If there is an Achille’s heel for agency owners, it’s the ability to have candid conversations with members of their team. In our work with over 250 agencies a year, this is a pattern I’ve come to recognize all too often. A strong, charismatic owner is petrified to be honest with a member of their team.

So they either avoid the topic altogether or they pussyfoot around the discussion, leaving the employee in the dark but feeling as though they can check it off the list. I have my own theories about why so many agency owners allow this weakness to paralyze their agency’s growth but whatever the root cause, it’s one of the biggest barriers to building the agency you deserve to own.

See if any of these seem familiar:

  • You don’t do regular reviews of your team
  • You often find yourself talking (and repeating the same conversation) about an employee with your business partner or another employee that serves in a leadership role
  • You have a love/hate relationship with a superstar performer who isn’t in alignment with your agency’s culture
  • You tiptoe around conversations because you’re afraid of the repercussions
  • You believe that having frank conversations that hold people accountable is not good for your agency’s culture

You can be good at just about everything else, but if you can’t cultivate a culture of respectful candor — you’re going to hit a brick wall. Again and again.

This is a leadership issue. This is a maturity issue, and this is a profitability and growth issue. If you want to attract and retain top performers — you have to be willing to rise above your discomfort and be candid with them. Beyond that, you need to encourage that same skill throughout your organization.

In the end, it doesn’t matter why you aren’t good at it. What matters is that you decide you’re going to do the hard work of getting better at it. I highly recommend the book Radical Candor if you’re looking for some insight on this blind spot.

What do you say? Are you willing to work on this critical skill?

This was originally published in the weekly AMI newsletter.  To subscribe, click here.