My time with Curt had been limited to a few meetings at industry
events.We honored him as a Media Maven in 2007 and most recently we
shared breakfast in Manhattan late last fall. While I didn't know
Curt well, what I did know was this: He was extraordinarily smart
and created a vision that people could get behind. He wasn't afraid
to speak his mind, even if it ruffled feathers, and he believed in
being good to people. This last idea was never explicit, but became
apparent in some of the stories he shared over breakfast. By all
accounts, Curt was a leader.
Which brings me to the subject of this column -- actually a
series of columns I've been planning well before I opened my email
after promising myself I wouldn't check it while on vacation. I've
been drawn to the subject for a while now after some pretty
troubling statistics caught my attention. The editors and I decided
it would kick off after Labor Day, with this, a column about the
In preparation, I've begun interviewing people at all levels in
companies of all kinds -- from the most established to newer
organizations just starting out-- to find the common threads of
great leaders and thriving cultures and the ideas which, at scale,
could have a greater impact across the board.
Sadly, I will never have the opportunity to interview Curt on
this subject, but I can include some wisdom David Kenny shared in
the memo he sent to the Weather Co. family upon Curt's passing.
"In every tough situation, Curt kept me anchored on what matters
-- family first, our people second, clients and audience third --
and the money will take care of itself."
Curt understood something that many of us lose sight of
sometimes. With so much pressure on quarterly earnings and the ever
increasing pace of our always-on, tech fueled, data-focused world,
we are in danger of losing perspective on what matters most: taking
care of our people.
We talk often about a talent crisis, but data show we are
heading toward not just a talent crisis, but a human one.
We've all seen the Gallup study showing that only 30% of workers
are engaged at work in the U.S. and only 13% globally. But what we
haven't read about as much about are the burnout and stress levels
at an all time high across executives and our workforces. According
to Finnish researchers, people who work 48 hours or more are more
likely to engage in "risky alcohol use" than their 47-and-fewer
hour counterparts. The concern for ourselves, our colleagues and
our friends is obvious, and will only continue to peak unless we
begin to make it a key priority.
From a pure business perspective, the implications are
significant. When our people are depleted, we are not getting the
best from them – their best ideas, their best efforts or
their clearest thinking about anything -- and it is costing
organizations billions of dollars, most measurably in sick days and
As I've begun my conversations, the first consistent thread that
has emerged is that companies that have employees who are engaged
and focused on the future have a stated set of core values that are
embraced and shared through all communications. Those values also
inform all decisions. These companies and the executives who lead
them are focused on profitability and at the same time taking great
strides to focus on what matters—their people. They are
creating programs and cultures that enable them to be their best
for themselves and for those around them.
In this series, I'll look to share insights gleaned from leaders
across the board to uncover not just what's being talked about, but
what is being done to take care of our people and to create
cultures where talent and business thrive. I hope to discover
businesses that are using their platforms to create a more
meaningful impact on their people, their community and our world,
while also driving profit.
There is a lot the advertising industry can teach others about
developing culture and creating a meaningful connection with
people, and there is great work happening in other sectors from
which we too can learn.
Like everything else, sometimes the column will be serious and
sometimes much more lighthearted, but I hope it will always focus
on what matters. To do that I need your help. Let me know about the
leaders who are inspiring you, the programs you're putting in place
to have a more meaningful impact, to create a better culture and
drive results. Let me know what you're wrestling with, so I can
help bring some solutions to bear.
Ultimately, it all comes down to leadership, so it seems fitting
to feature Curt in this first column. To honor his memory, a fund
that has been set up to help Curt achieve his greatest wish, which
was making sure his daughters were set up to reach their full
potential. You can also help them achieve that here.