way.

Hard work seems easy enough right? It’s the second part that most people miss out on. Doing the work and being miserable isn’t the goal. Finishing the work while constantly complaining about how hard the work is or how underpaid you are isn’t very attractive either. Doing good work and taking pride in it is the goal. The truth is, you can make any job a work of art.

Following the script better than anyone else means you’re a better robot. Eventually you’ll be replaced by a robot or a shell script. Thinking of a better way to do the work means you become more valuable. The only jobs worth having are jobs where you’re encouranged to be inventive.

I don’t want someone who is a solitary figure. “Just leave me alone to do my work” is always a sign that long-term growth may be limited. Don’t get me wrong, we all need stretches of uninterrupted time to focus and do great work, but nobody wants to work with a monk. Talk to your co-workers, inspire them. Push your boss to think about things differently. Start leading.

The last bullet point could mean different things to different people, but for me it means a respect for other’s ideas and the courage it takes to throw out ideas. It drives me crazy when co-workers mock ideas just to be funny. It takes a healthy dose of courage when you first start tossing in your ideas. That process needs to be respected and held up as more important than the easy joke made at their expense.

If you fail to recognize, promote and reward young people of exceptional promise, they will leave you; the loss of an exceptional man can be as damaging as the loss of an account. – David Ogilvy

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