Lessons in Leadership

Lessons in Leadership

We all look to leaders to, you guessed it, lead. In this episode, we'll discuss the joys and challenges of agency leadership, how to know when it's time to make changes to current processes, and what it looks like to give meaningful feedback. Join Speak Creative's VPs for an off topic conversation full of lessons in leadership.


Lessons in Leadership Episode 9 

David: Hello everyone. Thank you for joining us. Once again, you are listening to A Little Off Topic, one agency's water cooler chat on digital marketing, business, and all the things that get in the way, presented by Speak Creative. On today's episode, we'll be discussing the demands of leadership in an agency setting. Since we're joined each week by Speak’s VP leadership team, it figures we should take the opportunity to pick their brain on a subject that they're very familiar with. My name is David Caffey. I'm Speak's Digital Marketing Manager and the host of A Little Off Topic. As I mentioned, each week I'm joined by our VP leadership team. Kindra Svendsen, VP of Client Partnerships. The first of our duo of Matts is Matt Roberts, VP of Marketing and Sales. Finally with us once again is Matt Ervin, VP of Creative Service. Obviously it has come up a lot over the course of our podcast, but the reality of 2020 has almost changed the game when it comes to the demands of a leader in an agency setting or really in any business setting.

David: So we'll definitely talk about how their outlook on leadership has changed since the pandemic has started. From there, we'll talk about the pressure and demands leaders face when changes are made in the workplace. To examine this, Matt Ervin will walk us through a case study on a recent overhaul of our development process that he oversaw. Finally, we'll close with the difficult realities of giving feedback to your teammates, as well as advice our VPs would give to up and coming leaders in the business world. So a great conversation today with lots of helpful information. So let's get right to it. As always, we thank you for taking the time to listen to our show today, and I hope you enjoy today's episode of A Little Off Topic.

David: The great Whoopi Goldberg once said, "We're here for a reason. I believe a bit of the reason is to throw little torches out to lead people through the dark.” That's our topic for today. Of course, you might know Whoopi Goldberg from Star Trek: The Next Generation or Sister Act 2. But I think that was a very appropriate quote for today's episode. With the burden of leadership comes the responsibility of having so many people depend on you, but we're going to hear some perspectives today from Speak’s VP leadership trio, and we'll explore what leadership looks in today's agency world. But let me go ahead and introduce that VP trio. Kindra, what is your favorite Whoopi Goldberg movie moment, TV show, or anything?

Kindra: Ghost.

David: Ghost. Great answer. Matt Roberts? Whoopi Goldberg thoughts?

Roberts: Oh man. I have no Whoopi Goldberg thoughts, which feels a failure on my part.

David: That's okay. I'll come back to you later. Then finally, Matt Ervin.

Ervin: So I'll take Matt's time on this one because my favorite Whoopi Goldberg fact is how she got her name. Her name is not actually Whoopi Goldberg and in Mike Rowe's podcast, "The Way I Heard It" (Episode 141) does a great job of telling that story. So I'm not going to ruin it. I think you should listen to the podcast. We can put the link in the show notes.

David: It has something to do with a whoopie cushion though, right?

Ervin: Similar, yes. It's really good.

David: Well, we'll tease that one for later. So we've already said in that little intro I just did, that being a leader comes with pressure, but let's start off by talking about the joy and positivity you find in leading those around you. What do you guys think are some of the best parts or proudest moments you've had at your tenures here as leaders at Speak?

Roberts: Joy and positivity? Yeah. That's a good way of putting it.

Ervin: Please talk about what?

Kindra: I find joy and positivity and leadership. I hate the cliche of a natural born leader, but I've always been that person that runs the group project. So I think leadership came fairly naturally to me, regardless of position or where I've been, it's always been something that happens. So now that it's in an official capacity, I think I have the ability to do it without wondering what I'm doing. I don't know if I'm saying that right. It does feel natural to me, and so I am doing it. I like being able to help people see more or see different perspectives. So I'm lucky that I can do that now.

