About three months ago, I realized that I hadn’t spent as much time as I’d like with some of our creative team members. So I decided to do something about it. I decided to meet with everyone — over 250 people — over coffee for 30 minutes. The questions were simple: what’s working? What’s not working? What would you like to be doing more in 2018? What can I do to help?
I learned a lot (so far — I’m not finished). The most important thing I learned was location is everything. The first few meetings I held in my office — and they felt a little forced. Not relaxed. Not free-flowing. And that’s when I realized — I had to move the meeting from my office to a neutral location. Coming to my office felt like you were being summoned to the Vice Principals office. Something bad was coming. Everyone was waiting for the other shoe to drop.
That’s when I moved the meetings to the coffee bar. Yes, we have a coffee bar in our office. There are four high-top cafe tables. I’ve been having the meetings there — in full view of everyone in the office. And magically, the conversations were loose. Fun. Energetic. And dare I say, productive for everyone.
But most importantly, I’ve learned a lot. And those learnings are setting multiple work streams in motion. New agency projects have begun. New opportunities for team members have unfolded. And (hopefully) a more open line of communication between me and the rest of the group has emerged. Here’s what I’ve learned so far:
- Everyone feels like they could be doing more. “Challenge me.” “Make me accountable.” “Let me take risks and fail.” “Help me learn by doing.” “Don’t assume that lack of experience means lack of ability.” These are the common requests I’ve been hearing. Virtually every person has said some variation of these words. “I can offer more. Put me to the test and I won’t let you down.” And the most important part — these requests are coming from people who are the busiest. Who are working the hardest. Who probably don’t really have the time to do more. But they’re willing to do more if it means more ownership. I love this. I love the concept of ownership and accountability.
- Everyone wants to be a part of the new business process. Pitching is incredibly hard work. But its also the one time when you can do work exactly like you want. You can create concepts without thinking about legal and regulatory approvals. You can just create great ideas. And everyone wants in. Luckily, we can always use more help in new business. Welcome to the party.
- Everyone wants someone to go to when they’re stuck, have a question or just need something. This was an interesting comment. One part mentoring program. One part ‘Genius Bar’. One part wise sage. I didn’t realize how many people just needed help with a lot of simple agency stuff. These are ‘part time’ relationships. Not really long-term mentors. But someone they can turn to when they have a stupid question. And I realized that realistically, that person can’t be me.
There are more micro-suggestions on how to make things better. I’ll save those for another day. But once I’ve finished meeting with everyone here, I plan on taking this on the road. Listening to people from our other network agencies. To colleges and universities around the nation on what students are looking for in a new career. And I plan on attending multiple conferences to hear some of the best and the brightest in the industry on how to make our working environment even better. Our agency philosophy is ‘Never Finished.’ And when it comes to learning — that couldn’t be more true.