Mad Men Business Lessons: Expect the Best from Your People

April 29, 2013

Don’t Fall Asleep on Mad Men

Don Draper (Jon Hamm) and Roger Sterling (John Slattery) – Mad Men – Season 6, Episode 5 – Photo Credit: Michael Yarish/AMC

Last night’s episode of Mad Men, ominously titled “The Flood,” sucker punched viewers with the assassination of Martin Luther King. It was light on business and heavy on the characters navigating through their personal dilemmas. Don Draper showed affection to his son Bobby while admitting the lack of a real father figure in his life likely explained his inability to do the same for his children. Pete Campbell, struggling with his recent dislocation from his family shows empathy for the tragic assassination. Peggy hopefully contemplates the idea of kids with Abe and Joan made an effort to bridge the gulf with her secretary Dawn.

Expect the Best

This week we’re exploring another business lesson to be learned from Mad Men; expect the best from your people. This one might be more of a stretch and may not be as episode specific but is important none the less. Employers who set high standards get high quality outcomes from their people. This translates into a better customer service experience for your clients. If you set a low bar, expect mediocre outcomes. Author and business consultant John DiJulius understands this well and is worth looking into (http://thedijuliusgroup.com/johndijulius). He believes high standards begin with hiring the right people. Don Draper is famous at asking a lot from his creative people and will quickly send them back to the drawing board if he feels their proposals for clients are incoherent or ineffective. Presumably it is this drive for quality work that has helped their spin-off advertising firm grow and weather the loss of their large tobacco client from two seasons ago.

Realistic Goals

In my experience, employees will rise to the occasion of high standards if you expect them to achieve. If you clearly communicate objectives, offer support and direction needed to achieve these goals and set realistic and measurable objectives, you’re in a strong position to capitalize. Celebrating this achievement is equally important and reinforces the importance of working toward hitting the goals. This week the Volano crew will head out to the movies Friday afternoon. Our development team has worked hard with our clients and have earned a half day of hooky. It may not be martinis at lunch Mad men style but we’ll take it.