Episode 263:

After this year, I think agency leaders can all rightfully claim their MBA in leadership! With the recession and COVID-19 rewriting our plans for 2020, we’ve all been challenged to step way outside of our comfort zones. And yet, I believe we can all get even better. How can we level-up as leaders and make sure our team is aligned and bringing their best to the job?

My guest this week, Chad Carden, is on a life mission to improve the way leaders interact with their teams to create greater engagement and better results. His style is very results oriented, but it’s balanced with a goal of helping everyone on the team do their best work and feel good about the contribution. This head and heart combination lines up nicely with how I know agency owners think about and care about their team members.

During this conversation, Chad and I discuss the different ways we can ramp up for success as we build momentum into the 4th quarter of 2020 and head into 2021. Chad outlines how we can show up as better agency leaders, transform our internal environments, and drive results. We all know that when everyone is happily rowing in the same direction – good things happen!

A big thank you to our podcast’s presenting sponsor, White Label IQ. They’re an amazing resource for agencies who want to outsource their design, dev or PPC work at wholesale prices. Check out their special offer (10 free hours!) for podcast listeners here.

Agency Leaders | How to show up as a great leader within your agency

What You Will Learn in This Episode:

  • How 2020 has forced agency leaders to level-up their leadership
  • How agency leaders can carve out time for their people and build stronger connections without taking too much time out of the day
  • What agency leaders can do to make professional development a consistent part of the day-to-day
  • Why agency leaders should be focused on creating a sense of clarity, alignment, and purpose within their teams
  • What agency leaders can do to win the day and maintain the agency’s course to success
  • How agency leaders can inspire their teams to work better together
“Most agencies don’t have a lot of equipment or infrastructure—their investment is in their people. But they often don’t match the investment in training and time.” @chadcarden Click To Tweet “Agencies improve when their people improve.” @chadcarden Click To Tweet “Agency leaders have to ‘center their own needle’ on a consistent basis so they are at their best. Then, when they show up, they are prepared to help others be at their best.” @chadcarden Click To Tweet “When you create a sense of clarity, alignment, and purpose within your agency, it makes it easier to enter the day and say yes to the right things and no to the wrong things.” @chadcarden Click To Tweet “If you can win the first hour of the day, you win the day.” @chadcarden Click To Tweet “70% execution of a plan is better than 100% execution of no plan.” @chadcarden Click To Tweet

Ways to contact Chad Carden:


If you’re going to take the risk of running an agency, shouldn’t you get the benefits too? Welcome to Agency Management Institute’s Build A Better Agency Podcast, presented by White Label IQ. Tune in every week for insights on how small to midsize agencies are surviving and thriving in today’s market. We’ll show you how to make more money and keep more of what you make. We want to help you build an agency that is sustainable, scalable, and if you want, down the road, sellable. With 25-plus years of experience as both an agency owner and agency consultant, please welcome your host, Drew McLellan.

Drew McLellan:

Hey, everybody, Drew McLellan here with another episode of Build A Better Agency. Grateful that you are back. One of the things that I love to think about, and one of the things we’ve all been forced to think about is how we’re showing up as leaders inside our agencies. I think it is definitely something that COVID and the recession has forced us to level up and show up in a different way maybe then we’re comfortable or than we’re used to, and I think that’s been a good thing for many agencies and many agency owners. And so that’s going to be the topic for today, is how we can bring ourselves to a new level of leadership and also how we can bring our team to a new level of alignment, and what that means for our agency.

But before I tell you about our guest and before I introduce him, let me just remind all of you that every month, we give away a free seat at one of our live workshops or one of our on-demand workshops, and all you have to do is leave us a rating and review on the podcast wherever you download your podcasts. So if you go to Google, Stitcher, if you go to Apple Podcasts, which used to be iTunes, wherever you may go, just go to our page for the podcast, leave a rating and review, grab a screenshot of that, because as you know, YankeesSuck102, which by the way, is a great username. That doesn’t tell me who you are, what agency you work for, and it doesn’t give me your email address.

So by emailing me the screenshot of your review, then I know that I can get to you and let that you have won the workshop seat. So all you have to do is send me an email. You’ll stay in the drawing until you win, so sooner or later, you’re going to be the lucky one, and you can come and hang out with me live at one of our workshops, or you can take one of our on-demand workshops. So again, just leave a rating and review, shoot me an email with a screenshot at [email protected] That would be awesome.

Let me tell you a little bit about Chad. Chad Carden has been in leadership training, helping people get better at finding their right lane and really being able to take advantage of all of their skills, literally since he was 14 years old. And I’m going to have him tell you that story. But this is a guy who has been helping people do all of the things that sound like a cliché, but aren’t: reach their full potential, lead a team to greatness, all of those things. That’s what Chad has devoted his life to doing. And he owns a company with my good friend, Adam Carroll, called Renzo.

And they’ve got some amazing trainings that are accessible to you as a leader or to some of the leadership folks in your organization, and I’ll have Chad tell us a little bit more about that as well. But my focus today is really to chat with Chad about how we can tee our agency up for success as we roll into the last quarter of 2020 and head into 2021. So let’s just jump in and I want to start picking Chad’s brain.

Chad, welcome to the podcast. Thanks for joining us.

Chad Carden:

Yeah, thanks for having me, Drew.

Drew McLellan:

One of the things we were talking about before I hit the record button is that 2020 has forced everyone to level up their leadership game, whether they wanted to or not. It was a forced MBA in leadership under some really grueling conditions. So that’s really where I want to focus today. But first, can you give the audience just a brief understanding of your background and how you came to understand how to help people do this work better?

Chad Carden:

Yeah. When I was 14 years old, I had an amazing opportunity that I didn’t realize until years later. I had a chance to meet a guy by the name of Zig Ziglar. My dad was sharing the stage with him at the Rosemont Horizon in Chicago, now called the Donald E. Stevenson Center. And I went backstage and I met Zig, and I said, “Dad, this is what I want to do with my life.” At 14 years old, I don’t know how it happened, but I just had a real calling to impact people because I just saw the impact that Zig had and my dad had, and some of these guys and girls had on stage. I said, “If we can impact people, we can impact the world.”

