Fighting fires

November 29, 2015

Do you ever have days where everything seems to go wrong and you are racing around, solving one problem after another? Those are the days when you could swear the title on your business card reads "Firefighter" instead of "Account Manager".

Being the agency middleman - between your internal team and your client - you are the one everyone will turn to with their questions, concerns and catastrophes. You are the one they will rely on to magically make their pain go away.

Agency pace can be high, and some days you will feel like demands and fire balls are being thrown at you faster than you can deal with them. At that point you have two options. #1: crumple in the corner and cry; or #2: shine like the account management superstar that you are (or will be)!


Option #1: Crumpling and Crying

Believe it or not, crumpling and crying is a valid option, and an all-too-common occurrence. It's usually a great indicator of either an issue within you (the way you are managing yourself and/or your clients), or an issue within your agency (systems, processes, workload). It pays to remember that crumpling and crying actually doesn't achieve or solve anything (other than releasing a bit of pressure from your head), and all your fires will still be there when you get back to your desk.

If you feel you are becoming overwhelmed on a regular basis, have a chat to your supervisor ASAP. There may be various ways to deal with the problem, such as:

  • improving agency systems and processes,
  • redistributing team workload,
  • putting you on a stress management programme,
  • reviewing your personal working style (organisation, time management, prioritisation, etc),
  • discussing whether or not agency account management is truly the right path for you.


Option #2: Shining

Assuming you choose option #2 (and I really hope you do), you again have two options on how to push through the ultra-high-stress days. You can either put on your gear and fight the fires with confidence; or simply fake it 'til you make it.

Learning how to cope with conflicting deadlines, demanding clients, slow designers, inefficient systems, etc, comes with experience. The sad truth is that you'll have to walk through many fires in order to learn how to fight them. If you find you are facing a new fire, then put on your winning smile, take a deep breath, and start by extinguishing one little flame at a time. Before you know it, the whole fire will be out!

We all have the power to choose how we react to every situation we find ourselves in. We can choose to crumple, be afraid, be overwhelmed; or we can choose to be strong, logical, and reason situations through, even when your anxiety level is rising.

Remember that you are rarely alone. If you feel like you cannot quench all the fires by yourself, raise your hand for help. Almost everyone has a supervisor or a team around them. Ask, delegate, spread the load, talk with your clients, raise the warning flag. The best firefighters know that the way to survive and thrive is to work as a team; and the best teams watch each other's backs. 

Try to deal to the fires when they are small, before they start to rage out of control, and you will - hopefully - never have to crumple in the corner and cry again!




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