Managing an Agency: Seven steps to improving your leadership skills


I bet you did not get into the agency business because you like managing a team. In fact you are more comfortable being creative and working on more technical issues of your trade.

The truth is that don’t have to be the best manager around. But if you don’t improve your management skills, you may lose everyone on your team.

Most agencies are hampered by unqualified leaders. Managing an agency is hard. It requires a lot of skill. The good news is that such skills can be learned; and this article will help you do just that.

1. Lead through others

As a leader, you should be less focused on what you do and more focused on the productivity of your team.

When you delegate, you free up your time to deal with other more important tasks that only you can do. If a task can be done by someone else in your team, delegate.

For instance,

  • taking a potential client for lunch is a task that only you should do.
  • developing content for your agency’s website can be done by someone else.
  • developing your firm’s strategic business plan should be your task.
  • Delegate follow-up or prospecting calls.

Doing everything leaves you with little or no time to lead. Spend your time casting vision and helping your team become more productive.

2. Don’t get overwhelmed with repetitive tasks

While there will be instances where you will have to do certain common tasks, always remember that for your team to get ahead, you have to lead from the front. Your will be evaluated from the results of your team and not how hard you worked.

To be effective, create ‘tune off” time. During this time, your employees should be advised not to bother you unless an issue is urgent and important.

When you delegate tasks to your team members, ensure that they have the authority and ability to perform those tasks. Train them and demonstrate how the tasks should be carried out.

Always ensure that your team understands what is expected of them. They should also be conversant with the goals, values and the resources of the agency in order to make informed decisions.

Most importantly, don’t assume that your team members will remember all your instructions off-head. Instead, have everything written down clearly and succinctly. Instructions must be understood to be carried out.

Assign most of the actionable tasks to other members. Only assign to yourself those tasks that only you can do.

3. Develop a super team

You need to delegate tasks to a team you can rely on.

When selecting your A-Team, emphasis should be on their ability to do the assigned tasks as opposed to their qualifications. Look for qualities such as their ability to grow your agency, a track record of taking initiative and getting things done. These should be committed employees who always deliver beyond their assigned tasks.

Avoid the trouble-rousers and morale destroyers; or even fire them if necessary. They will infect everyone in your team and make life really difficult for you and your agency.

Developing a super team requires you to train and mentor them. Always point out areas of stellar performance and those that need improvement. Motivating and training your team is a task you can’t develop.

Lastly, always reward performance and not just clocking in time. Make it clear that people are responsible for meeting their targets.

4. Apply warmth and competence

Most agencies focus on effective and timely performance of tasks (competence). Although this is crucial, it does not leave a lasting impression. An agency should also consider the helpful impact of warmth.

While competence is one’s ability to perform effectively, warmth demonstrates a manager’s appreciation for the clients and his staff. As John Maxwell says, people don’t care how much you know (competence) until they know how much you care (warmth).

Always leave your clients feeling that you care about them more than you care about their checks. Unsatisfactory customer experience is often cited as the major reason for clients dumping an agency.

An agency with a high warmth rating is more likely to be forgiven for not meeting a client’s expectations.

Being competent in delivering services should be accompanied by a heart that tells clients that you enjoy serving them. As a manager, always seek to go beyond the call of duty (high competency) and extend care and compassion (high warmth) to your employees or clients.

5. Set clear lines of accountability

Once your team understands your agency’s vision, values, resources and goals, you need to establish clear lines of accountability; who is responsible for what task?

This prevents overlaps and potential conflict. It also helps your team to do their work seamlessly as each member clearly understands their role.

6. Foster an ‘everyone wins’ mindset

Always ensure that every task you ask people to do not only benefits you and the agency, but the people as well. Align your expectations with your employees’ interests.

For instance, qualified employees seeking promotion should be made to feel that their dreams are valid.

Do you have stellar employees that you would not want to lose? Consider giving them stock options (a share of the company) in return for a signed commitment to stay with the agency.

However, you should resist the temptation to make promises you can’t deliver.

7. Remember to self-care

You can’t give what you don’t have. Take care of yourself and avoid drowning under overwhelm. Leading an agency is hard work. At times you will find yourself desperately in need of a break. When that happens, take a break. Recharge…. then surge ahead.

Whenever you feel overwhelmed, reassign and delegate tasks that can be done by others.

And when you simply cannot handle any more tasks, shut down and take a break (even if it’s just a few minutes break). If the agency cannot survive without you, then perhaps you are not leading right.

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