Ervin: I have an anecdotal story that is weird, but when I was a kid, I was probably in seventh or eighth grade. We lived in New Orleans and went on a youth group trip to Houston to go to Astroworld. So the trip between Houston and New Orleans, there's one of the longest bridges in the United States. It is an elevated highway. I'm riding in my mom's Astro Van, because she was driving on the trip and there's a caravan of six cars. For some reason, we were in the back and we had a blowout on this bridge. So nobody knew what to do. I took over. We're going to change the tire. We're going to get rolling. We're not going to sit here on the bridge. We're not going to try to find a call box. I knew what to do. Then when we got back, mom said, "I've always told you were a leader, but do you see what you did there?" I said, "no I don't." So she explained there were two adults that didn't know what to do, but I did. She said, "you took over in such a way that we all followed an eighth grader around on a bridge in the middle of Texas in the middle of the night."

David: Looking for a payphone.

Kindra: That's the most Matt Ervin story I've ever heard.

Roberts: It only would have gotten better if somehow the fix had involved using his Sharpie and also some duct tape.

Ervin: No, I didn't do that, but I will say the Astro Van had a spare tire where you had to open the back doors and lower it with a crank and then raise it back up with a crank. I had never seen that before. We couldn't figure out how to get the tire down. Someone with us had a cigarette lighter and wanted to climb underneath the Astro Van and light up the cigarette lighter so he could see how the tire was attached. So I was like man, I don't think that's a good idea.

Kindra: I'm only 13, but I think you're wrong.

David: Not a lot of folks climbing under Astro Vans with cigarette lighters these days. What a lost art.

Ervin: Well you would climb under it with a vape thing now.

David: Yeah, the blue light of the vape.

Kindra: Then you couldn't see because of the cloud.

Ervin: That's true.

David: Final question about the Astro Van. Was everybody that had an Astro van required to make a pilgrimage to Astroworld?

Roberts: I was wondering the same thing.

Ervin: No, it wasn't. Ours was the custom-ish Astro Van that had the little curtains in the window and the stripey package on the side. So it also had a black and white TV that was screwed to the ceiling. It was horrible. There was one speaker on it and the speaker on the TV was right above your head. So if you're the driver of the Astro van, the speaker is pointing right at your ear and the people in the back obviously can't hear. So you have to turn it up all the way. It was a torture chamber for the driver of Astro van with a TV on, it was terrible.

Roberts: My favorite Astro Van memory is a friend of mine had an Astro Van and he put a Nintendo in it and it blew my mind. I was in awe that we could play video games. That doesn't have anything to do with leadership. Certainly I didn't save the day on the road to Houston, but it felt good.

Ervin: We did have a secondary TV that we eventually added with a Nintendo and VCR. If you want to find out some way to rig up something, I'm your guy.

Kindra: Well, after you saved the day, your parents just said "yeah, let him have the full package."

Ervin: The point wasn't that I saved the day, but I'm glad you guys picked up on it.

Roberts: Right. Leadership for me has been one of those things that's always been below the surface. I tend not to be the person who jumps in and is ready to lead the charge, especially thinking of growing up in different settings where you might exhibit some leadership characteristics, like Kindra or Matt described. That just wasn't me. It took me a little while to realize the competencies that I had were maybe something that could help me bring people along. So there's some amount of me still figuring a lot of that out. But, if we get back to the original question of what joy does leadership bring, I think my biggest thing is I get a tremendous amount of satisfaction in seeing people that I lead be successful and begin to discover their own strengths and gifts and being able to encourage those and help them as those strengths start to surface. A lot of times, as outsiders, it's almost always one of those things where it's easier to spot somebody else's strength than it is to spot our own, right? So for me to be able to say, "I'm not sure if you notice this, but you're really great at this thing. I've noticed you being successful and maybe that's something that we need to keep developing in you. Or let's run with that and see how far that can get us as a company, if we were to leverage that strength to its full capacity.” So that's really where I find a lot of satisfaction in leadership. There are a lot of days that don't include that. There's a lot of satisfaction in helping people realize that they're really good at this thing or they're contributing in a meaningful way. Then seeing how that hopefully creates positivity in that person, but then also creates results for us as a company as well.

