Episode 236:

Agency owners wear many hats and certainly one of the most important is leader. There are days when that’s easy and even fun. And then, there are days like the ones we’ve been having lately, when the weight of that role can get pretty heavy. Our employees need us to guide them through these uncharted waters. And to do that, we need to stay calm, confident and compassionate. But how do you do that when you can’t even be in the same room.

The current COVID crisis is pushing teams and agency leaders to their limits. Fortunately, leadership and culture expert Adam Carroll has tools and insights that will help you show up to be the best leader possible; in a time when that leadership is sorely needed.

In this episode, Adam and I talk about how to manage and stay aligned with a dispersed team, how to hold everyone accountable, and how to create connections that will survive and thrive beyond the crisis. Adam’s advice is pragmatic and actionable. You’ll be able to put it into play immediately.

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.

What You Will Learn in This Episode:

  • If you decide to go with a different keyword, make sure to have the keyword listed in at least one bullet point in bold.
  • Advice for agency owners on how to lead their team while working remotely
  • How agency owners can be authentic and compassionate and still hold the team accountable
  • The HEAT framework and how agency owners and leaders can deploy it throughout the organization
  • The importance of shared ownership and the elements you need to create it
  • What agency owners should be aware of as they transition to a virtual environment
  • How to reinforce the team aspect of your agency, despite not physically being together

The Golden Nuggets:

“Agency owners can create some calm by giving their employees something to be certain about.” @AdamCarroll Click To Tweet “Shared ownership requires three things: information, decision-making, and an understanding of the consequences.” @AdamCarroll Click To Tweet “During the COVID-crisis, there are two things that agency owners need to be extremely mindful of off the bat—frequency of communication and recency of communication.” @AdamCarroll Click To Tweet “Coming up with team projects and other things they can contribute to is a good way to remind them that, although we’re not physically together, we are still a team.” @AdamCarroll Click To Tweet “What cannot be lost in this are the lessons we take away from the downtime.” @AdamCarroll Click To Tweet

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Speaker 1:

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 mid sized 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 Agency Management Institute. Welcome back to the podcast and thank you for making the time. I know that for many of you, you are in the midst of trying to figure out how to manage through the COVID-19 crisis. You are worried about clients, you’re worried about your employees, you’re worried about your own future, and  so I appreciate you taking the time to be here with us and I want to make sure that I reward that choice by having amazing guests that are going to help you through this. And that’s exactly why I wanted Adam Carroll to come on the show.

So I think we are in a season where right now our leadership chops are being tested. It’s easier … It’s not always easy even in the best of times to be a great leader but it’s certainly easier to be a good or great leader when things are going well. But when you are in the middle of a storm and the seas are swirling all around you and you’re not sure how high they’re going to be or how long you’re going to be in the storm or what’s coming around the bend, it’s difficult to think about sort of making sure you show up as the best leader you can be. And that’s absolutely what is called for right now. Our people need us to be calm and confident and compassionate. And it’s hard to do those things when you are afraid and when you’re worried and when you are unsure. It’s hard to show up that way. And it’s also hard to find a balance between being calm and confident and compassionate and also being transparent about the fact that you don’t know necessarily what’s coming next week or next month and that you are worried.

And so Adam and his company The Renzo Experience help organizations not only build and become great leaders inside the organization but also create a culture around shared responsibility and accountability and just a culture where that’s where everybody wants to be. That these are companies where people want to work there and they don’t want to leave because they’re so grateful for the work environment that they have. And a lot of that is thanks to The Renzo Experience, Adam’s company, and the work that they do. Adam and I have known each other for a very long time and he is a very, very, close friend of mine and honestly, he’s like a brother to me.

And so I was talking to him earlier this week and we were talking about just some of the challenges that business owners are facing. And I was sharing with him some of the experiences that I know some of you are having. And I just said, “Would you be willing to come on the show and just help us be better leaders during this storm?” And of course he was gracious enough to say yes. So I am going to extract from him as much goodness and practical, actionable advice as I can about how we can really be the best leader possible through this. And hopefully some of those habits and skills will stick as we get back into calm waters. I think we all want to be great leaders. And so maybe some of the things that we learn in this season will stick with us and will just be a part of our leadership repertoire even when things are going great again. So without further ado, let’s get to the conversation because I have a lot of questions to ask Adam.

Adam, welcome back to the podcast. Glad to have you back.

Adam Carroll:

Drew, it’s an honor to be back with you and your guests.

Drew McLellan:

You and I were talking on the phone which led to this conversation on the podcast about what a struggle this is for leaders. Most people who own agencies probably didn’t take a lot of leadership classes. Many of them are natural leaders but they certainly have never led through a crazy time like what we’re going through now with the virus and how afraid everyone is and certainly the business uncertainty as well as the health concerns. So I really want to talk about, how do we show up as the best leaders we can be for our team, for our agency, and how do we be the leader that we want to be remembered for being when people look back on this crisis and go, “You know what, I’m really glad I worked at X, Y, Z agency because my boss helped me stay calm, helped me stay focused, I never felt like I didn’t know what was going on.”? How do we be that boss? Because I think these are uncharted waters for us.

Adam Carroll:

No doubt. I think you hit the nail on the head Drew just right of the bat. And that is, how do we remain calm? How do we remain focused on the tasks at hand or the vision at hand? And last, I honestly think this is where most leaders are really falling down. They’re either falling down or they’re stepping up in a big, big way in this moment. And that is, are they showing that they genuinely care about their people? Not just in their actions. Hey, here’s what we’re doing to make sure everyone’s there. But in doing outreach to their people and just communicating with them in a way and in a framework that I want to share with your audience here in a bit. I think there are two things right off the bat that we need to be really mindful of. And that is the recency and the frequency of communication. And candidly, where this comes from Drew … My children are out of school as many people’s children are. There has not been one email from the superintendent of our school district.

Drew McLellan:

Really?

Adam Carroll:

Not one.

Drew McLellan:

Wow.

Adam Carroll:

Not one that came specifically from the leader of this entire organization. And I know because I’ve heard rumblings from other parents. There’s a little bit of frustration just about the flat out uncertainty of it all. And I think that’s where leaders today can really create some calm is by giving their employees something to be certain about. And that is, I care about you, we’re doing everything we can to make this work, and here’s evidence of that.

