Over several past decades, my opinions have evolved about works and what might not in developing strategically grounded marketing communication programs and strategies.  I’ve worked in enough shops and read enough material, to know what makes sense. And recently, as I was thumbing through a book on leadership by Admiral James Stavridis, former Supreme Allied Commander of NATO, I read where he mentions the need to manage down, manage up, and manage sideways.  I got the down and up, but managing sideways?

I gathered what Stavridis was writing about.  In the Navy, section heads have to work closely with each other to figure out the best paths to take in solving problems and assembling strategies.  They can’t work independently of each other.  A strategy isn’t a good strategy in isolation.  It needs to connect with a list of people and situations.  Trying to come up with a best solution or strategy by yourself can cause you to get stuck in a single wrong thought.  The way to get unstuck is to involve others.

Carry that into a mar-com world and it’s no different.  I’m thinking specifically about the account service director and the creative director.  It’s not just a collaboration, but should be an on-going working relationship that is crucial in developing an effective strategy and marketing communications for clients. This leads to a more comprehensive understanding of a client’s needs and a balance between creativity and strategy.

Carrying out strategies is an iterative process where you have to change, adjust, and reconfigure to accomplish an objective.  That’s best done with the involvement of great subordinates. This is because a commander is working with multiple subordinates, some pushing to be more aggressive and others seeking greater caution.  It’s up to the boss to somehow meld all of the inputs to achieve the objective.

Think about an agency CEO charging his shop to deliver the best advice to a client trying to gain critical market share. The last thing he needs to have is an account service director advocating caution based on past experience and a creative director pushing hard for a fresh, never-been-done creative execution. Train wreck.

It makes simple sense for the account service director and the creative director to work closely together to reach a reasonable outcome—reasonable.  But what would it take to achieve an incredible outcome?  An outcome that would blow the doors off and move product off the shelf.  It would take an account director and creative chief who actually enjoyed working with each other—feeding off each other.

What many account people love about working in this category is the long and great relationships that develop.  In particular, it’s the relationships we develop with our siblings in the creative group.  They’re not just coworkers, they’re our partners.  We will succeed or fail based on their efforts and our input.  It wouldn’t hurt to spend more time with them.  Account people understand that creatives can often exist on a different plane—planet.  But they’re our brothers and sisters.  You’re going to have to get along with them.