By Sarah Anderson, Client Services Director, Live & Breathe
Given that people are an agency’s main asset, it’s important to spend a lot of time looking for the right people and then – once you’ve found them – looking after them, growing them and trying to ensure their own objectives are being met.
I’ve had my share of appalling bosses over the years, so I am acutely aware that bosses need to be useful and create an environment for their people to succeed and thrive. My guiding thought is what I would have wanted, and so try to be that person to my own team.
Great people don’t grow on trees, so it’s crucial to try and find people who are a good fit. And that’s the same whether they are coming in at a junior level or as team leaders. Diversity is imperative and should be a priority for organisations – we deem it essential in our creative business. It’s a little harder since Brexit and the added paperwork that’s brought, but the right people are vital, and competition is stiff for genuine talent.
Much is uncovered in the interviews, and it’s necessary to have two to three rounds. I seek out the right attitude, enthusiasm, a desire to learn, and values that will allow someone to thrive in an agency setting – curiosity, ambition, tenaciousness and conscientiousness. The right individual also needs to demonstrate an entrepreneurial spirit, a deep interest in consumer behaviour and that they’re on top of the latest industry trends and innovation.
To ensure cohesion in the team, I always ensure that candidates meet several of their potential colleagues. The desire and ability to match values marries the agency’s requirement with the fulfilment of the candidate, it must be a deal of mutual benefit, so identifying the drivers of the candidate starts a relationship of mutual benefits and stability.
There also needs to be an ongoing push towards training – both that which is identified by us and by the individual concerned (sometimes identified as part of the appraisal process). Our line managers have regular meetings with their team members to celebrate success, coach where needed and review objectives.
And I am always available to any member of the team to mentor or help with problems. It’s vital that no one feels isolated – and that’s even more important these days with hybrid working.
Trust is at the heart of any successful team. When we work collaboratively towards achieving our goals it builds trust and increases motivation and confidence. Establishing this culture of trust can help the team feel empowered, take risks, innovate together, and deliver outstanding results. I believe that trust is built on these leadership pillars:
This industry thrives on relationships. To succeed in an agency, candidates need to demonstrate that they care about the work, take a vested interest in their clients’ success (which in turn drives our success!)
They also need to care about other members of the team and the wider agency. I don’t think there is anything more important than showing up for a team member when they need help. This includes being visible when problems occur and being proactive as a whole team to resolve them – not just leaving it and hoping for the best outcome. It also means giving someone the space to speak up when they have concerns, opinions or ideas.
Clarity and Communication
Having a clear vision and goals is imperative so people know how their work ladders up to help achieve these goals. Clarify each persons’ role and responsibilities and set clear expectations. Maintaining regular, honest and consistent dialogue strengthens relationships between managers and team members, enhances transparency and fosters collaboration.
Make sure everyone feels their voice is being heard, by listening and being empathetic. Appraisal systems are an obvious example. When I first started working in agencies, I discovered a lack of awareness among employees about how to ask about and prepare for promotion. I have made a concerted effort to revamp the appraisal process at places I’ve worked, so that these conversations became much clearer and more structured.
Credit and Feedback
I am a great believer in feedback. I want my team to feel inspired and empowered to share their ideas and concerns. I want them to learn from projects when things have not worked out and to really understand why it’s happened. I also make sure I invite their feedback on how I can do better.
To this end, project wash-ups are a useful tool, as well as regular meetings to help the team prioritise when workloads are high. In my current role, we have monthly team meetings where we rotate the chairperson, which works great. And most importantly, it’s important to continuously celebrate successes and give credit, recognising and rewarding hard work and effort.
Possibly most important, in my opinion, is to lead by example and let your team know you have their back and their best interests at heart. You need to help them embrace innovation and adapt to changing circumstances and have the courage to challenge the status quo. Every team member has a role to play in the success of the agency. However, equally crucial is a sense of collective accountability with everyone collaborating together to achieve the same goals. People should want to come to work to learn from their leader but also others around them, inspiring each other and growing together.
I love this industry. It is exciting. Every day is different. I have been lucky to work with some extraordinary people. However, nothing is more rewarding than seeing talent you’ve nurtured become future leaders. People are our key asset and I believe if we look after and care for them, they are able to look after and grow our businesses. It’s not complicated – even if it’s sometimes tough to do.