Drew McLellan:

It’s interesting. It’s such a different game that we’re playing right now. I got an email from an agency owner this morning who said, “ne of the things that we’re thinking about is pulling everybody back to a three or four day work week and adjusting the pay accordingly, but we’re still just thinking about it. Normally I wouldn’t say anything because then everybody gets their undies in a bunch and a freak out. Should I be talking about this?” So let me tell you what I said and then you-

Adam Carroll:

Yeah.

Drew McLellan:

If I did it right. What I said was, “I get under normal circumstances you don’t want to plant seeds in their head about things that they may or may not have to worry about. There’s nothing normal about these circumstances and they’re worried already. And so knowing what you’re thinking, even if what you’re thinking is a scary thing or a bad thing, if it’s a layoff or whatever it may be, them having some certainty about where your head’s at, what you’re wrestling with, when you’re going to make a decision or what event, a drop in AGI or whatever it is, is going to trigger that decision will help them stay calm.”

Adam Carroll:

Yes. And I would agree with that. I think that there are probably some parameters to put around a decision like that which might be things like, I’m going to talk it over with my key leadership team before I ever bring it up to the general public within the organization. But I think what it points to, and this is something that I’ve been cheerleading in companies for a good long time, is the idea of shared ownership. And shared ownership requires three things. It requires information, it requires decision making, and it requires understanding the consequences. And unfortunately for some agency owners what may be happening is, they have the information, they make a decision, but once the decision is made the consequences are only felt by their people and their people never had any information and never felt like they had a say in decision making.

Drew McLellan:

Right. Right.

Adam Carroll:

And the example I give often when I’m speaking to groups is, my son’s birthday party. He was frustrated because he couldn’t buy candy and pop and popcorn and pizza at the venue where we were going to watch a D league basketball game. And my dad said, “Well, did he have any information about the budget?” And I said, “Well, no. I didn’t know there was a budget.” He said, “Did he have any decision making ability about how many kids would show or what they would do for food?” And I said, “No.” And he goes, “Well, it sounds like he’s mad because he’s dealing with the consequences but had no information and no decision making so there’s no shared ownership.”

So for leaders today, particularly in this situation, if you were to put out information, “Here are some of the things we’re thinking about. The decision making process will look like this. You all have input but ultimately I have the decision to make. But you all have input and I value your input. And I understand that the consequences of these decisions are X, Y and Z for your families or you tell me what the consequences are.”, at least now there’s shared ownership in the decision being made and everyone’s like, “I completely understand why Drew would do what he did and I appreciate the fact that he shared all the information with us and gave us some say in how the decision was ultimately made.”

Drew McLellan:

I think what makes all of this more difficult and very unique to this moment in time is that we can’t have these conversations face to face. So many agency owners are struggling with the whole work from home thing in terms of how to manage it, how to stay connected, how to encourage. And so I know that you do a lot of coaching with people who are thinking about or moving to a working from home environment or a virtual environment. So what are some of the things that leaders need to be aware of in this weird concoction of not only do we have business slowdown and the health scare, but we’re all doing it remotely so we’re missing that connectivity that we would normally have in having these conversations.

Adam Carroll:

Yes. So there’s four separate disparate things I want to talk about. And we’ll go through each one of these that I think might be interesting for your listeners. For agency owners what they need to realize is that when you get pushed into a work from home situation, they’re immediately suffering from four new itises, four new challenges that they have. And it’s kind of a versus situation. So the first one is, flood like versus spotlight. When you go to a work place it’s easy to see the things that are happening around you knowing what the vision is. We’re getting this project done. We’re working with this client. We have a meeting on Friday, et cetera, et cetera. That’s like a floodlight. We can see it all because it’s all right there. When people go to work from home it’s very spotlight. I need to do this, I need to do this, I need to do this.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. Much more task oriented.

Adam Carroll:

Very much task oriented. And so that touch base almost needs to be focused on what are your expectations about what you to get done today? And that’s what they’re going to focus on first. So we have to shift from a floodlight focus to a spotlight focus. So as leaders, if I know that you’re a project manager or you’re an AE and you’re working with a specific number of clients, my call to you might be like, “Drew, what are your expectations for today? What do you want to get done today? What would be a win based on the clients you’re working with and some of the campaigns you’re writing, those kinds of things?” Very focused on the task. So that’s number one. The floodlight versus spotlight. Number two is the idea that there is a difference at home between access and availability. And for the people that are working from home that also have children at home or, like you and I, pets at home who think we’re here to play with them all day long-

Drew McLellan:

All day long.

Adam Carroll:

All day long. I saw the ball throwing. How many did it end up being?

Drew McLellan:

52 before she had to go get a drink of water and laid down for 15 minutes and then she was like, “Hey, let’s play.”

Adam Carroll:

If you have not watched this video on Facebook on Drew’s page, go watch it. It’s hilarious. For children especially, the idea between access and availability is one that has to be very clearly defined. Yes, dad is accessible but I am not available today or I’m not available for this 90 minute segment of time. And so what work from home folks have to realize and leaders have to realize for them is it may be better just to say, we’re going to do a 90 minute work sprint from 9:00 to 10:30. We’re all going to talk a half hour to go do what we need to do in the house. We’re going to do another from 11 to 12:30 and then we’re going to break lunch. And let’s just check in real quick via GCHAT or maybe be on Zoom or something like that about what did we get done? How do you feel about the last 90 minutes? How did it go for you? So it’s this constant check in. So that is access versus availability. That’s number two.

Number three is the sociability aspect of it all. And my daughter made this great point last night and she said … And it’s kind of connectedness versus sociability if we do a versus. She said, “Dad, I wondered if we are in some gigantic Sims simulation and someone clicked pandemic just to see what happened and we’re all experiencing it now.” And I had said, “What if this is some great social experiment?” And she goes, “Yeah, I was thinking about that, that we’re all in somebody’s Sims game.”

Drew McLellan:

I wish someone would click the button again.

Adam Carroll:

Yes, right.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah, right.