And so I had a chance for 14 to 20 to be mentored under Zig, which was an amazing six years of my life. Looking back, it was, talking about an MBA. And then at 20 years old, my dad and Zig both coached me to go to work for a company called Dale Carnegie Training. He wrote a book in 1936 called How to Win Friends and Influence People.

Drew McLellan:

Right. It is still pretty popular today.

Chad Carden:

Very popular, still very popular. I pick it up every six months, Drew. I try to just refresh it every six months. And I did that till I was about 25 years old. I wanted to open up a franchise because Carnegie’s franchised all over the globe. And we were doing leadership development and sales training and customer service and high impact presentations. And one of the things that I found as I was on my journey with Carnegie is that it was a great platform, strong foundation, but I was finding that the market was shifting a little bit and companies were wanting more customized development that really connected the dots with their people.

Because Carnegie was a great platform, but it was very public, so they would have multiple companies inside of a course, and then people would have to go back and figure it out how it worked in their organization. And if my boss didn’t support it, I was excited about it, went back to the organization. If it wasn’t supported internally by the environment, I’m going to fall right back into bad habits or right back into the comfort zone or right back into the environment that I walked back into. So that was 19, 20 years ago when we broke away and we started an organization that just really honed in on, what does the organization need?

What does small business, what does an agency of two people, an agency of 200 people, what is it that they really need? And how can we fit that mold and provide them on the people side to really help them grab the results. Because ultimately, we’re looking at two things as owners, we’re looking at results that we’re asked to get, and we have to work with people to get those results. And so my whole focus has been, how do we work with people better to drive the ultimate results that create win-win-win, win for our people, win for our customers and clients, and obviously, a win for our organization?

And that’s what I’ve been doing over 20 years. I still don’t have it figured out, but I’m marching every single day to figure out the X factor, which is people in this entire equation.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. I think in a business like agencies, we don’t have a lot of equipment, we don’t have a lot of infrastructure, our investment is absolutely in our people. And when you look at an agency’s finances, the lion’s share of their money goes to their people. So what I find fascinating in many organizations is, and I don’t think this is lack of heart for the people, I think this is just the pace, that we don’t often match the investment on the training side or the time side that we have on the money side. And when I talk to agency employees, the one thing they’re hungry for more than anything else are two things, a combination of two things.

One, “I want to learn and get better.” And two, “I want to learn and get better from my boss.” Typically, that’s somebody I really admire and I want to be more like him or her, and I just want to, I just want to soak them up more than I get a chance to. And so I think one of the things we can talk about is, how does a leader today carve out time, not only in their calendar, but in their head and heart for their people, right?

Chad Carden:

Yeah. I think that one of the things that leaders can do is, you have to look at it in reality. And reality says that they truly live as an agency, that you have people who are leading people, but they’re also doing, and so there are player coaches on a consistent basis. You have to look it that there’s an internal environment, which is how we work together and how we work with our people, and then there’s the external environment, which is how we serve our clients and the market that we serve. And one of the things for leaders to really mentally get their head wrapped around is, my argument has always been that if we can create a better internal environment, it makes the external easier.

Not always easy, especially with what’s going on today with COVID and how the markets are shifting and everybody’s turned on its head, but how can we drive the internal environment and create the DNA inside that allows us to serve and support the external that will ultimately drive the results? And to do that, we say that agencies improve when people improve, so how do we improve the performance of people? And people improve when leaders improve? That’s the key impact. And so when you talk about investing dollars into training, one of the reasons why we don’t do it is because sometimes we don’t bake it into our DNA, it’s not part of the environment.

And so we train and we check that box, but how can we really focus as a leader on making development a part of everything that we do so it becomes habit and part of the environment, versus just something else, because nobody needs anything else. We don’t need more stuff on our plate. How do we help use that development to help streamline, create better efficiencies, effectiveness, productivity? So to do that as leaders, I think it really comes down… That’s a macro viewpoint, I think, from a floodlight viewpoint, it’s, how can I impact three things, big or small, on a daily basis with my people?

We call it CAP. It comes down to, how can I create clarity, clarity for my people around the direction, the goals, what’s expected of them, what they expect of me? And it’s a dynamic process, it’s changing all the time. We can’t have a strategy meeting January 5th or 6th, like most people do, and then forget about it until mid year, and so it’s dynamic. So, how can I continuously ensure that I’m creating clarity for my people? The second thing is, the A stands for, how can I make sure that everybody’s aligned to that? We always ask the owners, where is the bus going? That’s a question that they have to be clear on, and then they have to be able to communicate that with their team.

The alignment piece is, okay, if we’re clear on where the bus is going, do people want to go there? Do people actually want to go there?” Because if they don’t, it doesn’t mean they’re a bad person, they just might be on the wrong bus. And if they’re on the wrong bus, they will create their own chaos, maybe not even consciously, just unconsciously, because they’re not really in tuned to where the bus is going. And then the third thing is just, how can I help drive purpose? And that sometimes seems woo-woo, but how can I help people understand what they do inside the agency? Whether it’s running it or answering emails, how can I help them understand that that matters to the overall direction of the bus?

And I can create that mindset of what I call opportunity, when people are walking in. And I’m not cloud nine, I know this is 100% of time, we’re not going to have this, but how can I create that opportunity mindset, which says, “I get to do these things,” versus obligation, which says, “I have to”? And so helping create that clarity, alignment, purpose, what that ultimately does, Drew, is that if we continuously have those dialogues, we learn a lot about how we can leverage their strengths, leverage our people, and candidly minimize some of the things that just are stuff for them.

And so those are, as a leader, tactical practical things. If I’m having ongoing dialogue around clarity, alignment, purpose, a lot of things surface that create new possibilities that allow us to work better together. Because what we find is, a lot of times I see people work together, but they’re not always working the best together. Does that make sense?

