Drew answers these questions: “How do we enforce more rigor and discipline after years of being too easygoing without strict measures? Note particularly after you’ve grown past a certain point.” So like 25 FTEs, and the related question is, “Have the attitudes of young workers changed, pandemic or otherwise? Or am I just turning into my father?”

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Hey, everybody. Drew McLellan here from Agency Management Institute this week, coming to you from Wooster, Ohio. We are moving our youngest out of the dorm for the holiday season. So I still have some questions from the Summit that I did not get to answer at the Summit, as you know. So I want to cover those couple of those today because I think these two questions are related. The first one was, “How do we enforce more rigor and discipline after years of being too easygoing without strict measures? Note particularly after you've grown past a certain point.” So like 25 FTEs, and the related question is, “Have the attitudes of young workers changed, pandemic or otherwise? Or am I just turning into my father?” Okay, so a couple of things are normal in our world, which is for many agencies, when things get soft or slow and when we don't downsize appropriately, we have more bodies than we have work. And so the work pace gets slower. That's a normal agency thing. Then you add COVID into the mix where, again, for many of us, work slowed down for at least a few months and we were working differently. We were working remotely, we were being super flexible with our people because, one, it was COVID and we were trying to be kind human beings, but also two, because we didn't want to lose them. And three, because it was a pandemic. And so we were just sort of inventing it as we went along. So there was a lot of more flexible work schedules, more fluidity in the work schedule. And I think for many of you, 23 has been a tough year. And so because you have good employees, some of you have chosen to stay overstaffed because you don't want to lose the good people because you know business is going to come back. So for a lot of reasons, things have slowed down in your agency for many of you. And when things slow down, people get used to that pace. They get used to – there's this, I've talked about this before, there's the law called Parkinson's Law, which basically says a task will grow to fill the amount of time we give it to get completed. So when you tell someone they have to clean the kitchen in 30 minutes, they can clean the kitchen in 30 minutes. But if you've ever done this with your teenagers and told them they had to clean the kitchen sometime today, guess what? That kitchen took all day to clean. So we have been sort of the victims of Parkinson's law, which is that we've sort of allowed work to inflate to fill the amount of time that we had to do it because we didn't have enough work on anybody's plate. So, number one, I think it’s dangerous, somewhat accurate, but dangerous to paint any generation of employees by one brush. Are younger employees different? Yes. Do they have different expectations? Absolutely. Do they have to be managed differently? Yes, they do. So in many cases, they have not had they've not been called to rigor. They have not been held accountable to a job. They have not been asked to sort of step up in the way that we when we started our careers, we were immediately asked to step up into. And then they came into a soft workplace where there really weren't a lot of demands on them. And we were super good about, you know, look, it's an 8 to 5 gig and you don't have to work lots of extra hours. They're not working the 60 hours that some of us did when we started our career. And honestly, as bosses, that's not what we want them to do either. But I'll tell you how you move from sort of fat and happy to more rigor and discipline. And the way you do that is by helping the team understand what the old way of working has been costing you. And you make it make them understand that there are financial implications, there's growth implications for them and their teammates, and you start to map out what rigor and discipline brings not only to the agency but to them as individuals. And you build out a program where they benefit when the agency gets more profitable and more efficient. And so, again, if you pull the two levers of AGI and profitability, and when we hit our AGI goal at a certain profitability goal, then everyone shares in that. It really does change the attitude and the behavior of the employees. They begin to understand how they are contributing. Because here's the deal, your employees either help you make money or they cost you money with every decision they make, but they don't really understand that. They don't understand agency math. So so number one, they have to understand the why and what's in it for them. And there has to be something in it for them. It can't just be all to our benefit as the owners. So that's number one. We have to help them understand the cost of our slower pace, our less rigorous work, the mistakes we make, those kinds of things. That's number one. And number two is agency owners, rightly or wrongly so, are painted with the brush of that you know, we have a we have a plan of the month or a plan of the week. We read a book and we're all excited about implementing the book or we try a new software and we're gung ho on the software. But our resolve softens over time. And so sometimes your employees are like, ‘Yeah, this is just his or her thing of the month. And so I'm not going to get all whooped up about this because I'm not really confident that this is really going to stick.’ And so I think you have to implement the changes sort of intentionally, but with inner – with intervals. So, hey, this quarter we're going to make this change to get us towards the more rigor and discipline. This quarter after after we that one stuck and the habits are formed, we're going to add to that. So we're not making that go away, but we're going to add to that by doing this next level, then the next quarter the same thing. And then so if it's the if it's you frame it in a way, and this is a great time of year to do this, if you frame it in a way that, look, this is the year where we get serious about sort of leveling up the work, the quality of the work, the lack of mistakes, the discipline that we bring to our work, because we want to make sure we don't get commoditized. We want to make sure we can command a premium price. And after 2023, we really need to focus on growth and a focus on growth we have to get it – we have to get it right both for our existing clients and our prospects. So I think if you if you try those things, number one, helping them understand the why, building something in it for them, for the why, and then doing it in sort of moments or quarters where you're just layering on the change and layering on the discipline rather than trying to do it all at once. Because quite honestly, when we bite off more than we can chew, it doesn't stick. And then we just reinforce the idea that they don't really have to listen to us when we talk about change because we change our change all the time. So those are the three steps that I think will help you add more vigor, add more discipline. And you know what? Some of your employees aren't going to like it, and that's okay. Regardless of their age, they might be the younger ones, they might be the older ones. If they can't perform at the level you want them to perform, then go ahead and let the pressure of the job teach them that and teach you that and then help them find a place where they can be successful because long term they're not going to be successful at your place. And that's okay. And I think you'll be surprised how many young people actually step into the discipline and rigor. So it's I don't think it's that they don't want to work hard. I think they just haven't been taught how to work hard. And so we can teach them that. All right. That's it for today. Sorry, this was a long one, but it was a complicated question. I'll see you next week.

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