Adam Carroll:

But what it underscores is the need to go out and connect with people even if it is virtually. And so I brought it up. Maybe it’s working in a group and you have three people on a Zoom chat and you’re just like, “Hey, for 90 minutes we just know that we’re all there and we’re all working. Let’s just see what that feels like.” Because what we don’t realize is we’re going to work every day, that we have habits and rituals of going to the coffee pot and on our way to the bathroom we stop and say hey to Jim or Janine. That’s part of our normal daily routine. We don’t have that so it feels weird.

Drew McLellan:

Right. Yeah. I think the isolation both in the spotlight and what you just talked about, that combination has a lot of people wrestling with depression and sadness and almost a grief of losing what was normal. And again I think … And I know you’ve got one more to talk to us about but it just feels like we have to help our people heal all of that so that they can be productive and they can feel okay and they can survive this mentally and emotionally well because we do care about them. From a practical point of view we also … Everybody’s trying to keep the wheels on the bus at this stage so we need everybody kind of at their A game.

Adam Carroll:

Yep. Absolutely. And the last versus, and then we’ll get into how do you keep them on their A game using this framework, is the logic versus emotion spectrum. And when we’re at work, generally speaking, we can be very logical about what needs to happen and how we’re going to get it all done. When we are in the midst of chaos like this, emotion tends to take over because of the uncertainty. So it’s that what if and what if Drew decides he’s going to lay half us off? And what if we can’t get unemployment? And what if, what if, what if? The emotions start to spiral down and then it shuts off all logic and we go, I can’t even work. I can’t even get work done because I’m so emotional about where I’m at. So first of all, how does that hit you?

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. I think all of that is … It all boils down to the different ways we’re experience this isolation. Even the introverts I know are by now sort of itching to have human contact and the huggers I know are crawling out of their skin at this stage.

Adam Carroll:

Oh my god.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah.

Adam Carroll:

Somebody touch me. Yeah, exactly.

Drew McLellan:

But it’s really about how do we show up as the leader and the boss to help them get through this? And also, I think it’s also an issue of outcome. So every agency owner and leader listening to this, their team has stuff they’ve got to get done. As you were talking about the spotlight versus the floodlight, I think one of the things that’s difficult is it’s easier to do hard work in hard times when you do see the big picture and you know why you’re doing it. And when you have, as you call it, spotlight focus of I have these five tasks that I have to get done, I guess it’s easy to get lost in sort of the meaninglessness of it.

Adam Carroll:

Totally.

Drew McLellan:

So how do we give them more of a floodlight? How do we help them see the bigger picture?

Adam Carroll:

So this leads directly into this framework that I think we can leverage. And just food for thought, I have started leveraging this in all facets of my life. So I know you. You’re an amazing dad. You’re an amazing mentor and coach to other people. You’re running two businesses. Probably more than two businesses at any given point in time. This can be done … This framework can be leveraged in a variety of different ways, a variety of different times and I’ll go through exactly how we might do that and then you can maybe pose a question to me about how it can be leveraged in various situation.

Drew McLellan:

Awesome.

Adam Carroll:

The framework spell … It’s an acronym that spells heat. And the idea is we want to keep our teams warm. When they’re all spread out all over it’s very easy to get cold. Just for the company to go cold, for the trail to go cold, for everything to go cold. So we have to maintain the heat all the time. And when I say all the time, I’m talking maybe two to three times a week you’re going to have this conversation with folks. But it goes like this, the H-

Drew McLellan:

Hang on. I have a question. Because I’m hearing them asking as we’re talking. Is this the agency owner that has to do this with everyone? Is it a direct supervisor conversation? Because some of … You may have a team of 50. So how is this handled?

Adam Carroll:

In my opinion this could be leveraged throughout the entire organization. It really more answers the question of what do I even say to people right now? What is the conversation I’m having on a regular basis because it feels like … Well, if you watch the news how many cases are there? I mean after a while you just don’t even want to have the conversation. So what we’re going to do and we’re going to answer some of the four itises that people are having in this but this would be agency owners, it would be direct line supervisors, it might even be people back and forth to each other that are on teams.

Drew McLellan:

Okay.

Adam Carroll:

So the H very simply is, how are you? How are you doing? And when we’re asking how are you, my hope and intent in this is to get someone to release some of the emotional steam that they have so that we can then get to logic afterwards. Because if someone says … If I say, “Drew, how are you?”, and your first answer is going to be-

Drew McLellan:

Well, if it was someone other than you perhaps I would go, oh, I’m good. With you I would say, I’m tired.

Adam Carroll:

Yeah. Yeah. And so what I so what I would say is how are you? And then I’d say, how are you really? Because they’re going to go, I’m fine, things are fine. How are you really? Well, besides the fact that my spouse and I are about to rip each other’s hair out and the kids are driving me crazy.

Drew McLellan:

We put one of the kids up for sale on Etsy.

Adam Carroll:

Right. Right. How are things going? Well, I’m dismembering my family as we speak but it’s good. So how are you? How are you really is meant to just … What’s really some of the emotional stuff that’s caught up in that? And what they may say is I’m just really tired. And that’s going to lead to some of the other stuff that we’re going to talk about but I might say, “Tell me more about being tired. What’s causing you that? Help me out. Is it client work? Is it home? Is it-”

Drew McLellan:

Are you having trouble sleeping?

Adam Carroll:

Yeah. Yeah. Get a sense of that. What’s stressing you out? Is it the unknown? Is it worry? And our goal is just to, again, hit the release valve, get some of the emotion out, we’re going get to logic after that.

Drew McLellan:

But it’s also just humane.

Adam Carroll:

Yes.

Drew McLellan:

It’s acknowledging sort of the hierarchy of what matters here. And yes the work matters and yes the agency matters, but what really matters is I care about you as a human being and I’m worried about you, right?

Adam Carroll:

That’s exactly right.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah.

Adam Carroll:

Yep. And I think the question logically would be asked back, how are you then? And as an agency owner or as a direct line supervisor, being somewhat transparent about … I’ll be very candid. I’m concerned about revenues but we’ve planned for this. And we have some contingency plans and we may have to make some harder decisions or more creative decisions down the road but we’ll get to that point. Right now it’s fine.

