Don’t just do It, Just get It

So I'm talking to a friend of mine who's hiring for a suit position and wants to know what I know about a certain hopeful. She gives me a name and, not only do I know the person, I love the...

So I’m talking to a friend of mine who’s hiring for a suit position and wants to know what I know about a certain hopeful. She gives me a name and, not only do I know the person, I love the person. I say to my friend, ‘He just gets It. You know what I mean?’ My friend knew exactly what I was saying.

Do you know what I mean? If you get It, you certainly do know what I’m talking about. If you don’t know what I mean, well, I intend no offence.

So what exactly is ‘It’? It is what all good agency bosses are looking for. All good clients want people who get It working on their business. And pretty much everyone that I know who gets It, knows what It is. The problem is that no-one can really define ‘It.’

It doesn’t reveal itself in a resume. In an interview, one can pretend to have It, but not really have It at all. One can’t magically get It, as It can rarely be learned. It can be cultivated in a person who has It, but who just doesn’t know it yet.

For those people who may want to confirm that they have It or may want to know what they’re missing, here is my contribution to the definition of It.

Nothing is a problem. No matter what a client asks for, it’s doable. Somehow, some way, it can be done. The It Person will view the seemingly unattainable as a challenge, a test of what he’s made of. He sees the challenge as a potential bragging rite some 20 years hence, when, as an agency president, he can regale the young bucks with stories of how he got a commercial made with a $10 budget and a Polaroid camera. ‘Son, the spot pulled, I tell you!’

Confidence is a renewable resource. Without exception, the It People that I know have substantial egos. I mean this as a compliment, mind you. Some are better at hiding their high opinion of themselves than others, but deep down, the reserve of confidence is always there. And it’s needed. At least once in every great career, there is a murderous blow to the sense of self that would be lethal to the weaker among us. This can be a brutal business, advertising. Those of us who can gut out the worst it has to offer certainly have at least part of It.

Know thyself. All It People are self-aware. While they know that they’re great, they also have a clear view of their own weaknesses. There’s this famous ad guy who has said to me on more than one occasion something to the effect of, ‘I am now free because I know what I can’t do.’ He manages to his weaknesses. He delegates what he can’t do to those who can. He hires people with a breadth of skills so that his resources are deep. He’s a very successful It Person.

Every Master has a Grasshopper. It People are an invaluable knowledge resource to those around them, especially junior people who are starved for learning. It People are usually great teachers and mentors. Typically, they have had the benefit of a mentor themselves and are committed to growing young ones in their own image. (See note on ego above.)

It People are slightly psychic. But you already knew that was my next point, didn’t you? It People see problems before they happen. They see the right solution and act on it before things go off the rails. As masters of anticipation, It People rarely fail to deliver. Their ESP flows from knowing intimately their clients’ needs, personalities and businesses.

The eye is on the prize. One rarely sees It People losing their minds. This is because they know two things. One – their priorities. Two – in advertising, we aren’t saving babies. It People aren’t distracted by the inconsequential. They separate the wheat from the chaff and focus their efforts on the things that matter. The usually calm demeanor of an It Person is reflective of someone who knows that the business at hand is never worth abusing, berating or otherwise assaulting those in their vicinity. I love this about It People.

Funny is as funny does. Typically, an It Person can make one laugh one’s ass off. They enjoy the vibrancy, diversity and oddities of personality offered in the agency environment. Simply put, they know how to have a good time and enjoy being with other people. I’ve observed that it simply isn’t possible for an idiot to be truly funny, therefore, this trait is entirely linked to being on the ball, which, of course, all It People are.

Now I suppose that there are a good many other qualities that It People have in common. But, I figure this covers the big ones.

Now take a long look at the person beside you.

Does she make magic with budgets and deadlines that would hospitalize most mortals or do you have to regularly talk her off the ledge? Has she ever told you how wonderful she is? Have you seen her teach others in the patient and reassuring wax-on-wax-off-Karate-Kid-type fashion? Can she tell you the colour of your nethergarments even before she gives you the wedgie that will make your eyes water and all your friends laugh and look upon her with respectful envy?

If you answered positively to most of these questions, your options are clear. Emulate her. Work for her. Or pull her finger so she’ll quit already.

Pamela Davis is a group account director at Publicis in Toronto.