Drew McLellan:


Chad Carden:

Yeah. So how do we get them working better together, which means driving that mentality, everybody on the same side of the bus, pushing in the right direction, versus on all four sides? So those are some of the things that leaders, if they’re in tune with that on a daily basis, we believe that drives impact.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. The analogy I often use about that with owners is that I think everybody comes to the job, at least in the beginning, with the best of intentions, they want to contribute, they want to be a part of the team, they want to help the company move forward, they want to serve clients. And they bring with them this backpack packed with skills and beliefs and knowledge and attitude. When you think of the company as a red wagon, and you say, “You know what, you tie a rope to the red wagon. And with that rope, you’re going to use everything in your backpack to pull the wagon in the right direction.”

But if an owner doesn’t say, “Do you see the handle? Let me explain to you exactly what the handle is. And does everyone understand what the handle means? That’s where we have to tie our rope.” Because otherwise, some people tie it to the back of the wagon or the right rear wheel or the left front wheel, and they’re pulling with their best of intentions, but they’re pulling against each other as opposed to pulling in the same direction, which is, I think what you’re talking about.

Chad Carden:


Drew McLellan:

It starts with us, right? It starts with us being really clear about what is it that we’re trying to accomplish, short and long-term, and how do you contribute to that?

Chad Carden:

That’s exactly right. You nailed it. And the other thing, you mentioned this too, is that it starts with us. A lot of times we challenge the owners and the leaders inside the agency to get really selfish. And we don’t mean selfish in a negative way, but a lot of times they spend all their time looking in the window, looking at results, looking at their clients, looking at their people. Sometimes you got to call time out and look in the mirror, because if I’m not centered and I’m not clear, and I’m not aligned, if I’m not at my best, it’s hard to be at my best.

And so how can we get sometimes them to call timeout, look in the mirror, and make sure that they, we call it centering the needle? How can we center the needle on a consistent basis to make sure that I’m at my best, so when I show up, I’m ready to support and help others be at their best? And I think that is so underestimated in today’s world with how fast we’re moving and the demands and the stress. But a lot of times, it just continues to compile versus being able to reset on a consistent basis and allow ourselves to show up in a way that helps us move in the right direction.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. So how do you teach someone who’s not good at that? How do you teach them how to center the needle? What does that look like?

Chad Carden:

Yeah. Well, like you mentioned, the long-term in the short-term. I think it is about some of the very same things that we’re asking leaders to do with their people, it’s about doing it internally. The biggest battles psychologists say we face every single day is what they call that internal chatter, is that internal dialogue. And there was a study done, I think in 2012, somewhere around 2011, 2012, that says we think between 12,000 and 60,000 thoughts a day. And 80% of those thoughts of negative, whether we think we’re positive or not, 80% of those thoughts began to become negative. And the scarier statistic is that 95 to 98% of those thoughts are the same thoughts we had yesterday.

Drew McLellan:

Wow. So we’re just beating ourselves up over and over again?

Chad Carden:

It’s the same thing. Yeah. We’re just saying things over and over. And so how we do it is, you have to… We always say it’s hard to read the label when you’re inside the bottle. That’s the first thing to realize, is that you are inside your bottle every single day, and so the first thing we have to do is we have to help owners and leaders get outside the bottle, different perspective, from a conscious standpoint, because we live very unconsciously. Harvard did a study, I think in 2016, that said 46% of our day is autopilot. We get up, we do things, we don’t even think about it. That you’ve done so many of these sometimes you know exactly what’s going to happen, you jump on and you don’t even think about those things.

Well, owners do the same thing when they walk into the office or when they’re walking into a client. And so we have to get them to a conscious level. That’s the first thing to help realize and really get them… We always say, “You can’t always believe what you think.” So really get them to challenge their own thought and their own dialogue that they’re having internally, that’s more of a mental game. If you will, to help them. Like you mentioned, most people aren’t good at it because the nature of ourself is just to do the same things over and over and over.

And then after we have them get the mayor, then we help them look at and gain clarity around, what is the next… We call it a three-year letter. So that’s one of the things that we have them write. Studies show that we truly overestimate what we can accomplish in a year, but we truly underestimate what we can accomplish in three years. Because a lot of people, what happens is, they will set all these hairy audacious goals for the next 12 months, and what they’ll find is, is we overestimate that and that actually causes an adverse impact, Because we don’t hit it-

Drew McLellan:

Sure. Right. I didn’t hit my goal.

Chad Carden:

… we’re not there. Yeah, and we get discouraged. But over three years, how can we stretch that out? Okay. So we get them to focus on, what does the business look like? What do they look like? How are they building something to sell or how they building something where they can help buy back time and some of the things that they want to do that it also impacts their people, the clients that they serve, etc. And then we back that into what we call 30, 60, 90-day sprints. So how can we get them to focus in the short term that’s helping them knock down the dominoes. What’s the next best action? What are the focus areas? What are the commitments? What’s the expected results?

And then the other thing is, which is, again, the selfish part of it, is we get them to focus on, what’s the personal gain? Because I’m not saying that we’re selfish, but we all do things for selfish reasons. I do things to protect my business, I do things to protect my family, I do things to protect my people. And so, how can we leverage that versus trying to fight against it? A lot of people want to mentally fight against that, like, “Well, I can’t do this for myself.” No, that’s our human DNA, that’s our nature. How do we leverage this?

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. And you’ve taken all this risk, you’ve owned a business. You’ve probably worked harder and longer than you ever did when you were an employee. So if there’s not reward on the other end of that, then why would you keep going? And why wouldn’t you eventually become resentful and all of the things that sometimes happen?

Chad Carden:

Yeah. So people actually, believe it or not, and I’m sure you run into this all the time, people actually feel guilty for doing that, because they’re looking in the window, they’re always looking in the window. So we get them, and then what happens is that will literally equate to everyday, if they do this… And again, this is not something that you can do once and then figure out and your whole life is centered and you’re all good. The world’s dynamic, we have to always be dynamic. But what happens when we can create that clarity and alignment, purpose within oneself inside the leader, it really changes the view that they look at on a daily basis.