E, when we move down the line, E is expectations. So the first thing … This can be done a number of different ways. Could be done with your employees, it could be done with family, it could be done with yourself. We’ll talk about yourself at the end. But E is expectations and it basically is … Let’s just take today as an example. What do you expect to get done today? What would be a win for you? And what that’s conveying from a leader to a direct report is what I’m most concerned about is that you are feeling good about what’s getting done because there is one more versus and it’s the time versus outcome. Because a lot of people would go to work eight hours a day, but let’s be real, they’re working three and a half or four. Maybe six. Two of them are spent in impromptu meetings and hallway conversation and maybe a quick brainstorm session on a whiteboard. That doesn’t happen when you’re at home.

So there are some people that are feeling stressed because they sat at their desk all day being busy and being numb to everything that’s going on because they’re probably surfing Facebook and Twitter and whatever else. All we need to know is … And this is a little bit of a spotlight conversation. What do you expect to get done today? By the end of the day today, what’s a win for you? So expectations. Comments, concerns on that one?

Drew McLellan:

Nope. I think you’re spot on.

Adam Carroll:

Yep.

Drew McLellan:

And I think it also allows us to catch if what they think is the priority isn’t the priority.

Adam Carroll:

That’s exactly right.

Drew McLellan:

Because one of the challenges of working remotely is normally you’re used to doing huddles and all of that and a lot of agencies are getting creative with daily Zoom huddles and things like that. But it’s easier when we’re not bumping each other in the hall for things to get dropped. And so this is also in my mind a safety net to go, “Oh, yesterday, you’re right, that was the big priority. But this morning so and so called and now it’s this.”

Adam Carroll:

Exactly.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah.

Adam Carroll:

Exactly. And again, some people would be saying, “Do I have this conversation every day?” It may be two days, three days. I’m going to do a check in Monday, we’ll check in Wednesday. What are your expectations by the end of the week? What are you going to get done? So this can be flexible. For my wife, the question was, “Hey, do you have any expectations about tomorrow? What do you want tomorrow to be like? What would be a win for you?” Kids too. From your dad’s perspective, “I have to work a little bit this week but what are your expectations of me?” And my boys said, “We just want to play basketball at night.” Cool. I can manage that.

The A in heat could be one of three things. And this is why the conversation is going to be somewhat fluid and flexible. One is going to be appreciation. And this is probably one of the first conversations that an owner or a direct line supe needs to have. And it’s just, “Drew, I just really want to let you know I appreciate the fact that you’re on my team, that you have a great attitude, that I can always count on you to get the work done. And specifically that there are certain clients that rely on you to do the work and you’re always great about that. So I just want you to know I appreciate you for that.” That’s one A.

Another A might be acknowledgment. And the acknowledgment might just be, “Hey Sue, I just want to acknowledge the fact that I know that you’re both working and you’re probably making dinner every night and doing some of the schooling at home jobs, so I just want to acknowledge the fact that you’re doing it all right now and you’re doing an impeccable job at it. And I’m guessing that other people probably aren’t acknowledge you for that. So I just want to acknowledge you for that.” And this goes to just that I think humans have a deep sincere desire to be acknowledged for the work that we do.

Drew McLellan:

Absolutely. Especially under these weird circumstances.

Adam Carroll:

Super weird.

Drew McLellan:

Yep.

Adam Carroll:

Even if that’s I acknowledge you for placing an Aisles online order with a grocery store.

Drew McLellan:

Right. Right. Thanks for getting that done. Yeah.

Adam Carroll:

Yeah. Appreciate you buying two bottles of wine last week. That came in super handy last night.

Drew McLellan:

I read an article that said the online wine stores are busier than they’ve ever been before.

Adam Carroll:

I was just on a webinar with a gentleman who started a wine and liquor story five years ago and he said, “I figured it was a recession proof business.” And he said, “It’s proving out to be.”

Drew McLellan:

Oh my gosh. If anything, recession better right?

Adam Carroll:

Right.

Drew McLellan:

Crazy.

Adam Carroll:

Right. So we have appreciation, we have acknowledgment, and the last one is accountability. And this might be later in the week or it may be earlier in the week. So you do appreciation and then you do, “Drew, you mentioned you had these four priorities, these expectations for the week. How can I help hold you accountable to those particular things? Or is there anything that we can do as a team to hold you accountable?” So appreciation, acknowledgment and accountability make up A for heat. And then last but not least, the T. And this is going to be pretty apropos and probably assumed, but it’s teamwork. And that is the idea that we are together despite the fact that we’re apart right now. So just know that if you’re feeling like, hey, we need to get a collective mind meeting together, we can do that. And in fact for many organizations, if they’re somewhat closely held, I think having a once a week check in Monday morning or Monday afternoon … “Hey, what’s going on this week? Who’d doing it? Can anybody hold each other accountable? Do you guys need to work together?” Showing that we’re together as a team is really important. And the idea that together we will make it through. That this is really going to be a joint effort.

Drew McLellan:

Well, and I think one of the ways agencies are doing this already is that they are figuring out a way to sort of combat the virus crisis together using their talents. I have one agency that took on the takeout Tuesday thing in a big way and created all these amazing graphics and put it all out on social and they are emailing their clients. They’re just trying to create a movement around that in their local community. And that’s not only good for the soul because you’re helping but it’s also something that you can collaborate on, you can be proud of. It’s fun. There’s not a lot of fun happening.

Adam Carroll:

Yes.

Drew McLellan:

One of the things we’re missing is sort of … I’ve always thought about this in my own agency as it’s important that we play a lot because we have to cleanse our pallet all the time to be creative. And so we were always goofing around or having paper airplane contests or whatever it was. It didn’t matter. But we’re missing a lot of that. And so this is a new way that this agency has figured out how to play together and celebrate something and so I think also coming up with sort of team projects or things that people can contribute to would be another way to remind them that even though we’re physically not together right now we are still a team.

Adam Carroll:

No doubt. There was a great example of that just this past weekend. A good friend of mine owns a real estate company and so all of his realtors obviously are somewhat on lockdown in terms of open houses and showing homes and all of that. And he said, “Hey, I want everyone to get together. We’re still a team. I nominate this person. You have to sing this song and record it and attach the video in a text string.” So people are basically doing karaoke through their phones.

