Do you remember the movie “What Women Want” with Mel Gibson and Helen Hunt. You do watch any movie that takes place inside an advertising agency, don’t you? Anyway —the premise of the movie is that Mel Gibson is an arrogant, sexist ad guy who receives the “gift” of being able to hear what women are thinking all around him. As you might imagine, it was a shock to Mel’s ego to see himself through the
eyes of the women in his life.

If you haven’t seen it — check it out. It’s definitely worth a Netflix night. The movie popped into my head because I’ve had some interesting conversations with agency employees over the past few weeks and my conversation with Craig in a previous podcast also touched on how our employees see the agency and us as the agency leader. I wish you could hear their unedited thoughts because I think we unintentionally miss the mark sometimes because of our assumptions.

Like poor Mel — sometimes the listening would not be easy to hear. But given what we do for a living — we know how important perspective is and as you might imagine, the Mel at the end of the movie is a different guy than the Mel we meet initially. I wonder if that would be true for you too. Here are some of the biggest refrains that are running through agency employees’ brains that I believe are worthy of your time and attention:

  •  “I’m relieved that she got a new car. It means the agency is stable financially and I don’t have to worry about my job.”
  • “He has no idea how much harder it is to do my job when he doesn’t have time to talk to me.”
  • “Oh my God…we just decided A last week. Now he wants to do B? Why?”
  • “I’m worried about him. He looks tired and he works too much.”
  • “I know a lot of agencies are open book. I wonder why she doesn’t trust us enough to share the numbers?”
  • “It’s so hard to get my team to do (Timesheets, follow the traffic system, etc.) when he disregards it. How do I answer them when they point out that it might not be that important if the agency owner isn’t doing it.”
  • “I don’t know how she does it. I admire her and all she’s accomplished. But those are big shoes to fill. Am I ready?”
  • “I’m going to just tread water on this thing he asked me to do. He never sticks to anything. If he asks again, I guess it means he’s serious this time.”
  • “I wish I could spend more time with him. I want to be as good as he is and learn from him.
  • “It’s so frustrating that she doesn’t have her act together and then shoves her last minute projects into the workflow. How do I explain that to the client whose work is now going to be late?
  • “Does he notice that I am working my tail off? That I am trying to step up and prove how committed I am to the agency?”
  • I would kill to have a consistent weekly meeting with her. I could keep things moving if I just had her attention on a regular basis.”
  • “The team is getting worried. We haven’t had a state of the agency meeting for awhile and that usually means things are not going well.”
  • “We all care about this place and want to help. But other than just doing our jobs, we don’t know how.”

I could go on and on, but you get the point. Your team (unless you are the exception to the rule) feels a little out of the loop and while they are grateful that you work as hard as you do — it’s frustrating when they are never a consistent priority. They want more of you. More feedback. More informal teaching. More mentorship and more atta boys from you.

I watch the agency owners who truly are the exception to the rule and their agencies are on a growth path. They are experiencing less turnover and their client rendition is higher. If I can sum up what they’re doing, it’s this set of behaviors and beliefs.

  • They see their agency as a teaching tool and use performance metrics, pitch results and every other aspect of their agency’s life as lessons to be shared with the team.
  • They overshare (meaning they repeat themselves) because they know everyone is not going to retain it the first time.
  • They celebrate victories — big and small. They remind everyone why their work matters and why the team is so good.
  • They are very open about the agency’s performance, money situation and their own hopes, fears, worries and joys.
  • They are present. Sometimes half the battle is won simply by being there.
  • They say thank you often. In person.
  • They invest in the relationships and the people. They hang out, enjoy a bagel in break area with the team or participate in company outings.
  • They don’t sugar coat or dodge the tough conversations.

Every one of you is capable of all of the above. I just think you are running so fast and have so much on your mind that you forget to slow down and connect with your team. I know you want to be an amazing leader. I know you want to inspire confidence and trust. I know you want to build a team that will follow you into battle and do you proud.

Make it priority. Calendar the time. See those thought bubbles over their heads and anticipate what they might be concerned about and proactively deal with those worries.

You’ve got this. I know you do.


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