In order to grow and run a successful agency you must be able to influence your team your client’s and your suppliers. You need people to get behind your proposition, your vision for the business and key initiatives.
Over the years I’ve gone from managing small teams, to departments, all the way to managing an 80-person agency. I’ve made lots of mistakes in that time, but I’ve also learned a lot about how to be an influence for good in driving the business on to bigger and better things. Across my career, I’ve worked with a lot of smart people who have come up with amazing strategies, but have been unable to push them through because they lacked influence.
I believe that creating a positive influence is crucial towards generating enthusiasm and driving the business forward. In this post I have collated the five key areas I have found to be effective in achieving this.
Whether it’s bad or good news, be honest about it. I’ve regularly had to make tough decisions and when I haven’t been fully honest, or if I’ve held things back, in the long run this often caused more damage than if I had been completely transparent in the first place. Even if the news is bad, share it, explain it and although people might not like it, they will respect you for your honesty.
If you don’t have trust, you cannot have influence.
Not acting in a consistent way ultimately causes a lack of trust and respect, and it’s something I’ve been guilty of in the past. If you are perceived to treat people differently, reward only certain people and/or pull only certain people up, even if it’s innocent, it creates a toxic environment and will kill the culture of any agency.
It’s natural to be drawn to people you share things in common with, or have similar personality traits to, however as a leader you cannot afford to be seen as being biased in any way and must ensure you’re consistent in all your dealings.
If you’re in a leadership position it can be very easy to become set apart from everyone in the organisation. Naturally people will treat and speak to you differently, your ideas won’t always receive the scrutiny they need, and people will rarely disagree with you. Because of this you must work harder to be approachable, showing and talking about your failures. This is especially true if you need to give constructive feedback, start by explaining where you have gone wrong in the past and where you have made similar mistakes. This will help to remove any defensiveness and allow you to help others improve.
Ultimately, if you can’t be viewed as an imperfect human being, you will never really have the influence you need to drive the business forward.
I have seen lots of smart people come up with great strategies, new initiatives and clever propositions, only to sit back while others attempt to deliver against it. I’ve seen the most amazing pitches presented, only for it to be handed over to the team that will deliver it with no ongoing input from the person that sold it in. In my opinion this just doesn’t work in the agency world, you can’t just sit back and instruct, you have to be willing to go out and lead by example.
I fully appreciate we all have different roles in a business, and as leaders we need to take time out to think about strategy rather than being bogged down in day to day execution, however every now and again you have to get in the trenches and work with those delivering the work. This will help you understand the day to day issues affecting your people, it will help forge relationships and develop respect.
As a leader of any business you must listen to feedback and act. Agencies are busy businesses with multiple things happening at any one time, it can be difficult to justify time out just to listen, get feedback and talk through challenges. It shouldn’t be just your immediate senior team; you should aim to listen to all areas and levels of the business.
Doing this will allow you to adopt feedback and ideas into your broader thinking, this will allow everyone to feel part of the planning and foster not only support, but enthusiasm for the mission and vision of the agency.
You’ll come against many challenges trying to maintain your agency culture, if you lose your ability to influence then your culture and future growth are at risk. At connective3 the whole team understand these values and incorporate them into all our communications and ways of working, helping us cultivate the right culture and deliver growth.