And here’s what we found the ultimate reward to this, you got to be on the top of your game to get this, but it allows you to enter the day, every single day, and make it easier to say yes to the right things and say no to the wrong things. And what we find is, a lot of times, these owners, it’s really hard to say no. It’s hard to say no, and they just continuously compile. But when we’re clear about if it’s going to help us move us in the right direction, easier to say yes. If it’s not, now, we’re justified to say no. Now, we might have to explain it, we might have to help people understand the why, get behind it, but it’s a lot easier.

When we don’t have that, we chase shiny objects, we chase this, and we find out we’re wasting a lot of time and productivity by doing things that aren’t necessarily helping us move in the direction that we want to move.

Drew McLellan:

Okay. So here’s what I heard. I heard start with basically a three-year plan. So a letter to yourself that describes what life is like in three years from today, and be as granular as you can be, be as descriptive as you can be, be as super clear about that. Then take that and break it up into 30, 60, and 90-day sprints, in essence, so that you are aligning, accomplishing those goals in bite sized pieces. So let’s say I’m looking at a 30, 60, and 90-day goals. What am I doing every day, every morning, every week to make sure that I’m connected to that?

Because I think it’s super easy to hit the ground running. People are checking their email before their feet hit the floor, and already they’re there in the day. So what do you teach leaders, how do they center the needle on a consistent basis so that they don’t drift off course?

Chad Carden:

Yeah. You hit the nail on the head. And again, I believe people do this unconsciously. They are in the day before they even realize it. And that is a habit that if you challenge people on that habit, they sometimes get defensive, because they’ll say, “Well, you don’t understand. I’ve got to check my email. I’ve got to do this. I’ve got to do that.” I’m a firm believer, and I stole this, obviously, but I’m a firm believer that if you can win the first hour of the day, you win the day.How can we change our behavior, how can we change our habits and the way that we approach the day where in the, in the beginning, whether it’s…

I did this with one organization, we did a 90-day time and motion study, and I said, “Give me the first hour.” Well, they thought I might as well had three heads. There’s no way I can give you the first hour. I said, “Okay, can give me 20 minutes.” The first 20 minutes. So we compromise and we were able to get 20 minutes from them. Because they found themselves and that night, they say two hours, Drew, two hours and 23 minutes, they were caught up in email land. We literally studied that. When they got there, they got their computer, they got on their email, or they opened up from home, literally two hours, 23 minutes, we found them, on average, they got caught up, which means they are already behind the daily timely eight-ball.

So give me 20 minutes. It’s literally hand-to-hand combat. Looking at your plan, revising… We call it a three pack. What are the three things that we want to accomplish today that equals success? What are the things that if we look back on the day, we’re going to say, this was a successful day? It doesn’t have to be anything big, it might be little things that have been on your to-do list, it might be something huge that you want to get done. We find too that people will tend to continuously push off activity that might be what we call stuff to them, that isn’t necessarily an energy driver.

And so we talk about, how can we do the worst first? Get that off of our plate and allow ourselves mental creativity to help march forward from the day. So literally, it’s whatever their routine is, how can they spend some time proactively on a consistent basis? And that might be reviewing their 30, 60, 90-day sprint, that might be ensuring that they’re focused on the right things. As certain external factors play a part, how can we pivot and change and make sure that we’re again the right position to set ourselves up for the highest probability of success?

But it literally is the daily habits and things that we do at the beginning that allow us to move in the right direction. Because when we don’t do that, a lot of times, and I know I’ve been there, I’m sure you’ve been there, I’m sure that all these listeners have been there,  you get done with the day and you say, “What, the hell did I do? What happened?” And those days are going to be here, we are always going to have those days, but how can we minimize that by making sure that we’re becoming what we call fire preventers versus firefighters. We fight fires all day long. How can we prevent some of these things by staying proactive?

That’s one of the things, it sounds simple, but it’s not an all simplistic because of the daily habits that we have, what we tend to gravitate towards.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. I think a lot of people have the best intentions to do this, and they might do it for a day or two or a week. How do you help people actually make this a habit? Yeah. How can I make sure in the craziness of my day that I actually, whether it’s 20 minutes or an hour or whatever it is, that I actually protect that time and do with it what I should to set myself up for success for the rest of the day, the rest of the week, the rest of the month?

Chad Carden:

That is a very complex question, but let me try to break it down. Number one is, we believe that training, and I really don’t like that word because I believe that standalone training is a waste of money, to me. If it’s not tied to the commitment, if it’s not tied to the long-term goal, we really are just checking a box, we’re spending money and they’re sunk costs. But we like to use the word development, which is semantics, I know, but with development, it’s the first thing that anybody has to have, Drew, is they really have to be committed. If you’re my personal trainer, I have to be committed to this thing, no matter what you do. You’re not with me 24 hours a day, so no matter what you do.

And so we really create relationships where people are committed to it. Now, to commit, we always say you have to answer four questions. You have to answer yes to these four questions. Number one is, do I need to? Do I need to do the things that I’m trying to do on a daily basis? And this is more of a mental conversation. Number two is, do I want to? A lot of times we know we need to, my personal trainer says, “You need to eat better.” I know I need to, I just sometimes don’t want to, so I don’t have the commitment to move forward. Number three is, can I? Do I have the belief that I can actually do this?

And number four is, will I? Because that’s where the rubber meets the road, will I actually do these things? If we can get people re wrapping their heads… A lot of times, I can get people there short term, but how do you stay with them long-term? The other thing to help realize, again, staying in a conscious mindset is, we have to help people remember that sometimes they want to move too fast with this change. Remember, we look at 12 months and we think we’re going to accomplished all this stuff.

Sometimes before we build the right habits, it’s about breaking the wrong ones. And so once we have our three-year letter and our game plan, it’s about assessing, truly assessing, and getting honest with ourselves, what tailwinds do I have already in place that I can leverage and help me move in the right direction? And the other side of that coin are, what are headwinds? What are headwinds that I have every single day that get in my way, that I really need to look at removing from the equation as we go? So it’s about commitment. It’s about really being honest with ourselves.

And then that’s where Renzo is so powerful in our opinion, because we typically create, long-term what we call tails with our clients, where we are there with them, we’re driving the car. And so it’s almost like if you look at like a car analogy, we’re driving, they’re in the passenger seat, and we’re helping them move in the right direction. Eventually, we’ll have to switch seats, They’ll have to drive, and then we’re in the passenger seat because we can’t do it for them. Our goal is to work our way out of the car, to work way out where now they are driving, they’re confident they can keep the car on the road, we’re confident they can keep the car on the road.