Kindra: I agree with that. I love seeing the success of others, but watching them feel that success is exciting to me, whether I had a hand in it indirectly or not. I had a meeting actually this morning with someone and we were talking about data points and they were basically saying, "Hey this was a success because look what I did" and seeing her excited made me realize she enjoys it, which is great. As I coach my team along in their jobs, having them find that success is ultimately what makes me feel like we're on the right track. If they are feeling successful, then I feel we're doing something okay.

David: So we are a mere two and a half weeks away from the six months of us being affected by this. I think that's when I had headed for the hills and hit the Corona bunker, about six months ago. So I think we've talked in previous podcasts about the changes in demand for management and with people going remote, that's something that at Speak has always been a part of our world, but taking that into account in and the fact that people are a little bit more on edge and it's a lot more chaotic. How has your responsibility or your thought process or your approach to leadership changed in these last six or so months? 

Kindra: I think for myself, the trust factor has increased tenfold. You really have to let go of any notion of needing control. People are going to do what they're most comfortable with and we have to really trust that they know what's best for themselves. So being able to trust your team to do the right thing, work remotely more often, or have their camera off for a meeting, when maybe you wish that it would be on, little things that where it's easy to harp on. I think that allowing your team to do what they're comfortable with and understand that their performance will be better if they know you trust them. That has been a big change for a lot of people, especially those that aren't used to that remote-working environment. My perspective is that I don't care where you work from, if I know you're working and it's good. So I think that trust is apparent to some people and probably very apparent that it's lacking for others in the whole pandemic shift.

Roberts: For me, I found myself, especially in the first couple of months of the ordeal, dealing with a lot of emotions around the uncertainty of everything, which I think we all did. Not the uncertainty of what does this do for me as a person, but then what does this mean for our team? It's challenging to try to process without that necessarily creating increased anxiety for other folks on the team. I don't know that I did that perfectly, but that was certainly a challenge as far as managing the folks that are on my team. I think what Kindra said is right on the money. There's this added level of trust that you have to have, and of course, one of the things that's helpful is we've got a bunch of systems in place that help us make sure that the things that need to be happening are happening and we can keep an eye on progress and those kinds of things. There's a lot of connection that's needed. Now at this point, everybody thinks Zoom is a cuss word. To have those daily or weekly check- ins with folks on the team, to see how they're doing.

Kindra: You have to pay attention more to the emotional than ever before, truly. I say this and I don't always like the comparison, but I do what I would do with my kids. You want to support them emotionally, but also protect them from unneeded turmoil. So, you were saying, Matt, you putting out your emotions might project way more anxiety on a team than necessary. So there is some level of asking how do I shield it, but also remain transparent, but also protect them from freaking out? I think every manager went through that at some level.

David: I think one of the big things that we’ve been working on at Speak lately that prompted this conversation is how we're implementing some big process. So I think Ervin, you're the one that took a big lead on this. So I wanted to walk through how you evaluated the processes, making that change, taking the leadership over that, and then gathering feedback to make further adjustments.

