Agency Owners: How to Boost Your Team’s Morale
- Morale plays an essential part in helping your team achieve (and exceed) the expected level of performance
- Find out how to have team members rooting for each other to succeed
Now, we’re not going to waste words convincing you how important and beneficial it is to keep your agency’s morale high. It should be a given for any team leader that morale plays an essential part in helping your team achieve (and exceed) the expected level of performance. Morale is also important for that age-old problem of staff turnover. In today’s market, top talent will always be able to find a higher paying job somewhere else. But it’s often a mistake to compete on salary alone. You’ll need to create an environment that offers staff members with more reasons to stick around and give their best efforts than simply a paycheck.
But how can you boost your agency’s morale and, more importantly, sustain it?
Creating a high morale team environment
Togetherness, the art of creating a genuine team instead of simply a group of individuals, is a cliché. Still, it is a vital part of getting the most from your employees. Agencies are built on relationships. It’s important that you realize that internal relationships are just as important as the relationships you build with your clients.
By ‘togetherness’ we’re not talking about cheesy team building exercises. We’re referring to creating an internal vibe that every individual and every piece of work belongs to a collective endeavor. To create this atmosphere between coworkers, it’s extremely important that successes within the agency are celebrated as an “agency” victory and not just a team or individual win.
Now, it’s natural and correct to praise individual efforts when they’re earned, but it’s also important to ensure that any and all successes are aired to the entire agency. Remind your employees that their hard work contributes to overall agency success and progression. This also serves to illustrate why they do what they do and provides a sense of overall accomplishment. It also reminds everyone that they’re part of a winning team.
Be generous with rewards…
What’s the old saying? The carrot is better than the stick? Now we’re not suggesting you take a stick to your staff (or a carrot for that matter), but let’s face it, good old fashioned praise for work well done is always going to go down well and will help cultivate a warm and fuzzy feeling about the work your team does from 9 to 5.
In line with our ‘togetherness’ theme, while some internal successes may be the result of an individual or the efforts of a select few, it is still possible to turn this reward process into a reward for the entire team. Instead of giving out individual kudos, consider rewarding the wider team equally. Now, you should give credit where credit is due. To do this you can caveat this by communicating why and who is more directly responsible for the win. That way the entire team gets to enjoy the spoils but you’re also creating an inter-team recognition dynamic. This also serves to provide the wider team with a genuine reason to celebrate someone else’s success — with less issues of potential jealousy. This will also help build a camaraderie within your entire agency. It also introduces the dynamic of colleagues working hard for each other as well as for themselves. You’ll have team members rooting for each other to succeed.
And with recognition…
We’ve touched on this a little with the wider team reward system, but not all recognition means you need to hand out grand prizes. (The rewards budget will only stretch so far after all!)
Call us old fashioned but we still like the idea of the ‘employee of the month’ style recognition. However, the title of employee of the month can be a little limiting, so it could be employee of the week – where that employee gets to park in the President’s parking stall (the one closest to the office door) for a week. With the pace of agency life being as it is, be proactive with your rewards and praise. Provide regular recognition awards and shout outs on an ongoing basis. Big pitch wins, positive client feedback and over-performing campaigns need to be acknowledged in real time and not saved for a specific time of the month. These spontaneous acknowledgements also shows your team that you’re paying attention to what happens on a day-to-day basis and you’re not just doing a cursory monthly round up.
Leadership Tip: In larger agencies with dedicated teams for different areas of the business, it can be a great idea to set team-based targets which are very specific to the main goals and challenges of each particular team. Running team based rewards or recognition for performance can keep a healthy sense of competitiveness while also highlighting top staff members.
By social, we don’t mean the bar you all gravitate to on a Friday at 5:30 for an after work beer. We’re referring to organized social events. This could be a picnic in summer, a team outing to a concert or a fun sports day, charity event or competition. A social event is a chance to get to know everyone on a more personal level and can help build genuine bonds. After all, there’s only so much you can really learn about a person across a desk or via email.
This is your chance to get creative as an agency leader and throw a bit of personality into the mix. Don’t just resort to drinks after work. An old fashioned company sports day is always a winner. Break the agency down in to smaller teams (but not the teams that exist within the company structure naturally). Mix people up to entice a wider social network with members from different departments or different floors – even different offices – teaming up. Competitiveness is encouraged, of course — you’re running an agency after all and you want winners. Just don’t make the mistake of picking social activities that some will excel at while others won’t. Think of fun challenges such as an egg and spoon race or hoola-hoop games instead of 1000 meter sprints.
To really ramp up the sense of camaraderie and morale, make sure your social events are a big deal. Create an internal office buzz by announcing it in good time and follow up with a count down or slowly reveal details as the event draws closer. This not only helps to keep anticipation high, it will also create some excitement in the office leading up to the big day. If you’re breaking the agency into teams for a competitive social event, release the team sheets for all to see and watch the office banter begin.
Leading by example
We’ve talked about some of the more obvious ways to boost morale and how to execute them for best results. Sometimes, though, morale boosting or morale sinking can all come down to the simplest of actions you make (or don’t) on a day-to-day basis.
As a leader you are a role model for your employees. Every day you are asking your team to trust and believe in your vision and your decisions. Regardless of how authoritative or respected you may be via your industry accomplishments, it is your persona and your actions that will define how your team really feels about you and the part they play in your agency.
As a leader it’s important that you are present. If you’re nothing more to your team than a face on a website or a name at the bottom of an email, your influence is going to be severely limited. Make yourself visible and available to your team. We know you’re likely to have a busy schedule and for those leaders who do genuinely have big travel and other out of office commitments, consider having set times of the week that you are always in the office. Don’t lock yourself in a meeting room. Leave your office door open so that you are approachable. It’s important your team feel that you are within reach should they need to connect with you.
Be a personal leader as well as a good public speaker and agency advocate. It’s important you address the wider agency as a collective on a regular basis and ensure that the team working for you understands what they are working towards and how much their efforts are appreciated. No number of rallying company speeches will ever connect you with an individual member of your team like a direct and personal face-to-face where you pat them on the back and congratulate them on a job well done. Remind individuals that you know their name and they are an important part of the wider machine that is your agency. Do not allow any employee to feel as though they are invisible.
Nothing kills morale quicker than the feeling that some people simply aren’t pulling their weight. As the agency leader, perhaps even the owner, your team know that the success of the agency benefits you personally. This means they are well aware that they work for you. Of course, they are paid a salary for their time and effort, but they will also expect to see that you are willing to put in the hours of grind expected from the senior agency cog. Sneaking off at 3:00 pm on a Wednesday afternoon with your golf clubs in hand is not going to inspire your team to work hard for you or boost morale.
Get involved in the day-to-day grind. Sit with your teams often and show them why you’re their leader. Giving your team the chance to see you doing what you do best reminds them why you’ve earned your place and will inspire them to up their game and perform for you in the future.
Oh, and don’t forget to smile. A “good morning” from the boss can go a long way to getting the day off to a great start.
What do you think?
How do you keep morale up within your team? What’s worked best for you? We’d love to hear more about your experiences, so share your comments with us below.