Over 10 years of experience in the agency environment and I’m still learning a lot about what it takes to manage a team of people. Managing people is no simple task and it comes with so many more challenges than you realize. One of the toughest things about working with people is that they are, in fact, human. We have unique nervous system’s, brain patterns, personalities and ways in which we react to different situations.
What I learned over the years, is that managing people is much less about actually managing people. Strange right? That’s the honest truth. I think in terms of leadership, you have a responsibility to your team to help them grow, to create new opportunities, and to help them grow experiences throughout their career. I believe the foundation for a strong leader lies in your ability to address and appreciate every single unique value each person brings to your organization.
To build the best agency in the world, the people should come first (clients/employees). Unfortunately, not all companies are adept at this style of management and not everyone has the natural talent to be a successful leader. You can work around some of these challenges through careful training and coaching over long periods of time. This one of many reasons why it’s so important that you invest in your workforce and processes. Bottom line, a great leader should care more about everyone else in the organization, than themselves.
So, how do you make your team feel good? How do you properly recognize a single person? How do you inspire people to feel like they’re a part of a larger plan?
Recognition, and the feedback loop.
If you don’t have a feedback loop now, stop reading this and go set that up as soon as you can. There are all kinds of tools out there that help you gather feedback from your internal team, but I personally like Officevibe. The tool allows you to collect anonymous feedback, users can submit feedback non-anonymously, and you can have an open dialogue between different team members without as many filters. Even the best leaders face situations where team members aren’t providing you with real feedback.
While having a feedback loop is important the engagements you’re having is what really matters. What good is getting a bunch of comments and suggestions from your team when you’re not willing to spend the time to read through them and respond appropriately? Getting your team to invest back into the company means you need to invest into them first and you can do this by simply listening and acting where appropriate.
Officevibe also gives you the opportunity to look at engagement numbers and performance in different areas based on survey questions distributed through email or Slack or some other channel. This is great because it shows you where you need to grow and improve over time.
Nothing happens right away, but if your “stress score” is really low, then you know you need to make some adjustments somewhere and open up a dialogue with your team to understand what’s stressing them out. You might know what this is already, but do not ignore the stress and those contributing factors.
If you do not address these concerns you will find yourself in a more difficult situation with your team. So, pay attention to your people!
Knowing when a job’s well done.
Acknowledging that your team has done something great doesn’t happen in the workplace as often as it should. Most people work so hard and want to do such a great job, but don’t always feel their work is appreciated. It’s a lot easier to tell someone they did something wrong than to point out something they did great. I’m not suggesting you only give positive feedback. There is a balance between positive and constructive feedback. Know the difference between the two and act accordingly.
If your team successfully saved a client from moving to a new service provider, then you should celebrate those efforts. If your Account Manager loses three accounts in one month, really understand if this is an employee issue or sheer coincidence. People rarely want to do bad work and sometimes their performance can be directly tied to how they’re feeling day-to-day at the office.
Even in your darkest hours, you have to be that bright light. Part of your role is to keep the team motivated and interested in the work they’re doing. It’s not the most fun to get into tough situations, to have payments not go through or have an upset client. When you’re in a position of leadership you must rise above those challenges and learn from past mistakes. We’re taught at a young age that doing something “bad” means getting “disciplined”. Nobody wants to feel disciplined. If you find yourself in a loop of disciplining the same team members over and over, you may have hired the wrong employee.
….So loosen up and get to know your people. Send a bunch of GIPHY’s and give positive feedback often (just try not to be cheesy about it). When you’re in person, give them your full attention and some eye contact! Did a designer create a really amazing design for a client? Don’t just think about how you feel, tell them and your whole team about the great job you’re doing. This will raise the energy level and engagement of your team and is an important factor in creating a really great working environment.
This sounds kind of funny I know, but I’m serious about this. While leaders can be abrupt, egotistical and demanding they can also be caring, communicate clearly and appreciate the human element. More importantly, they lead people. Not everyone wants to be led, but a majority of us do. We want to know what path we’re on, what it means for me and what we’re doing to reach our destination.
There is power and opportunity in leading teams. You have the ability to bring out the best in everyone through positive/constructive feedback, tough love and appreciation.
A good leader knows the balance between leading people and running an organization. It’s because of this, that the job can be a pretty emotional one. It’s almost impossible to meet everyone’s individual needs all the time, but you’re gonna try and that’s all you can do.
Developing new processes? Incorporate your team into the discussion as much as you can. Make the process about them and not the organization or the success of the company. Doing so will empower your team to do more and to work against that process as often as possible because they were a part of putting it all together.
By driving and leading people you’re bound to run into a situation where someone is not very happy at all. Many times, this can be a result of underlying concerns that remain unaddressed, a lack of autonomy or personal conflicts. It’s hard for a team member to properly communicate sometimes because the emotions involved.
Some of you might be cringing right now because you know exactly what I’m talking about. The best way to de-escalate a tough conversation is to talk openly about the situation while giving your full attention and focus to the entire conversation. This means you’re looking at them and not your phone, your body language isn’t aggressive, and that you’re letting them know how important this feedback is to you.
No tool is going to help you with this last one. Some of it comes down to having the experience and learning along the way. Nobody’s perfect and everyone wants to do good work. That’s all there is to it.
How we plan on being the best agency in the world
We’re working really hard on changing the way we do business which includes products, services and how we work with people. I’m a strong believer that if you take care of your people, they’ll take care of you. Our mission is to serve our team and the awesome clients we have, better than we did yesterday.
We are, however, are going to strive to do our best work all the time, improve our products and processes, and work our asses off for the people we care about. So, that’s pretty much everybody…
Good luck to you and happy leading!