Episode 263

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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:

Intro:

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:

Yep.

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:

Absolutely.

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