Drew McLellan:

Wow.

Adam Carroll:

Some people clearly were better than others.

Drew McLellan:

No doubt.

Adam Carroll:

But it was fun to watch and he included me on it which was nice. So I got Faithfully by Journey.

Drew McLellan:

Okay. I want that video. As soon as we hang up I expect a text of that video.

Adam Carroll:

Well, I also got Wannabe by the Spice Girls. That was another one that got thrown out. So I might send you that one because my range is just not that high.

Drew McLellan:

I would love to see them all. And I promise I will not release them into the wild.

Adam Carroll:

Okay.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. Yeah. All right.

Adam Carroll:

Done and done.

Drew McLellan:

Hey there everybody. I am sorry to interrupt this episode but I wanted to make sure that you knew about a resource that we are building out to help agency owners and leaders manage through the COVID crisis. So if you go the The Agency Management Institute website, so agencymanagementinstitute.com, and you either search for COVID or on the home page there’s a link to the COVID survival tools for agency owners, basically every week we are adding new resources. They are things that we’ve created, podcasts, videos, other things like that and also things we’ve curated. So some of them are from other subject matter experts. Some of them are documents around, for example, some of the SBA loan stuff that’s going on right now. So we’re just trying to gather up anything that we think will be valuable for you and organize it in a way that will be easy for you to sort through and access. No email required. No firewall. We’re not going to send you a drip campaign or try and sell you anything. I just want you to go there, take what is useful to you, and ignore the rest. We are in this together. We are going to survive this together and we are going to thrive again together and this is just one of the ways that we’re trying to do that is to put those resources in a place that’s easy for you to get to.

So again, agencymanagementinstitute.com. Either search for COVID or click on the link on the homepage and it will take you to the resource page. Okay.

So yeah. I think the team thing is critical because I think people are feeling so isolated. And I also think … And I don’t know where this fits in to this conversation, but I also think people are feeling a little guilty because they kind of like being at home.

Adam Carroll:

Oh yeah.

Drew McLellan:

I’ve talked to a lot of people who are loving the extra family time and the fact that their teenage kids can’t go anywhere and they have to play boardgames and hang out with their parents and they’re binge watching things together. And so although this is a time of uncertainty and fear, there’s also silver linings in this and I think some people are feeling bad that they’re feeling kind of good.

Adam Carroll:

Yeah. Yeah. Well, if nothing else … And I’ve felt this a little bit too. Just being at home more causes you to consume less.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah.

Adam Carroll:

Right. I mean the fact of the matter is, we haven’t gone out and bought a bunch of stuff that we would normally do. And I started wondering do we work to consume so that we work more so then we can consume more? At some level, are we on this rat race a little bit? And to your point, I think what cannot be lost in the midst of this are the lessons that we are to takeaway from the downtime.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah.

Adam Carroll:

And it would be a really interesting, maybe journaling exercise for agency owners to say to their teams, “Hey this morning, take 30 minutes or 20 minutes, 15, whatever it takes, and write down what are the positive life lessons you’re learning out of this.” Because again, being in calm waters in the middle of this rough storm is going to require that we shift people’s thinking from what ifs and what could be and oh my gosh to hey, let’s not forget how blessed we are to have all the things that we have and be able to work together and have great clients who are going to … They’re going to fine on the opposite side of this. But it is going to take a very steady even hand at that.

Drew McLellan:

I think that’s circling back to how we sort of started the conversation. How in this strange environment when quite candidly the agency owners are afraid … It’s really been fascinating. Some agencies are actually busier than they were before their clients are essential services or are busy because of the virus. And other agencies, 50% of their 2020 revenue has walked out the door in the last 10 days.

Adam Carroll:

Right.

Drew McLellan:

So I’m seeing this wide spectrum of emotion but the uncertainty … When you’re an entrepreneur … At least for me. One of the things that I love about being an entrepreneur is, I have a lot more control over a lot of things in my world. I will admit it. I am fond of control. And so for the listeners who have not heard Adam and I together before, Adam and I know each other very well. We’ve been a mastermind group for about what? 15 years?

Adam Carroll:

Yeah. At least.

Drew McLellan:

So dear friends. Love him like a brother. So when he chuckles when I say that I’m fond of control it’s because I’m really fond of control. But I think for agency owners, they are agonizing over what may come. And so it’s hard to be a calm steady leader when you’re shaking in your own boots. So how do we be both authentic and confident and calm when those things feel a little incongruent?

Adam Carroll:

Yep. Well, I saw this the other day. There’s a lot changing obviously. There is a lot also that will never change. And keeping in mind what won’t change after COVID-19 is done … Hopefully passes its way through society we find a-

Drew McLellan:

Vaccine or something.

Adam Carroll:

A vaccine. Yeah. Something to stem it. There are things that won’t change. And the things that won’t change is, people will still need marketing. They will still need to figure out how to get the word out. They will still need leads. They will still need paid traffic. They’ll still need graphic design. And I think that candidly the way that I’m looking at what’s going on right now is we’re kind of all collapsing in on ourselves a little bit from a financial perspective. But I’m also looking at what happens after this? And you know I’m doing a lot of consulting in the way of culture and visioning and what is the strategic plan for the next year or two years? I actually think there is going to be a massive explosion of that in the next six months. And so I’m kind of hunkered down, getting all my systems ready to explode when the time comes.

Because I think your agency owners are going to be busier than they were prior to this if they go out with the right messaging, which might be hey, these companies you were working with, it’s time to hit the reset button. It can’t be business as usual and we’re going to rebrand or remarket. We’re going to create new campaigns. And you have to do that in the post COVID world because we’re not going to go back to the way it was. It’s going to be a little bit different. And I don’t know that that provides or presents calm or comfort in the moment, in the present moment. But my hope is that 60 days from now we’re at a point where all of that’s possible. And then the other thing I would say on that, Drew, is to your point about would people be interested in going to three days a week and shifting salaries that way? I have to imagine there are some families out there that would say, I would be willing to do that if it means we’re going to save … For 60 days if we’re going to save the company, I’ll go do that.

