The Story Of Three Buckets

“What I learnt about people in the advertising industry.” by Quinton Jones

I’ve never been an HR manager. I don’t know much about industrial psychology. I have however had many years of working with talent in the media and advertising industry and seeing it succeed and fail. I’ve managed to gain good understanding of people through my experiences. Those that I’ve worked with, and that know me well, know that I’ve always had a theory on how different personal strengths combine for success.

I have finally decided to write it down. It is based on the advertising and media, on my industry, but I think it is applicable to competency in general and many fields.

The Three Buckets

I believe everyone carries with them three workplace competencies or buckets. These buckets essentially determine how far you will go and whether you are successful or not.

Bucket A — Relationship. This is your ability to build relationships internally and externally. It is how you self-promote and build connection. It’s your brand. Its sales and charisma. It’s chemistry and it’s personality. It build bonds and traction with peers and clients.
Bucket B — Skill. This your core competency. It is more than likely what you originally studied. It’s what you do. Its innovation and technique. It’s insight. It’s what you are good at. It’s the value you add to clients. It’s strategy if you’re a strategist. It’s the contribution you are making and it’s you were hired to do.
Bucket C — Commercial. This is your ability to turn Bucket A and B into revenue for your company and make money. Its business acumen and your ability to maximise cash return for what you do. Harder than it sounds and it needs as much focus as the other two. This can be learnt but mostly it’s inherent and some people for whatever reason are just better at this than others.

Filling The Buckets

So what has this got to do with success? Plenty. We all start filling these buckets throughout our lives. Buckets A. Relationship and C. Commercial you can start filling from very early on. They are developed within, from experiences and circumstance from very young without you even realising it. Bucket B.Skill generally comes when you choose a direction and get practical experience and build your competency. 
Here’s the kicker! You only need to fill one and a half buckets to succeed. Sounds crazy but it’s true. There are many examples of this:

The Salesman — Think of the guy, you know him well, he has the gift of the gab and can sell ice to an Eskimo. He is everyone’s mate and clients love him. He’s not the best at what he does, and is often not the best technically, but he builds relationships and drives revenue. He really only has one and a half buckets but he somehow gets by and succeeds.

The Expert — Example two I’ll base on someone I’ve worked with in the past. Technically she is one of the most competent strategists for her years in the business. As an introvert and academic she was poor at relationships, and was average on the commercial side. Her strength was that she was technically solid, had one and a half buckets filled, and did a good job. Clients might not have always engaged with her, or even liked her much, but her input on their business was invaluable.

Think about these people you know them well. The fact is everyone is different and each of us has our own strengths that we play to. How boring it would be if we were all the same. Most people rely heavily on one bucket (Mostly either A or B) that they keep on filling, with little focus on the other two.

The real gems are the people that are filling all three buckets. They are headed for greatness and success. Even as juniors you can see who they are. They will in future, run companies, do great things and set the future pace of their industry. Think of the leaders, the pioneers, they inspire you. They have all made an effort to fill all three buckets. They have good relationships internally and externally, they are very skilled at what they do. They understand how to run a business and make revenue.

I know this model is very simplistic, and in this form really just touching the surface of the detail, but I felt but deserved some airtime. I believe this thinking has merit way beyond media and advertising and can serve as a guide for people development or selecting the future stars of your business. Who knows, maybe one day it will the subject of a book.

Some of the best advice I had in my career very early on is “Stop trying to be a better strategist”. Growth is achieved when you focus holistically, when you start filling all your buckets. So start filling those buckets!

Quinton Jones Bio.

Quinton has 20 years experience in media and communications, having run media divisions at TBWA Hunt Lascaris, DDB and Lowe Bull. He is passionate about creative ideas and innovation.
More recently as Group MD of Carat since 2007, Quinton and his team were responsible for building the agency into a formidable force from relative obscurity. The agency won a significant amount of business and subsequently moved up to the number one position on RECMA, also winning numerous local and global industry awards including Agency of the Year twice.

In 2016 Quinton joined Erica Gunning, ex Carat Jhb MD, and Hanlie van Eck in setting up Planit Media.

“I have been lucky enough to work with some very rare and special people who I’ve learnt from immensely and who’ve built my career. We’ve celebrated ridiculous highs and commiserated the lows. They’ve shaped my career and left an indelible mark. I still love every minute and will never get tired of the adrenaline rush this industry brings. ”

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