That might be a three-month plan, that might be a six-month plan, that might be a 12-month plan. Some of our clients we continuously are doing maintenance with them, but you always a lot of times need that accountability that allows you to drive those until those habits. That’s one. The other thing is, which again, this is not easy at all, is you have to continuously focus on the why. You have to can focus on the three-year vision, what you want to accomplish. Because if you don’t, it’s easy to get clouded with all of the noise happening today. That’s what really successful owners are really good at.

And we always say 70% execution of a plan is better than 100% execution of no plan.  And so we’re not going to execute this 100% of the time, but really, agency owners who are really moving in that right direction, they are disciplined, they understand the commitment, they’re willing to put in the work, and they understand their flaws and willing to look at ways to remove those flaws versus continuously allowing them to perpetuate in their life. They keep beating their head up against the wall, they keep beating their head up against the wall. And keeping in mind, again, I sound like a broken record, but this is really dynamic. It is a daily hand-to-hand combat to consciously do these things. Starts with commitment though.

Drew McLellan:

I want to take a quick break, but when we come back, I want to talk about, how do we as leaders infuse this thinking with our team, because if we’re awesome and we’re doing this every day and we’re carving out an hour and we’ve got clear three-year plan, that’s great, but we have this whole group of people with us that we need to get on the bus and go with us. So they also have to have the same clarity and the same drive. So let’s take a quick break and then we’ll talk about how do we bake some of this into our organization.

When it comes to conducting a client satisfaction survey, your agency has three choices. The first one is adopted, don’t ask, don’t tell policy and just roll the dice. Your second option is to do the study in-house. And the third option is to use a third party to conduct your client satisfaction survey. If you decide that you’re ready to invest in protecting your client relationships and improving your win and keep ratios, we believe there are some benefits of using AMI as your third-party research partner. Number one, we know emphatically that your clients will tell us things that they just won’t tell you.

The reality is they’re going to speak more freely if they’re not talking to you directly. They don’t want to hurt your feelings, and they don’t want to get into a big conversation about it. So a third party is a safe place for them to share their real feedback. The second is that at AMI, we don’t have a bias about any particular client. We don’t know if you like them, don’t like them, if they’re pain, if they’re your favorite. And so, because we understand the agency business, but we don’t come into those conversations with any preconceived notions, we can absolutely give you unbiased and unfiltered information based on what your clients tell us.

And you know what, we know agency clients, we can hear what they’re saying and we know which threads to pull on as we’re talking to them to get more information for you and more insight. Your clients will be comfortable talking to us because we speak their language. If you’re interested in having AMI do your customer satisfaction survey, head over to Agencymanagementinstitute.com and look under the, How We Help section of the website to learn more. All right, let’s get back to the show.

All right. I am back with Chad and we’re talking about really, how do we lead at a different level? And we spent the first half of the show talking about how do we get ourselves ready to lead? And I know for many of you, you work hard on being a good leader, you work hard on being an empathetic, you work hard on… I know the heart that you have for your people. I know that sometimes you go without a paycheck so that they get a paycheck. I know that you genuinely care about your team and that you want all of them to be successful and for you all to be successful as a group, but somehow, I think sometimes, and I know I’m guilty of this in the busy-ness of the day, what is in my head and heart doesn’t necessarily translate as well as I want it to to my team.

And when I’m going 150 miles an hour and I am running by them in the hallway, and I’m shouting something to them because I know my phone’s going to ring in a minute and I have a meeting in 15 minutes, that is not the ideal way for me to inspire my team to their greatness, it just sounds like I’m barking orders at them. And so I think there’s often a chasm between our intentions and our actions. And so that’s really where I want to focus, Chad, for the next part of this conversation is, how do I create an environment where if we have clarity about what we’re trying to do, we have a clear mission, vision, values, all of that. If we have alignment in that everybody knows they’re on the bus and they know we’re headed to Cleveland.

They know what Cleveland looks like, they know why we’re going to Cleveland rather than Detroit, they get it. And I’ve made it clear how their role, like if you’re not on the bus, we don’t have lunch for everybody. If you’re not on the bus, we don’t have gas, whatever their role, If I’ve done that top-level thing that you talked about earlier in the show, how do I have guerrilla warfare level? How do I inspire my people to do their best work, to collaborate together, to put aside some of the petty personal stuff that sometimes gets in the way of us doing great work? How do I really show up as a great leader inside my organization? Just a little question, small little question.

Chad Carden:

Yeah. Just a little question. I think the key there is that now we’re on strong foundation, we’ve looked in the mirror, we have clarity, alignment, purpose, we’re topline, we’re getting everybody at the 30,000 foot view of an understanding of where the agency’s going. Now, it really comes down to that spotlight viewpoint, and it starts with, in our experience, it starts with how do we truly build strong working relationships? I’m not talking about friendships, friendships, that’s a by-product if we have it, that’s great. I’m talking about strong working relationships, and those relationships come down to really three things.

It comes down to trust, it comes down to respect, it comes down to rapport. How are we consciously growing those where Drew, if you and I trust each other, if we respect each other, if there’s a rapport there, we’re going to work better together, there’s going to be better result, there’s going to be better efficiencies, we’re going to know each other and what our strengths are and how we leverage each other. Those things are, again, things that we want to begin to look at, we look at them like bank accounts. There are times in a relationship where I’m going to have to make a withdrawal, there are times where we’re going to have to have difficult conversations.

That’s easier when I’ve made some deposits, authentic, sincere, not BS type, I’m not talking about that types, I’m talking about authentic and sincere relationships that we build, so when you have to take a bite out of me, for whatever reason, or course correct, or give me some coaching, whatever it is it might be, there’s enough deposits in that that allow us to continuously have that relationship. If I’m constantly making withdrawals and I’m in the red, it is a challenging environment to help people be at their best. And so one is, how am I consciously looking at relationships? Two is how am I better understanding my people?

