I don't know about you, but I'm a big fan of Mad Men. It teaches you a lot about what not to do in the office, but there are great lessons about what you should do, too. I'm a big fan of Don Draper (Jon Hamm) as a manager, and a leader. Albeit having a secret life thing, he gets things moving, wins clients and gets his team to give their very best. Here's a couple of human resources lessons from Mad Men that I can derive of.
1. Caution against drinking excessively at office parties: remember the election party at the Sterling Cooper office? The next day it was such a big mess, vomit in garbage cans, lockers looted, and innocent people got fired for no reason. It’s a good thing that people don’t drink as much as they did back then, but there are still office parties. Where there are office parties with alcohol, there’s always a disaster waiting to happen -- we all have our own personal stories. So caution yourself, drinking is ok, excessively drunk and making a scene is not. Keep your team and colleagues in check, too. There might be clients, customers, and potential employees at these events. Never set a bad impression about your company.
2. Give focus to your creative people: Don Draper’s management style is well suited to managing creative talent. He gives people enough rope to hang themselves to be creative geniuses, but he also pulls them back in when they’re way in over their heads. Creative folks always need structure, or else they’d be living in their own world doing creative stuff all the time. Creativity for a company needs focus. It has to meet the company’s objective. No use having a great design for your email newsletter if it can’t reach people’s mailboxes.
3. Be honest and keep communications open: if there’s a situation to be handled, handle it right away with all the people involved. Don’t skirt around issues, don’t send a million emails with CCs to the whole world. Just march over there and talk or call on the phone. We have a lot of technology tools that enable us for communication but messages tend to drop in between. Ask yourself if your boss really check his emails? Some are married to their Blackberries, others aren’t. Make sure you know what the best communication tool there is and use it. If things have to be said, say it. People need to know. If you put up walls and hush others all the time for speaking up, they won’t bring up things anymore and not talk to you. And soon they won’t care enough and leave. You can share knowledge and reach decisions faster if you just popped into some one's office and ask the question.
4. Go out for victories AND sad things: When Sterling Cooper wins a client, they have a celebratory drink. When they have to fire someone, they say their goodbyes at a bar. While you don’t need to get drinks involved, you can still make it into an event, no matter how small it is. Did someone win a sale? Broadcast it! Is someone leaving the office? Set some time to give them a warm farewell. Show that you care, that you support them, and if it’s a valuable talent, tell them that the door is always open for them to come back.
5. Empower and trust your core team: When Lane Pryce (Jared Harris) joined Sterling Cooper, the management team treated him like an equal. They valued him because of his skills and personal merits, not his past or family, or the fact that he was from across the pond. Because of this, Pryce gave unquestioned loyalty to the company and the management. It was a huge advantage when Pryce learned about their British parent company, PPL being sold. The team was smart enough to get all their core members in place and vacate the premises, and keep their business.
Can you spot other HR lessons from Mad Men? It’ll be great if you can share in the comments section.