Ervin: I'll start off by saying it took a lot longer than I had hoped. I started down this road back in October/November of last year and then got sidetracked by a dozen things a week on the way to get there. Then over the last month, I've decided that if we're going to do this, I have to do it. So I've ignored a lot of stuff and now I'm paying the consequences for that. One, I always wanted to make Speak a place that I would want to work. So that's my big goal. There are some downsides to that being a management style. It means that people who don't want to work at a place that you want to work or people who have different desires than you do probably aren't gonna fit very well in your team. For me, the 'treat others you want to be treated' is really the only way that I know how to do it that has a good measuring stick with it so that I can say "yeah, this is how it should be treated." So all that to say, when I started seeing the tension on the team ramp up especially on the production side of things that we work on, the front end development side of things, I started looking at it and saying, okay, what's changed? Why are things in the state that they're in and then what can we do about it? So it took a while to figure out and quite honestly it took some staff turnover to figure it out too. In fact, I don't think I would have arrived at the same conclusions or had the right input had we not had some staff changes. The restructuring was a big part of that too, because before we restructured, I managed just the dev team. That's one of the easier teams to manage. Things move at a slower pace because they take longer. There's not a lot required there. You just dig in and help out to get things out of people's way. When we lost our Director of Projects, she left a void because she did a lot of work. When she left, somebody had to step into that gap and I knew it had to be me until we could rehire. Then COVID hit and we realized we weren't rehiring after all. So I got to stay in that gap and part of doing that let me get a really close look at the ins and outs and details of how our projects were running. From how they came in the door, to how they how everybody behaved or how our process has functioned while they were in the door, and then what it was to get them out the other side. It helped that I've been involved in enough sales processes in the past, but also here working with our current team, where they have questions about how something works, or need help with a proposal to describe something. I had a good panoramic view of the whole deal. When I started looking at it to see what changed, I was able to pinpoint a couple of things that changed that I think were the start of our schedule getting into a place where we were getting work in faster than we could get it out. It wasn't that our sales took off. Our sales were proceeding at their normal rate of increase. It was something systemic that was wrong. So by digging in, I was able to figure out what the actual cause was. Then we started working on working on the solution. I realized the biggest thing that we had done that caused the change was buying another company. Which you would think, when you're assessing what could be different, what could have changed? Well maybe that was it. I didn't really think about it beforehand, until I got into these processes and started saying, "Hey, you're going to have to include me in these projects so I can see what's going on." Before we bought that company, all of our designers could also code. So they would design a site and then they would code it, or they would design it as they coded it. In that case, they're not going to design outside of their ability to code — there's no formal check needed there. They're also not going to design something that's going to be incredibly difficult to code. But we brought in these designers from this other company that we bought, who were very talented designers, and their previous business model was to design it and somebody will figure out how to build it. So all of a sudden, we had all these new designs that looked great, but weren't built with an eye toward being coded. It would have to be approved by clients and then we had to code them out. So what was happening is, we were doing small things that in the designs that added up to big time investments on projects. So that was really what got me started down the road of looking at how we can streamline things or if we're doing things that are unnecessary. In a lot of cases, we were doing more than the client wanted in some areas and less than they wanted in others. So looking in the process and trying to figure things out.

David: Now we have this in place, let's say, and people are getting used to the new process. How do you take feedback from the team and how do you sort it between feedback that we could apply vs. this person is they're upset that WrestleMania got canceled/Disney World closed, and they came to work looking for a fight and they're in a bad mood about it. So how do you sort between true feedback and then the growing pains and criticism of that nature?

Kindra: I would say first and foremost, if you're going to implement a big change you have to bring people along and listen to them before you hand down a big change. You have to have that buy in and you have to let them be a part of whatever you're changing. I think you gave a really clear look at what I have to deal with on the day-to-day with someone who is upset about Disneyworld and WrestleMania. David. No, but anytime you implement change, I think that as long as you can bring them alongside and let them know why you're doing it, that it's not because you say so, and get their buy in and ask for their feedback before the change happens, the buy in and the feedback that you get is so much better. The way you measure if it's effective is if people are happy and not complaining, and also if you're reaching that goal. So in Ervin's case, if we're reaching better efficiency in time logs, and that sort of thing, but also if the designers are feeling less pressured on things. So you can measure it in a lot of different ways, but unless you have that feedback or that buy in going into it I think it's a lot harder to know what impact you're going to have.

