Why does it take a leaving card to open us up?

Why does it take a leaving card for us to show our appreciation to our colleagues?

I was recently asked to act as a referee for one of the nicest and most talented copywriters in advertising. True to his job title, he came up with a really inventive way of making this happen.

“Record 30” of yourself talking about me on your iPhone,” was the brief.

Cue bad office lighting and a wonky phone balanced on a coffee table and you pretty much get the idea for the setting of my recording. However, shoddy filming technique aside, this ingenious process got me thinking. I said some really heartfelt, deeply flattering things about my “mate,” let’s just call him Stu for argument’s sake. And Stu was absolutely, 100% deserving of all of them, and then some.  It just took him asking me to film myself as his referee for me to say them.

This got me thinking. Why is it that, far too often the things we really should say, get left unsaid, unless you’re talking leaving cards?

I have had some remarkable leaving cards in my time. Thoughtful, witty and enormously kind cards prepared with care and craft by people who gave enough of a damn to stay late after finishing their day jobs to make something beautiful just for me. People have written the most extraordinary things in my leaving cards, people I didn’t even think knew the first thing about me have revealed insight and wisdom that has left me humbled.

Perhaps it’s because the finality of a leaving card removes the delicate balance of power and the inevitable vulnerability that goes with it. No hidden agendas, no undercurrent intended. Just truth, simplicity and well-wishes. Years ago, I started repaying the kindness by writing my very best words of love when my colleagues moved on.  Rainy day reading material to celebrate the individual, warts and all.

The little video I recorded a couple of days ago for Stu woke me up to something. It’s a simple thing really, but I’ll be applying it with gusto from now on. No more waiting for leaving cards. I’ll be telling my colleagues proudly each day how they blow me away. How they drive me nuts in a good way and how they make me laugh when I need it most.

As a striking contrast to some of the nasty, personal attacks we see all too often in the ‘Anonymous Comments’ sections of AdNews and Campaign Brief, I think it’s high time we embrace the power of flattery. Right now, it’s an appreciation society of one, but I hope it snowballs and changes the world…  

…Or, at the very least, the industry.