Drew McLellan:

Right. That has been the reaction so far. So a few of my agencies have already had to do that and the reaction has been … The owner has actually gotten thank you notes. Thank you for doing what’s best for the company. Thank you for being super honest with us. And some of the owners have, much like the Marriott CEO presentation which is making its way all over the globe, some of them have gotten very choked up about it. It’s very personal and it feels like you haven’t protected the family or a failure. And the reality is, none of us could have predicted or prevented this. And so we are all doing the best that we can. I have always aired on the side of wear your heart on your sleeve. But I think in this time it’s really critical that you not be super stoic and stone faced. That it’s okay to let them know that this has shaken you too and you’re doing the best that you can with the information you have today. And you’re worried about them and your own self and your family. But we are going to figure this out together the best we can.

As long as you don’t make promises you can’t keep. You’re not saying no one will lose their job or anything like that you’re going to have to eat those words later. I think that transparency is healthy right now.

Adam Carroll:

Yeah. Yeah I would totally agree. And the idea of stoic leadership, we work with a number of stoic leaders and they’re very analytical. They’re looking at the numbers. People will be fine. And we’re saying, “Hey, that may be your perspective which is great. And then there’s another side of that coin which is these people are really emotive and they’re freaked out. And they’re freaked out because you’re stoic. Because it looks like you’re not changing at all. And what they might need is a little bit of reassurance or a little bit of emotive behavior.” And one particular CEO that we work with, he said, “These guys all think I just make a mint and drive around in a new car all day long.” And I said, “Then maybe it’s time to send out a note that talks about the conversation you had at dinner last night and what you and your family are going through or what you appreciate about this time. And that it is just I get to spend a lot of time with my family, for better or for worse.” And the feedback from his team was they appreciated the fact that they got a glimpse into him as a person. Because what they were seeing most of the time was him as CEO and stoic.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. I mean the good is I think most agency owners are sort of emotive by nature. I think it’s part of the creative process that kind of oozes from them. But I think now is a time not to try and hide that and that it’s okay to be uncertain. I think that’s the other part. It’s challenging as a leader. When we think about how we show up as a leader I think a lot of times we want people to think that we’re in charge and we’ve got it covered and we know all the answers and so I think it’s frightening for leaders to admit, “I know what we’re doing this week, but depending on the phone call I get in an hour or whether or not I can get the SBA loan or whatever is going on, I’m not sure what next weeks is. But we’ll face it together.”

Adam Carroll:

Yeah. Yeah, no doubt. And I think that heat model, that last message, the last bit that you just gave, together we’ll get through it, is really important for everyone to hear. I think that’s critical. So I mentioned heat but I want to go through it one more time with you Drew. H, how are you? How are you really? E is expectation. What expectations do you have for today? What expectations do you have of me this week? A is either appreciation, acknowledgement or accountability.

Drew McLellan:

Or some mix of all of them right?

Adam Carroll:

Or some mix of all, yep. And then teamwork. So I mentioned I had the conversation. You could have it with employees. You could certainly have it with your family. I had it yesterday with my daughter. “Hey babe, how are you doing today? How are you doing with all of this?” And she said, “Dad, I just really miss my friends.” And I said, “I get that. And there will be a time we’ll have everyone over and it’ll be sooner than you think.” I said, “What expectations do you have of your mom and I or your brothers that aren’t being met?” And she said, “None really. I just want to be able to be in my room and not be called out for being in my room for hours on end because sometimes I just want to be by myself.” And I was like, “I get that.” And I said, “I just want to acknowledge you for having a positive outlook on everything.” Because I never sense that she’s negative. “And I want to acknowledge the fact that I appreciate your positivity.” And I go, “Together, we’ll get through it. And I’m sure there’ll be a fun family trip or something that we’ll take at the end of this because we didn’t get to go on spring break.” And she’s like, “Yep, I’m sure there will.”

It was two minutes. Two minute conversation. With my wife, it was laying in bed. “How are you? How was today, scale of one to 10?” She goes, “Today was a six.” And I said, “Yeah, what happened that made it a six?” And she told me and I said, “Are there any expectations you have tomorrow knowing that tomorrow is the first day of at home school?” And she said, “I just really need your support. I need you to be there to say, this is important, we’re going to do this.” And I said, “I want to acknowledge you for meals every night have been amazing. You’re keeping a positive outlook which I think the kids need.” And I said, “I just sense that you’re kind of lost with what you want to do.” And she goes, “I am.” I go, “Well, together we’ll figure all that out.” And she goes, “I know we will.” And that was it. So I only say that to give you an idea of how can this be used when someone’s like I just don’t even know what to say? Just use heat as a model.

Drew McLellan:

Well, and honestly it’s not a model just for now. As you begin to do this more often and you do it in your own language and in your own style … So for some of the listeners if they said to somebody I want to acknowledge you for blah, blah, blah, they would go, “What is the matter with you?” Right?

Adam Carroll:

Right.

Drew McLellan:

You have to make it your own. But this is not just a COVID thing. This is not just a working from home thing. This is a pretty good model anytime you want to connect with someone and you want to let them know that you are caring and concerned about their work and how they’re doing and that you want to support them. Which as leaders, should be what we’re modeling all of the time.

Adam Carroll:

Yep. I would agree. I would agree. And the image that I just had in my head is if you look at an org chart, there might be a straight line between you and I if you’re my direct supervisor. And over time if you don’t have these heat conversations it becomes a dotted line. And then it becomes kind of a dotted line. Then there’s like is there a line? I’m not really sure if I am under this person or if they’re over me or someone else is over me. So I think the necessity of these to happen on a regular basis, COVID-19 only shone a light on. And I think probably not for many of your agency owners but in many organizations the conversations just aren’t happening. And people think, “Eh, folks are doing their work. It’s fine.” And I’ve said over and over again the absence of negative feedback is not positive feedback. Ans so we have to build the relationships and make deposits into an emotional bank account. Because at some point we probably will have to have a hard conversation. And you aptly put it on one of your emails. It’s like, how do you put this genie back in the bottle when we’re all with COVID?

