Problem Child with a High Salary

You had lofty titles: Executive Creative Director, Chief Creative Officer, even Executive Chairman. You were on the board of directors at the most famous advertising agency in Chicago, supposedly the youngest member ever. During this period you commanded a huge salary, more than the President of the United States. Frankly, a lot more, especially when you factored in bonuses and stock options. You earned it; well maybe not all of it and toward the end probably less. Then you got asked to leave, to seek opportunities elsewhere, fired. The last time was probably the mortal blow. You didn’t know it but the job you had now was not going to last.

When it came to work, you were only great at two things: copywriting and presentations. You wrote your way into the boardrooms of the world, turning words over and over until they shone like gemstones. Once there, you would sell. Oh, could you ever! You loved selling and did not demure from it like so many other creative people. Those fools, you thought. Didn’t they know advertising and selling went hand in hand? Processing stage fright into stage-might, you had utter command. At times, it was breathtaking. You were excited to perform and it showed. Your confidence seldom came off as a con. During presentations you were like a kid unwrapping gifts at Christmas.

Alas, while showmanship mattered on the way up, once there, not so much. As a director, they wanted you to hire and fire; delegate and operate; things you came to realize you weren’t very good at. You liked to write and sell work. Truth be told, you weren’t interested in the other stuff. It all seemed beside the point, what you had to do as opposed what you wanted to do. Now it was you who was playing the fool.

At best, you’d possessed what the CEO called, “emotional intelligence,” a backhanded compliment, a quality your peers pretended to admire then grew to despise. In management meetings you lectured that creativity was messy and impossible to regimen. But alas, your left-brain partners valued process over intuition. They lacked patience for the soft skills inherent in the creation of ideas. They couldn’t scope it. So they loathed it. For a so-called creative agency this was, in your view, anathema. And so you had refused to whip your troops into creating. You put good ideas on the wall, and quickly. But it was never enough. Eventually, you became a problem child with a very high salary.

to be continued…


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