How’s Your Leadership Growing?

It is a well-established fact that agencies with better leadership are more likely to enjoy long-term success. Agencies with highly skilled people are the “norm” these days. Your agency HAS to have good creative, account service, traffic, financials, etc. What makes the real difference these days seems to be the quality of agency leadership, leadership that goes beyond agency skills.

This applies not only to the agency’s principal(s), but also to the two to three key people who help run the agency on a daily basis. The more these folks are ready and able to lead, the better the agency becomes over time.

Following are some leadership traits that key agency people ought to have or develop as they move forward into the coming year and beyond.

Does your agency have a business plan, and is it being led from the top?

Strategic business planning is critical to fully understanding where the agency is going. Key agency objectives, strategies and tactics are provided and followed by all staff. This discipline shows leadership within the ranks.

The best way to do a strategic marketing plan is to do it MBO-style.

What does MBO mean? MBO stands for “Management by Objective.” This planning concept was developed by Peter Drucker fifty+ years ago, and is still used by most major companies in developing strategic plans. It starts with determining 3-5 major objectives that are then cascaded with 3-5 strategies to meet each objective, and 3-5 tactics to meet each strategy. MBO is a very orderly method of planning, and, most important, allows the tactics to be assigned to personnel, time-lined and budgeted. 

Why do an agency business plan?

It’s simple. Planning:

  • Allows the company to have a very specific, coordinated plan for growth.
  • Invites everyone to participate in the development and activation of the plan. The plan communicates shared goals and values, and points out where this may not be true.
  • Allows the plan to be modified based on current conditions and circumstances, since the plan is a living, breathing document.
  • Encourages a long-range view of the company.
  • Encourages optimum use of resources.
  • Facilitates and monitors progress against goals. 

Do you have a scorecard for each leader?

From the MBO plan, a “scorecard,” should be generated, listing the specific things leaders need to accomplish based on the needs of the agency. Each month the scorecard is tallied to see where each leader stands.

Are you assuring that there are personal growth plans in place?

Each leader needs a growth plan to assure s/he is progressing in leadership skills. This is in addition to the scorecard, which measures the completion of the agency’s strategic business plan. These plans would consist of the following:

An “Accomplishment” List – The agency will assemble a master list of “A” and “B” level actions items each will strive to accomplish during set times of check-in. This list will form the basis for leadership growth. The items listed will serve to move people forward both in personal leadership growth AND in immediate management benefit to the agency.

Readings – A reading list should be assembled for all agency leaders. These books, articles, etc., should be read by all, in book-club fashion, holding group discussions monthly as readings are completed.

Training – All agency leaders should take appropriate training, either online or in person, where they feel it fits their needs. Agency budget should be set aside for this very important training. Almost anyone interviewed after taking informative training says training immediately helps them to be better in their jobs.

The Weekly Check-in – The agency’s leadership group meets on a weekly basis to make sure meetings are staying on track. The weekly meeting enables management to check on the progress of assigned accomplishment lists, AND to offer weekly management advice on issues affecting the agency now.

Quarterly Gathering – Hold a pre-planned, quarterly, “live,” one-day group meeting, including a planned agenda. Such an agenda might include:

  • General conversations about how things are going and a review of the “accomplishment” lists.
  • Revisions to and refreshment of the “accomplishment” lists.
  • Education and training – at each meeting, a presentation will be made that will research and present on some facet of leadership and/or executive management. This can be prepared by agency staff or outside speakers might be engaged.

By concentrating on the leadership and executive development of key agency staff, you can elevate the quality of executive management within the agency. 

Are you leading by example?

Do you as THE leader work to improve your own skills and leadership qualities to lead your leaders by influence and example? Attend learning events yourself and take along key personnel. Make sure you have a personal growth plan and set your own objectives.

Do you allow your leaders to lead?

Do you give key managers opportunities to lead by stepping out of the way and allowing them to make their own decisions—aligned to the agency’s preset objectives—while still remaining “there” enough to provide good counsel and support? Ask yourself if you can step away for a week or two and feel confident your key managers will handle everything just fine in your absence. If your answer “yes,” start doing this to give your future leaders a chance to “command the ship.” Sometimes the best way to learn to lead is by doing it.


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