Years ago I studied acting with the great Ellen Burstyn. One of the things she spoke of often was the notion of entelechy—an organism’s best, most fully-realized self. (For example, an acorn’s entelechy is a gigantic oak.)
I find myself coming back to this idea frequently. Whether it’s thinking about a person, a brand, or even an agency. Each has, almost by definition, untapped potential. And I believe it’s a leader’s job to find that potential and help draw it out.
With this thought in mind, creative showings become not gauntlets, but opportunities to coach. Client meetings become not sales pitches, but a search for the core truth of a brand. And agency planning isn’t as much about wins and losses as it is creating an environment that will let everybody be their best self, and the belief that wins will follow.
What gets in the way of us thinking about this? Often, it’s deadlines. When you have a red circle on the calendar, you need to cover distance every day you’re working. And so it’s tempting to lower your shoulder and run full speed ahead. And the thing is, with smart people, that often works. We get to where we wanted to get to. But if we get there without making anyone better, and if we’ve left a trail of co-workers behind us, we’re actually sacrificing our collective entelechy.
The way I try to adjust for this is by reminding myself to be both definitive and descriptive at the same time. Definitive in that it’s critically important to make calls quickly and clearly. Descriptive in that every time you make a call, it’s important to tell people why, and turn it into an opportunity for them to learn a little something.
As for client meetings, it’s drawing out these two things through questions and very active listening. You want to come away with not just the definitive "campaign #2" or "that one sounds like us." You need to get to the descriptive, the why of things. Because each why is an opportunity for you to learn as well.
That’s the great thing about focusing on the entelechy—it’s mutually beneficial. Great talent makes a great agency, and a great agency helps businesses become great as well.
So my resolution is to remind myself to focus on the entelechy each and every day.
If we all do that, what a new year we’ll have.