Okay, everybody’s back at the office. I really liked working at home. Can’t we still do this two days a week?

Drew McLellan:

In my jammies. Right?

Adam Carroll:

In my jammies.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah.

Adam Carroll:

Yep.

Drew McLellan:

And also I think too, this is not just a supervisor to employee. I think if you want to show up as a leader in your organization regardless or your title or your rank or how long you’ve been there, you having these conversation with your peers would also be amazing.

Adam Carroll:

Yeah. No doubt. I even put with yourself. I mean candidly, I had this conversation with myself this morning. How am I really? Because this morning I was tired. But I played basketball with my boys in the driveway last night and they just crushed me. I had ibuprofen for breakfast, let’s put it that way. And then I said, okay, what do I expect to get done today given that I had webinars and podcasts and things going on? It’s not a huge list. But if I can get those done I’ll feel good. And then accountability for me is the A. So it’s like, how can I remain accountable to my coworkers, my peers, my family? And last but not least was just teamwork was about me checking in with my operations person, Molly Rose, and finding out, what do we need to do? What’s missing for you that I need to do and here’s what I need from you. And just together we’ll get through it this week. So you can have these with yourself too.

Drew McLellan:

Which is probably a pretty healthy thing to do right?

Adam Carroll:

Yeah.

Drew McLellan:

Just trying to keep yourself on an even keel.

Adam Carroll:

For sure.

Drew McLellan:

Any other thoughts about just this work from home environment and things? For so many agency owners this is the opposite of what they ever wanted. We’re such a collaborative business. We’re so used to being able to just collect people at random and say come into the conference room and let’s talk about this thing. Spitball in the hallway or all of that that … This idea of this isolation is so uncomfortable. And it’s never … It’s not never. I certainly have agencies that are virtual by design. But they are the minority. And they’ve already figured all this out. They hit the ground running when shelter in place and all the schools closed because they were like, “Yeah, we’re just going to keep working.”

Adam Carroll:

Yeah. We’ve been doing this forever.

Drew McLellan:

Right. So for the agency owners or leaders that this is not the norm, are there any other thoughts or tips that you have for them about how to make this as productive and valuable and normal a time as they can?

Adam Carroll:

Yeah. Well, one suggestion I have would be to look back at your calendar and see what a typical week was like. How many group meetings were there? How many times were people together? And try and replicate that somewhat. If it was a normal week and in a normal week you’d have two brainstorm sessions, then let’s make sure there’s a virtual brainstorm session. And it could be more than virtual if you have a whiteboard sitting on the wall and one person’s at the white board and they’re like, “All right, feed me ideas. We’re going to put all this in there and then we’re going to put it up in a shared document.” And I know there are some virtual whiteboard environments that you can jump into. But I think making sure those meetings happen is really critical for a couple of reasons. One, it feels normal. Oh, there’s a team meeting, I got to be on it. Number two, you get to see everyone. It’s that whole sociability versus connectedness. So it feels like we’re connecting. That’s important. And then I think creatives by nature, you and I fit this bill, we love sharing ideas. We want to be in an idea mode. And now there are some people that are sitting at home like, “I have all these ideas I just don’t know what to do with them.”

And so having those brainstorm sessions I think would be really good. Even if it’s like, “Who’s dealing with something? Let’s throw it up on the board and spitball it quick.” I think that’d be really helpful. And in the midst of that, finding some other creative outlet. I mean for me, I have turned to journaling just to go through what am I feeling? What are my thoughts? What am I frustrated about? And then going back and reading it and saying, oh that’s not real or that might highlight that I need to be doing something more creative. And to your point, we have all this time. We feel guilty about being at home but somewhat happy about it. I’ve got two guitars hanging on the wall back here that I probably haven’t picked up in six months and now in the last week I’ve strummed them more than I ever have. And I feel really good about that. And that for me is kind of a creative outlet too so what are the agency owners and all their people doing to foster some of that creativity?

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. One of the things that one of my agency owners did which I thought was very indicative of her heart is she put together a care package for each of her employees and mailed it to them. Or in some cases dropped it off on their doorstep because she’s not living in a place where she has to shelter in place but they just basically can go to the grocery store and everything else is closed. But anyway, she just went out of her way to kind of love on her people and to encourage them and acknowledge that they all have sort of these side hustle passions, whether it’s music or writing or cooking or whatever. And she wanted to encourage them to do don’t with that while they’re home.

Adam Carroll:

Love it.

Drew McLellan:

Which I thought was awesome.

Adam Carroll:

So cool.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah.

Adam Carroll:

I even wonder about a shared masterclass login. Buy an annual masterclass subscription and send people to town on learning … I mean you could learn cooking, you can learn French pastries. You can learn acting, writing, screenplays. You name it.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. Those classes are awesome. I agree.

Adam Carroll:

They are awesome. They are awesome. So yeah, I’m with you on that. And the other thing on the learning side I think if there is budget for it or if you’ve already paid for these kinds of courses, now is the time to really sharpen that saw and be talking some of the classes. Whether it be in design or paid ads or whatever it may be.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. Get your Google certification or whatever.

Adam Carroll:

Totally. What is the Facebook blueprint? Is that what it is?

Drew McLellan:

Yep. Yep. It’s excellent.

Adam Carroll:

I mean there is so much content in there. That’s like a $2 billion course right there. So if it’s like well, we don’t know what to do. Two hours a day spent in creating laser focused attention on how to do great paid ads would be I think well worth it.

Drew McLellan:

Yep. Yeah. I think it is an opportunity for us to indulge in some things that we don’t normally get to do but also to spend some more time getting better so that when we come out of this we’re in a position to help even more clients in a bigger more significant way.

Adam Carroll:

Definitely.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah.

Adam Carroll:

Definitely. How much content are agency owners or agencies creating or is that even something they would do?

Drew McLellan:

No. Some of them do a lot and others are more hit or miss. I mean, it’s the old cobbler’s children have no shoes excuse. But that excuse is kind of going away for some of them. So I also think we’re in the very front end of where a lot of people have just been sent home and schools have just closed. I think we’re in the panic season of this. And I think in another week or so probably by the time this airs people will be out of the panic. They’ll sort of know, okay, I was able to get a loan or I kind of know where our clients are. And then I think they’ll be able to take better advantage of some of the things we’re talking about. Right now in the hierarchy of need we are in the oxygen food stage.