And that comes to two things: One is their DNA and makeup. And then two is, how am I leveraging that? Let me walk that just a little bit. We want to consistently look at three things with people, and this doesn’t have to be formal meetings on a weekly basis, we can always if people do monthly meetings or quarterly or however they want to do it, everybody’s going to look at that differently. I’m talking about consciously being aware of these three things, whether you and I sit down for an hour on a monthly basis, or whether you’re catching me in the hall and you got to yell at me something because your phone’s going to ring, whatever it might be.

But I want to understand from a clear level on how do people want to contribute? So what is their expectation on contribution? How do they feel they contribute to the business? Two is, what do they want to experience? So what are some of the things that they want to experience in their role where they feel fulfilled, they feel engaged, they feel like they’re making a difference? And then the third way is, how do they want to grow? I need to be in tuned to make sure, because we have people that come in like you mentioned, they have their backpack, they’re ready to go, they’re excited, they’re willing, but if we don’t give them those opportunities, or we stifle their growth, there’s a lot of competition around us.

And I believe that people are always looking and they always think grass is greener, it’s not always, but they always believed that to be true, and if we’re not fulfilling what it is and leveraging their talents, I think that is a key way to get people disengaged or can actively disengaged. So it’s about how my understanding about how they want to contribute, what do they want to experience and how they want to grow. Those are things that I’m constantly looking at.

Drew McLellan:

What if I own a small shop, I’ve hired someone for a position, and the reality is, it’s not the job they want. I don’t have I don’t have a place to move them right now, am I better off helping them find something somewhere else? Am I better off just in essence, in a nicer way, but suck it up buttercup, if somebody is really in a job that they don’t love, can they be successful?

Chad Carden:

I think they can in the short term, I think eventually that truth will catch up with you. And so I think to me, it’s about if you’re in that position inside my agency, it’s about how can I ensure that we have a clarity conversation around where we’re at. This is reality, it is what it is, and provide options, and hopefully provide a succession plan or some plan that allows you to continuously potentially move in that position. But we always say, how do you help people out or help them out? I don’t mean that badly and I don’t want to be called, but if you’re on the wrong bus, eventually it’s going to catch up.

You might not appreciate it at first, but eventually, if we help people get on the right bus, whatever that bus might be, they will eventually look back and appreciate the opportunity that we’ve provided for them. So I believe that it’s having that. We believe that also conflict. Conflict can be positive. A lot of people want to avoid that conflict or avoid that conversation, we hit that conversation head on. It’s about helping people understand where they’re at, what the options are, and then being supportive whatever option they choose, but knowing if they choose the option to stay in that role, that they’re not really excited about, it’s not what they want to be doing, there are certain expectations that we still expect to play at the highest game.

And then also, helping people… Here’s one of the things which is unique, this came from Shane Mac, he helped me do this. He’s a guy I met through Adam Carroll as well, a policy, even if you have two people or 200, when you hire people, one of the things in the playbook or the manual or whatever you might have, or when you’re setting the vision, helping people understand how to quit. Because quitting is hard sometimes, especially if it’s a small shop, I don’t want to disappoint you, it’s difficult, I’m stressed. Helping people how to quit and understand that… I see it as a long game.

If it’s not the right spot for you and you’re miserable, you’re not helping anybody anyway, I’m happy to help you, I’m happy to look at other options, but helping people realize that this is an open door, and if it’s ever not right, there are certain things to do. There’s a right way and a wrong way to quit, finish the work that you got done, come talk to us, don’t send me a Twitter. There’s certain things that you can set them up for and it helps make it easier if it’s not ultimately the right position.

Drew McLellan:

Well, and I think giving them that permission avoids a lot of damage. Many, many years ago, I had an employee who was really brilliant at what he did, and all of a sudden it was like, somebody flipped a switch. All of a sudden, he was grumbling behind my back, he was unhappy. And what he was doing was he was spreading that malaise through the agency. And I could see it because he was influential and he was popular, he was funny. Finally, I called him into the office and I was like, “What’s going on? Here’s what I’m seeing, what is going on?”

Well, what it was he wanting to leave and go on his own, and in essence was trying to convince himself that the job was lousy so he would have the courage to quit and go on his own. And I said, “Okay, but do you see what you’re doing to your coworkers and to this place? If you want to go on your own, go, and I’ll be your first client, I will help you go out on your own and I’ll buy some hours from you until I can replace you, but don’t stay here and be miserable and make everybody else miserable.” So you’re absolutely right, if I had done a better job of being really clear about how you do it and how you don’t do it, maybe that could have saved him and everybody else a lot of pain.

Chad Carden:

Big time. Again, that’s a little shift that can make it… Joe Polish always says it’s the smallest engines that swing the biggest doors. So it’s a little shifts that can make a huge difference inside the organization. And so that’s right. The other thing about people is, and this comes from Dan Sullivan, he taught me this years ago. He says, if we can be in tune with our people and help understand what, and I mentioned this a little earlier, but what is energy for them, and then what is stuff. So energy is defined as things that they’re good at, things that help move the business forward, and things that they have confidence in and enjoy doing. Those are things that are energy-focused activities.

And then stuff is anything that drains energy, and/or negative relationships that go nowhere. The other thing about stuff is if you are honest with yourself, especially for owners, somebody else can do it and should be doing it inside the agency because we take on a lot of stuff. And what you find when you begin to have those dialogues, especially in a small agency, is that sometimes Drew, your stuff might be my energy. And so once we begin to understand that better, now you’re able to offload, it’s not about passing trash, it’s about how do you take some of those things that might be stuff on your plate and delegate those things to people that really that’s how they want to grow, that’s how they want to contribute, that’s what they want to experience and helping them move in that direction where now those things are energy for them, and you’ve bought back mental space and you bought back time to focus on things that are energy for you.

You can’t eliminate stuff, but how do you get your head wrapped around it and leverage each other a little bit better to realize that. We have a project manager here that loves to analyze data, and so anytime we get a new client, I hate that stuff. I hate that stuff. So anytime we get a client, she’s in San Diego, I say, “Give me the one pager on XYZ company.” And she will pour through it, and she will give me, and literally, she knows exactly what I’m looking for, but she loves to dig in to organizations and look at their history and all the type of stuff. For years, I was given it to another person that hated it, I wasn’t in tune with it.

