I can't take credit for the original idea. That belongs to erstwhile Peppercommers Stephanie Chaney and Jenny Grendel. They're the ones who, hearing my various thoughts on agency leadership and innovation, suggested I put my money where my mouth was and swap jobs with a member of the rank-and-file. Job swap, they said, and you'll have a much better feel for what the agency needs to do to be better.
And, job swap I did. And, I found that Steph and JenGren were 100 percent right.
I first became Rob Longert for a day and saw how much time was being wasted on mundane daily news searches (we ended up outsourcing the function to our London office in a true win-win fashion. They made money for the searches and our New York employees gained invaluable strategic time).
I also experienced the then-horrific acoustics of cubeland and asked our office manager to install sound-absorbing baffles in the ceiling. And, I saw how difficult it was to report into multiple bosses, all of whom had priorities and deadlines. We subsequently created workshops aimed at helping better manage up, down and across the organization as a result.
Being Rob Longert for a day sucked the lifeblood out of me. But, I think it made our New York office just a little better.
I next became Sophie Hanson in our London office. Whilst (notice my deft use of the Queen's English) my experiences as Sophie weren't quite as seismic, I did do a spot of press release writing and pitching and had any number of Brits hang up on me because they couldn't understand my 'weird' New Jersey accent.
And, what of Rob and Sophie? How did they spend their days as Steve Cody? Each authored a 'guest' Repman blog. Each imitated my daily regimen by disappearing for a long workout at lunchtime and each attended various internal meetings in which they, like me, contributed little save a few corny jokes. Rob also came precariously close to selling Peppercom to a larger agency in his 24-hour stint as managing partner.
So, what do I hope from becoming Laura Zanzal for a day?
- a few nitpicks that I can spot and improve for the greater good.
- a better appreciation for the frenetic lives of our junior people.
- a definite need for a long, cool beer around 5:30pm on Thursday.