How to make your agency extraordinary

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Employees and clients need to know agencies are serious about protecting our greatest assets: each other.

In business—and in life—we can’t reach our fullest potential alone. Individualism is for the birds if you seek a meaningful existence with a fulfilling purpose. The best days are made from those sublime moments of appreciation born of mutually beneficial relationships. And that’s a sign of equity in agency leadership.

My partners and I built our business from scratch, so the consequences of every thought and decision conditioned a keen awareness within our agency culture. We wanted everyone—employees as well as clients—to know that we were serious about protecting our greatest assets: each other.

We like to think that this philosophy works. My sincere belief is that extraordinary people don’t associate with fools or dwell in environments that take advantage of them. When we value the indivisibility of our personal goals from the people around us, we’ll transcend the age-old assumptions that knock the industry.

Here are five tips on how to make your agency extraordinary:

Employees evolve when you grow with them.
Nothing is as satisfying as knowing your agency culture can help employees reach personal and professional goals. Agency leaders need to encourage their people to develop profound perspectives, clever ways of seeing things and daring approaches—character qualities that enhance an organization’s emotional intelligence. Being open to and incorporating the insights individuals bring from life experience, and even other industries, makes for a living, breathing business entity capable of evolving with enterprising clients.

Loyalty and trust are mutual of purpose.
When employees know they are valued, that fulfillment sparks purpose and stokes achievement. I’ve been in competitive situations where my hand was forced to commit my team to something audacious. Those are vital moments of leadership: trusting your team will understand, will see themselves in the work, will rally a plan, will run through walls and drive challenges into opportunities for excellence. They do it not because I demand it, but because they want to win it together. At the same time, know when that level of deployment is necessary. It’s not a method. It’s a gift.

Work, and let live.
As a leader, I don’t want to recreate the environment that looted my life of moments I’ll never get back. Though it’s sometimes necessary to push long and hard, I don’t often email people at night or on weekends, and I’m careful and conscious of the extreme work habits that can wrench personal and family time. Loyalty is not blind. It’s earned by honoring commitment to extraordinary work while at the same time respecting the importance of your team’s right to quality of life. It’s a mindset that defines the character of great work cultures. 

Integrating skill levels ups the ante and the octane.
Personal investment in someone with limited practical knowledge pushes them to flex, and the whole team experiences raw opportunities for professional growth when junior-level or new talent brings valuable contributions to a project. If the stakes are high for both staff and leadership and they’re in it together, synergy is born of that tension, ideally presenting opportunities for camaraderie. When cultivating talent becomes a part of an organization’s business culture, the velocity of those kinetic moments starts to measure as momentum—and therein lies growth, as individuals and as a team. 

Smarter hires sharpen leadership.
A little upward pressure from your team drives focus for staying on top of what’s happening in the business. Make no mistake: a leader should be more hard-working and hard-charging than the team, with an intensity equally as devoted to valuing the personal needs of employees at every level. But it’s also a leader’s responsibility to mentor employees and help them shine. The rewards are tenfold when your protégé surpasses your level of expertise and comes back to you with new approaches and insightful revelations that inform the future of your practice. With healthy competitive relationships comes renewed value for leadership, and the cycle continues. The real question is: are you confident enough to hire this way? 

Bob Bailey is partner and business lead at Truth Collective.