By Valentina Borbone as published in IAB Australia.
I recently attended the Customer 360 Symposium in the Hunter Valley where I heard from the most amazing speaker. Michael Henderson was the stand out in the crowd of speakers as he was talking cultural change requirements within businesses to ensure their successful transformation in our customer centric world. As I watched the 130+ delegates nod along and sing his praises afterwards, I hit the stark reality. Michael was talking about client-side businesses, yet my brain was translating this into agency/service-side relevance.
Cultural leadership change has to happen
As I recently reflected on culture myself, I wonder if my perceptions of Michael’s presentation were skewed. Culture isn’t “they way it’s done around here”, it’s more about “why” is it this way. Why are your teams behaving in this way? If you truly start to poke around, you may find that your leadership is controlling rather than empowering. If you keep putting up fences, you’ll find your business only performing up to those barriers, yet your leadership expectations will be to exceed them.
4 tips on how you CAN change your agency culture
1. Really hear and listen to your staff
As marketers, our role is communication and yet this is where we seem to fail most. Start by talking and listening. Don’t send an email. And please don’t send out a staff feedback survey! Get up and go and speak to people, ask them for their input, listen to their input, give them a voice and a voice that is heard. Don’t nod along to this point, get up and actually do it. Dell was brave enough to ask their employees “Do you like Dell?” and one brave soul replied, “Yes, I like to look at Dell in my rear view mirror as I drive home”.
2. Invest in staff development
Are you developing your people enough? Can you reasonably expect to commercially grow if the people inside your business don’t grow? You need to invest in your people. Yes, your people will move on in time and take that knowledge and skill with them at your expense, but you have to weigh up the value of the upskill whilst your have your people working with you. Training and education are key. It’s for your agency’s benefit in the long run. Have you asked your teams what skills they need to improve in their roles? We must foster innovation and continuous improvement simultaneously.
3. Give your team something to believe in
Remind your team what you do. I spent 7 years in promotional marketing and I recall my leaders asking us what they thought we did to change the world. Let’s be honest, we ran competitions for the general public to win stuff. If we had to turn that into a book cover or lift pitch, it actually read “we give people hope that great things can happen”. Give your team something to believe in and belong to, and to believe that it is great. We need to articulate a vision for the future of the team and then generate a commitment to that vision.
4. Model the expected behaviours
Leaders lead by example. Leaders need to behave in a way that instills safety and trust into the business. Connecting with other people in real terms and sharing experiences of great risks & rewards provides a vision that people can follow and contribute to. We need to lead from the centre of the circle, not from the top of the triangle. Model the expected behaviours. If we surround ourselves with great people then it should be easy to give these amazing individuals the opportunity to excel as themselves. Leaders should provide the framework that breeds success and that means breaking down the silos and egos once and for all.
So if you’re serious about being an agency of the future, one that has changed with the digital evolution and remained relevant to its customers, I hope you can tick off these essential pillars for transforming your business. Your organisation will benefit greatly, but your customers and clients will benefit the most.