And so once we began to have these conversations, after Dan taught me this, I was like, “Wow, I’m totally underutilizing certain people in certain situations and passing, I call it passing trash, I’m passing trash to them where it’s actually, it’s disengaging, they’re not excited about doing this stuff. And so that’s another thing that you can do is really have conversations of what drives them, and what are some of the things that they look at as like, “Oh, I have to do this.” And move some of that stuff around.

Drew McLellan:

Hearing the listeners go, “Oh my God, this sounds like it takes so much time. Oh my God, I have 23 employees, I don’t have time to deposit in all their banks and know what their energy is.” How does a busy business owner manage this? And how many people realistically can you have that kind of relationship with? Because one of the things I think in an effort to keep their organizations flat, everybody, in a 15-person agency reports up to the owner. So what’s too much or too many?

Chad Carden:

Number one is you have to ask yourself, what’s the cost of not doing it, in my opinion. And it’s not about, I got to get all this stuff done in two days, it’s where are you at today? Where is it that you want to go? And then how can you knock down the dominoes in a way that you don’t see as more? We talked about this earlier, nobody’s more stuffed, Drew, but how do you see it in a way that allows you to streamline, to create greater efficiencies, to create where you’re waking up now tackling the things that are most needed in the business versus putting out fires every single day. And that Drew, that can might be a year.

The question is, if you don’t do it, where are you at in a year? So it’s really, this is part of when we talk about stuff, we talk about four Ds, we talk about delegating, deferring, deleting and doing. Some of this like you’re saying, they’re looking at it going, “Oh my God, this takes so much.” This is just the do. If you’re an owner, this is a do, you have to get your head wrapped around it and change, Wayne Dyer says, when you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change, you got to change the way you look at this stuff, because if not, you are just compounding the issues that you have today. And so those are different conversations that we have with owners all the time.

They’re looking at us going, “This sounds great, but I don’t have time to do it.” You don’t have time not to do it, that’s what we tell them. We don’t have time not to do it. That’s one. Two is, hire us, hire us to come in. A lot of times, you can outsource this, again, we’ll drive the car for you, then we’ll switch and put it in the best of your seat. And I’m not trying to plug, but then obviously, we will help you along this journey, which for some Drew, it might be six months, some of them might be three months, some it might be a year or 18 months, which is fine, but it’s about how are we marching in a way that’s palatable, absorbable, but you’re understanding why you do it because eventually you want to wake up every single day and create something that you still enjoy coming to.

And we talked about this before we jumped on here, and you’re exactly right, a lot of times what happens with owners in any vertical, and especially in your vertical, is they’re really good at what they do, really good at what they do. And so the next logical thing is, I’m going to open up my own shop, or I’m going to go, hey, more single. It doesn’t make you a good business. What happens, and you’ve seen this, I know you have in the years of experience that you have, I haven’t created a business, I’ve just created more work for myself, I’ve just created more jobs.

Drew McLellan:

You’ve created more jobs with other people.

Chad Carden:

Yeah. That’s right. And so my argument is, the flip side of that is you have to change the way you look at it. And it’s not about a daunting task, it’s about, what’s the path, and how can I just knock down dominoes on a consistent basis? It might be three years, but if I don’t do it, what’s the cost? What’s the cost of that? So that’s my argument.

Drew McLellan:

In terms of fostering that relationship that allows you to have those conversations, because you probably don’t walk up to somebody hardly now and say, what gives you energy? You have to have some trust and some respect before, what are some ways you are seeing… Agencies are very creative environment, they are an environment that’s a little left of center, and I’m not talking politically, I’m just meaning we do things in our old way. And there are a lot of people… I can remember a lot of times I would call my mom and talk to her about my day and she’d go, “Do you actually work sometimes?” Because I’d be talking about the dark tournament and this and that.

And so given that we have more creative freedom, given that we aren’t corporate in most cases, and given that we’re relatively small as a general rule, what does that open up for us in terms of building trust and respect and rapport?

Chad Carden:

Well, I don’t think that there is a set formula, I don’t think there’s a set recipe, and I think that everybody should take comfort in that, but I believe that you have to take what we call the beats of the framework and figure out how it works inside your agency, whether again, it’s agency at two, 23, 200, whatever it is it might be. But those things are, I believe, number one is, we as owners have to stay focused on it. I think that’s key, whether that’s formally or informally, we have to be consciously, again, remember, a lot of our thoughts are unconscious, but how can I consciously make effort to continuously find ways to build stronger working relationships?

The second thing is I think in the beginning, when we bring somebody on board, and a lot of times organically, if you work with somebody for years, this stuff will just come out naturally, it’s going to happen naturally, but how do you engineer or manufacture it from the beginning? Number one is you put folks on it, number two is you highlight it in the beginning, “Hey, here’s some of the goals and here’s some of the things that we want to do inside XYZ.” Number three is I think you have to be vulnerable and put yourself out there first like, here’s what it is going, here’s some of my strengths because we all know we have strengths, we also know…

Listen, as an owner, sometimes I march just completely ahead and I forget to look if anybody’s behind me. You have to be able to put yourself, we call it, putting it in the arena or putting it on the table, you have to be willing to do that. And then the fourth thing is just setting the expectation that this is the value of the organization, this is why we think we’re successful, this is how we think we’re going to scale and grow in a way that continues to create win-win situations. And one of those things is just to staying in tuned and making sure we’re maximizing your strengths, we’re leveraging how you want to grow and develop, and making sure that you’re a part of this versus feeling like you’re running parallel to something like this.

So that’s just something in the beginning that we… And then it’s not about, hey, Drew, we’re going to sit down every week and do this. That’s not about that. It’s just about during the dark tournaments and during the creativity, I just have my antenna and I’m noticing that after two o’clock, your productivity goes way down, so what am I doing? Am I saying, “Drew, go take a 15-minute nap,” or whatever it is it might be, it doesn’t have to be a regimented formula. It’s those things that you’re just in tuned with. It’s a law of reciprocity. Once I began to become in tuned with you, you’re naturally going to be come in tuned with me and we’re going to figure out if this works or not.

