The Roger Sterling Guide to Agency Life (#MadMen)

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Season five of AMC’s Mad Men has (in my humble opinion) been the best yet. For me, it has represented agency life like no other show ever has, especially in relation to client and staff handling.

And the star of stars, especially in season five has been Roger Sterling. Sure, Don Draper is the main guy, but no-one delivers the wisdom and sage advice that Mr Sterling does week in and week out.

After giving Roger’s stellar advice some deeper consideration, it turns out that we may have a few new agency rules to live by. So, here is the Roger Sterling Guide to Agency Life…

Never take ‘no’ for an answer…if anything, embrace it

We all have moments when we’re not sure if a prospect would be open to an approach. The fear of being told ‘no’ is often the biggest obstacle, especially if you’ve been through a bit of a rough patch.

Roger’s advice is simple, turn a negative into a positive.

In Roger’s own words (on being met with a ‘no’):

“You used to love ‘no.’ ‘No’ used to make you hard.”

Hard to argue with that (pardon the pun).

Making the awkward less awkward

When you work with people long enough, you tend to develop friendships as well as professional relationships. These personal ties can often make things like redundancies difficult because you are not just making decisions limited to business.

There is a way around this however. Simply DO NOT associate with any staff beyond the senior management group and then the only challenge you face is a temporary one.

Here’s Roger’s articulate position on delivering such news:

“I’ve got to learn a bunch of people’s names before I fire them?” (Luckily, the pain is temporary).

Sometimes less is more

We all want our voices to be heard, and this is especially true in agency environments. But sometimes, you actually add more value by not saying anything at all.

Not convinced? Perhaps a system needs to be put in place that rewards people for biting their tongues more often. It seems Roger is in support such a system.

“I respect anything that rewards you for silence.” 

Sage advice.

Roger on job satisfaction

Mr Sterling isn’t exactly someone you’d put in the diligent or conscientious box, preferring to show clients a good time as opposed to creating copy that makes the hair stand up on the back of your neck.

But, it doesn’t mean he doesn’t care. In fact, Roger’s ability to mix business with pleasure proves that anyone can find job satisfaction if they search hard enough, as he’s very happy to attest to:

“When this job is good it satisfies every need. Believe me, I remember.”

Perhaps we all just need to pinpoint our ‘inner Roger’ and let it out?

Managing tricky clients and prospects

Managing your emotions in agency world is a tricky task. Sometimes, you develop relationships with clients that creates an atmosphere of incredible creativity and energy, leading to the production of great work. But (very occasionally) you butt heads, which means taking a slightly different approach.

Roger’s philosophy on this subject is a simple, yet effective one.

“Just go in there and keep your cool. But if he baits you, I want you to punch him in the balls.”

Whether or not you take Roger’s advice is your prerogative, but what was acceptable in the 1960’s may not be as acceptable today…especially if you cause any long term damage.

There are of course a bunch of other great Roger Sterling one-liners from Mad Men, including this great compilation on YouTube from the New York Magazine.

So, as the sadness of the impending season finale kicks in, let’s all take a moment and thank Roger for his wisdom and vision.

If you’ like to see the individual Roger Sterling quote glogs, check out the Roger Sterling on Work / Life board on Pinterest.

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