Want to add value? Be the smartest person in the room.

Want to add value to your team? Be the smartest person in the room. (All joking aside)

One immediate lesson I learned about how to succeed in an advertising agency (and this probably speaks true in any services firm) is to always be the smartest person in the room in at least one pressing topic or detail. Successful people always know more than the rest (at least in the matter at hand) and gain incredible power and respect because of it.

Taking a step back, I bring this point to attention not to advocate a cocky attitude or the advanced stages of “man that guy thinks he knows everything – ITIS”, but simply to remind readers (and myself) that there are critical moments in time when a team needs and seeks answers from someone who “knows”. The point is – be ready to step up and be that person.  

In any team environment (whether you are pitching a major new client or starting a new campaign, or what have you) uncommon knowledge is sought after and rewarded for its added value to the team. You’ve probably witnessed a situation where there was a “specialist” in the room who contributed a crucial piece of information, or insight, or knowledge that was overlooked, but vitally important. In that moment, not only did the team as a whole gain, but that person really benefited in the eyes of their peers.

The truth is, the contribution doesn’t even have to be world-shattering. You can add value in almost anyway, and in almost any group situation. Be the one who has the RFP criteria memorized, or has a 1-page backgrounder of the prospective client handy, or found a legal issue that must be addressed.

To some, this ability comes naturally, to others it is a conscious and deliberate daily effort. For me it is the latter. And for those like me, here is our goal: commit to being the go-to person for at least one topic for every project. It’s that simple. Actively bring one extra fact, skill, trend or piece of encyclopedic knowledge to the table every time. Not only will the team as a whole benefit but so will you.  

So, do it. Be the smartest person in the room.


About mjkurb

Michael is the Manager of Business Development at Element 79, a full-service advertising agency in Chicago, Illinois, and recent graduate of the Master's program at Northwestern University - Medill School - Integrated Marketing Communicaitons. Running two family businesses - learned to constantly listen and be aware of customer's needs and behaviors. Master's degree Northwestern University | Medill IMC - learned to better understand marketing insight, strategy and measurement. Rest of life - learned that working harder, smarter and faster than others is how you stay one step ahead.
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