And then if not, you mentioned it before, there are people inside agencies that have left, they just haven’t told the agency yet. They’re still there, or they’re retired, they haven’t told the agency. And so how can we create the environment where we minimize some of that stuff? If it’s not going to work, it’s not going to work, but how do we continuously create that culture, that environment, where people are in tuned with it, they are connected, they feel like they’re growing, they feel like they understand their purpose. And again, that’s not a one-week seminar. That is something that is just a continuation of and just being aware of it in your daily DNA.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. I actually think we’re better suited to do a lot of this stuff than a more corporate rigid environment because we have so much fluidity and flexibility in the way that we work, and that we bring a different sensibility into the structure of our organization. I think it allows us to actually do some of this more natively perhaps than an insurance company.

Chad Carden:

Sure. And I think the other thing is with the creativity, we have people on the team that do their best work from 4:00 to 7:00 in the morning. We have other people that tend to do the best work from 11:00 at night till 1:00 in the morning. And so again, how are we leveraging that? I do my best work early, that’s just me, but I have people on the team that do their best work late. And so at the end of my day, which who knows what time my day ends, I will put to-do’s on their list. We use a Sauna, and then I’ll know that when I wake up at 4:00 in the morning, done.

I’m not emailing them at 4:00 in the morning, I’ve given to them at 11:00 at night to know because that’s when they do their best work. And so it’s about using that creativity and understanding that, and that just takes time to really understand when do they do their best work and how am I leveraging that to maximize both sides of the coin?

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. The exciting part about this is, and I’ve seen organizations that have done this, this can have such an impact on not only the connection you have with the employees, but the way the employees, how enthusiastically the employees run to serve the clients and each other. And at the end of the day, that all translates to a better, healthier bottom line. So everybody gets what they need and want when we have a better sense of how we work together.

Chad Carden:

Yeah. That goes back to my as an owner, you’re looking at results, and you’re looking at people. How do I work better with people to drive… Money’s a part of that, bottom line is a part of that, finance, it makes the world go round, whether we agree with it or not. So you’re exactly right. And again, the better the internal, the easier it is to service my marketplace, not easy but easier. And so those are the things that we’ve been discussing. I could probably boil it up for another eight hours, but those are the things that literally we need to have on our… Lot of things that owner needs to have on his or her radar, this has to be one of them.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah, absolutely. This is part of the job.

Chad Carden:

Yeah, absolutely.

Drew McLellan:

Hey, this has been great. Tell everybody a little bit about Renzo and the kind of work that you do and how people can reach you if they have questions.

Chad Carden:

Yeah. Renzo believes, just to wrap it up, believes that organizations must create environments that people love coming to. We believe that if you can tap into your people and create the right environment, that the results will be, as you just mentioned, the results will take care of themselves. They can check us out at Renzoexperience.com, and/or we’re having huge success with our new online, with all this COVID stuff, what we call our Outlined Leader Program, which is a program for leaders that allow them to have a shared experience with other leaders in other organizations, yet at the same time, leave with a personalized game plan where we really help them connect the dots and how they can take that back in a practical, tactical way that can allow them to set themselves up for a higher probability of success.

And again, that’s at Renzoprograms.com, they can learn a lot about that. And if they want to engage with us, there’s ways right there on both of those pages to connect with us, and we’d love to talk to them.

Drew McLellan:

Awesome. Thank you so much for being on the show, for sharing your expertise. One last question, what was the biggest takeaway from Zig for you? What is the one, if it was going to be tattooed on you, the biggest takeaway from your six years of working with him?

Chad Carden:

It’s one that’s very popular, but he says, if you help enough people get what they want, you’re going to get what you want. Again, it’s not about manipulation, but it’s about really understanding it, if you serve, it’s going to come back to you.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. Amen to that, for sure. All right. This has been a great episode. So hey guys, as I’ve been listening to Chad talk, I’ve been thinking about, I’m thinking you have a lot of notes. So if you were on the treadmill or you were walking the dog while you were listening, you may need to go back and jot a few things down. But here’s what I’d like you to do is I would like you to identify the employee that you worry about the most, either you worry they’re going to leave, or maybe they just are burr under your saddle. And to Chad’s point of do the worst first, or Brian Tracy used to say, eat the frog first, I want you to start with them because if you can master this with them, if you can tackle this and stretch your muscles with them, you can do it with everybody else.

So pick a person inside your organization that you know maybe you need to boy-up the deposits in that bank account, and maybe you don’t understand what makes them tick or you just get a little frustrated with them faster than everybody else. Let them be the test for you that you really can do this. I’ve seen a lot of you do it, I know it’s possible, and I also know the results can be pretty remarkable. And I think if you can tackle that toughest employee, everybody else is going to see that too. So give that a try, and I would love to hear how it goes, you know how to get ahold of me.

Big shout out to our friends at White Label IQ, they are the presenting sponsor of the show. They make it possible for us to come and see you every week and to bring you guests like Chad, to get you thinking differently about your agency. So if you’re looking for White Label design, dev, or PPC, whitelabeliq.com/ami for a special deal they have just for you. And I want to remind you that we are now loudly and proudly pushing people to think about next summer and the Build a Better Agency Summit. As you know, it was supposed to be in May, and it was supposed to be in November, God help us if we cannot hold it in August of 2021. So I want you there.

I want you to bake and bask in the fun and the joy and the learning of hanging out with other agency owners. So if you head over to agencymanagementinstitute.com, the very first nav button is Build A Better Agency Summit, and you can learn more about it there. I will be back next week with another guest. In the meantime, if you need me, you know how to track me down, I’m [email protected] Thanks for listening. I’ll see you soon.

That’s all for this episode of AMI’s, Build a Better Agency Podcast. Be sure to visit agencymanagementinstitute.com to learn more about our workshops, online courses, and other ways we serve small to mid-sized agencies. Don’t forget to subscribe today so you don’t miss an episode.