On Sunday night, AMC aired the season five finale of “Mad Men.” (If you haven’t watched it yet, don’t worry—no spoilers in this story.) Season five has, in my humble opinion, been the best yet. For me, it represents agency life like no other show before it, especially in relation to the handling of clients and staff.
The star of stars, especially in this season, has been Roger Sterling. Sure, Don Draper is the main guy, but no one delivers wisdom and sage advice like Roger, week in and week out.
After giving Roger's stellar advice some deeper consideration, I think there might be a few new agency rules to live by. So, as the sadness of the season finale kicks in, let's all take a moment and thank Roger for his wisdom and vision.
Never take ‘no’ for an answer; if anything, embrace it.
We all have moments when we're not sure if a prospect is 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 his own words (on being met with a “no”): “You used to love 'no.' 'No' used to make you hard.”
Hard to argue with that.
Making the awkward less awkward.
When you work with people long enough, you develop friendships as well as professional relationships. These personal ties can often make matters— such as layoffs—difficult because you’re 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. That way, 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 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 of such a system.
“I respect anything that rewards you for silence.”
As I’ve been saying, sage advice.
Roger chimes in on job satisfaction.
Roger 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. 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?
You must manage tricky clients and prospects.
Managing your emotions in agency world is a tricky task. Sometimes, you develop relationships with clients that create an atmosphere of incredible creativity and energy, leading to the production of great work. But (very occasionally) you butt heads with people, 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 you take Roger's advice is your prerogative, but what was acceptable in the 1960s may not be today—especially if you could cause long-term damage.
There are, of course, many other great Roger Sterling one-liners from “Mad Men,” including this compilation on YouTube from New York magazine
If you'd like to see the individual Roger Sterling quote images, check out the Roger Sterling on Work/Life
board on Pinterest.
A version of this story first appeared on AdamVincenzini.com.