Adam Carroll:

Right. Right.

Drew McLellan:

And I think people will work their way up the food chain so to speak in the weeks ahead and be able to take advantage of some of those other learning opportunities or opportunities to create. I know some agencies are really looking at all of their biz dev assets and kind of getting those strengthened and new case studies. That sort of thing. So I think they’ll be a lot of creativity and a lot of new tools that come out of this moment in time.

Adam Carroll:

Cool.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah.

Adam Carroll:

One of the thoughts that came to mind that you and I have talked about before is Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. And some of the needs in that are being pushed. It’s being pushed down from self actualization all the way down. Because for some people their livelihood is challenged, their home in some cases may be in jeopardy, all those things. So I do think we have to be mindful of that. But anyway, that was just a thought that came to mind.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. I think so too. I think we’ll come out of that with a little more certainty around what’s coming. And then we’ll sort of have to be hunkered down and just sort of wait out the virus. And then I think we’ll see some really amazing things come out of this. And thanks to you hopefully some really great conversations. One of the outcomes of this is that agency owners and the people on their teams have stronger, better relationships because they’ve had some of the conversations that you’ve outlined for us today. That they feel more connected to one another because for a moment in time we were disconnected.

Adam Carroll:

Right. Well, I appreciate that. I will say there’s a good friend of mine who’s actually my business partner in Renzo, who is amazing at difficult conversations. And he’s had them with all of the team. We have them regularly. And yet he and I can say anything to each other and it’s received well because we know that we have that bond. And so I think the need to have these has never been greater. And I think what we’ll see on the opposite side of it is strengthened relationships and a deep forged trust with the leaders who have these and can have them in a very straightforward way. So I’m excited to share it and I appreciate you doing this and providing this resource Drew.

Drew McLellan:

Thanks so much. I know you’re crazy busy. Thanks for carving out the time … You and I had a phone conversation two days ago and I was like, “We should talk about that on the podcast,” and boom, here we are today doing it. So thank you for making the time on your calendar and for, as always, being so generous with sharing what you know. It’s definitely what I love most about you, is your generosity and how you want to help everybody be better and feel better and see the opportunities. So I appreciate you sharing it with my audience today.

Adam Carroll:

Well, I’m rubber and you’re glue.

Drew McLellan:

There you go. Oh my gosh. We just turned into 13 year old girls.

Adam Carroll:

Can we braid each other’s hair?

Drew McLellan:

Yeah.

Adam Carroll:

No, you can’t do mine because I have none. I have one question for you.

Drew McLellan:

Okay.

Adam Carroll:

How much melatonin do you give your dog? Because that is a sleepy little puppy back there.

Drew McLellan:

I know but I just gave her a bunch of treats and I bribed her with what’s to come soon.

Adam Carroll:

Nice.

Drew McLellan:

And the two dogs have been insane all morning. I just let them go crazy thinking … It’s just like having a baby only they don’t speak English and they shed and I’ve never had a baby that shed really. But I just tried to wear them out and hope that nap time would coincide.

Adam Carroll:

Nice.

Drew McLellan:

So I’m relieved to see that it has. The other one of course is in the backyard and I’m sure she’s dug a hole six feet deep. But I got to go rescue her now.

Adam Carroll:

That’ll make a good shelter someday.

Drew McLellan:

That’s right.

Adam Carroll:

You can see mine’s kind of standing by the door waiting to get out.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. Hey, if folks what to learn more about your work and I know you’re doing a lot of work around helping people really be the leaders that they want to be and build amazing organizations, how do they track you down and find out more about the work you’re doing?

Adam Carroll:

The best place to go would be the website renzoexperience.com. It’s R-E-N-Z-O. Renzoexperience.com. And our goal is really to help owners of organizations build a company culture that people love to come to work to. And we think that so much of that is done through these conversations, setting expectations, visioning well and we love to do the work. The reason it’s called the experience is it’s done like no one else can do. Just the way we interact with our clients and create connection and challenge people kind of outside their comfort zones a little bit. But we do it in a very safe and comforting way that helps move the needle big time for companies. So Renzo Experience would probably be the best place. We do webinars and we’ve got some free resources and things like that we’re constantly building. So check out the site.

Drew McLellan:

Awesome. Thank you my friend. I appreciate you as always. I’m grateful for your time and just for you. So thank you.

Adam Carroll:

I’m honored Drew. Thank you.

Drew McLellan:

You bet.

All right guys. This wraps up another episode of Build a Better Agency. I know these are uncertain times. Hang in there. I promise you we will get through this together. If you have not visited the website lately, know that we have a COVID-19 resource page where we are putting all kinds of content around everything from financing to team building to how to work from home. It’s got podcasts and videos and PDFs. Everything we can think of that will be helpful to you. So head over to the website and you will find it there. And if there’s anything we can do to help you and your agency get through this, you know how to get ahold of me. It’s [email protected] and we have your back. We’re going to survive this season and as I have said many times in my analogy, this is a storm we’re going to get through and we will get to calm waters again so hang in there, guard your hearts and know you are not alone.

I will be back next week with another guest but before I let you go, just a huge thank you to our friends at White Label IQ. It is so important that this podcast is here right now and that we are able to bring you these amazing guests and having a presenting sponsor like White Label allows us to do that. So I would love it if you would reach out to them and thank them for their support of this podcast and let them know that it matters to you and to your agency. And if you’re looking for White Label dev, design, or PPC, they are knocking it out of the park for agencies big and small. So they’re happy to do little projects, big projects, one time projects, ongoing work. They’re just really delightful people to work with. Good, good people and incredible skills. And I’m super grateful that they are part of the AMI family and that they help me bring you podcasts like this.

All right. I will be back next week with another guest to help us navigate this crazy moment in time that we are sharing together and remember that we will survive this together and we will thrive in those calm waters together. All right, I’ll be back next week.

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 midsize agencies. Don’t forget to subscribe today so you don’t miss an episode.