Ervin: That's true. So change management could be a whole topic all by itself, because that is a really huge deal. I will say that in other jobs, I have learned or other jobs I have learned more being managed poorly, especially through change, than I've learned being managed well. I worked as a contractor for a very large manufacturing company here in Nashville. They wanted to make some changes to their IT department, so I was a contractor. So this didn't affect me, other than it affected the people that I worked with who were full time who were not contractors. So they made an announcement on a Friday and they said, "Hey, next week we're going to post new org charts on paper. We're going to post them in these specific places in our building. Everybody come in Monday morning and find your name on the org chart, then that'll tell you what your job is. If your name is not on the org chart, then you no longer have a job here, so head to HR and pick up your severance. The IT organization of this company never recovered. A year later, they were still reeling from the impact of that, I don't know who came up with that idea. It was a horrible idea. It sounds Black Friday on Arrested Development, but you see stuff happen and you realize that they should have been talking to people all along the way and explaining what was going on. It is important to get buy in and get other people's input, because if you're ever going to get good feedback, they have to understand what went into it to get the change started. So they'll understand the context and the nature of the change that you're making. For example, we could discuss how we're going to handle mood boards. We have to look at what works and what doesn't alongside the designer. One of the other benefits to doing it that way is that this designer understands the nature of the spirit of what we're trying to do. In that case, you don't have to dictate every little thing. You say, here's the overall idea. Here's the problem we're trying to solve. How do you think we can solve it? Now what you've done is you've created a whole bunch of other people in your organization that all understand the problem and all are working to solve it. They're all going to be thinking about this problem and how they can make it better.

Kindra: Well, and I think a whole team's perspective is different. I came into Speak as a content writer. The challenges I had a few years ago are not the same challenges that the content writers today face. So I can't prescribe a fix for something if I don't have their input or their feedback, because they are going through something that I don't see.

Ervin: Yeah. That's very true, also people don't like it when you tell them what to do.

Roberts: I don't have much to add, because I feel you guys have covered all the major points. The only other thing that I would add is that by inviting people into the process, it has all the benefits that you've already expressed, but then it also queues them up for the idea that change is coming. It lays the groundwork for them to feel they were heard which builds confidence. For somebody to be able to begin the process on the fact that they're looking for feedback and feel heard and also that changes are coming lays groundwork for when change does actually come. Hopefully it doesn't feel the rug got pulled out from under that person. Whether or not their specific feedback was implemented into whatever change comes down the line. Especially for each of you, you manage big enough teams where the feedback that you're going to get from each individual on your teams, I can't imagine that all that feedback would be able to be implemented in a way that would actually move us towards something that's helpful for a long term trajectory. You've got to make the decision of what's best for the company or what the direction that we want to go, and there's lots of different ways we could get there. Based on everything that I've heard, here's what I've distilled down as the way that I think is best.

Ervin: I did want to mention one other thing that I think is really important. I've learned this also from bad management. When you have lots of people that you work with, you start to realize that you have people with different levels of buy-in. You have people who go to work to do their job and they want to go home. Those people are great. One of my favorite books, E-Myth, calls a technician. Technicians are great to have. You need those people. Then you have people who have a deeper sense of ownership of the company or of their team, or they want to make the company better. They're usually vocal about that. So that's not hard to figure out who they are. But when you invite input from a whole bunch of people, you have to take into account that particular aspect of that person's personality and say, "if they give me a suggestion that I'm not going to take, and it appears to be a suggestion that they really like, I've got to go back to them and explain why it's not going to work." Because if you don't do that, you've had someone put something very personal out there for you that they've worked hard on and you dismissed it and ignored it. As opposed to addressing it and saying here are the positives of your idea, but here are the things that make your idea not work. So keep thinking and let's come up with something else. That's a big deal, because what will happen is that person who is a very valuable contributor will eventually become estranged. It's basically when you watch somebody just capitulate. They're going to be like, "I'm going to go to work. Now, it doesn't matter. I'll do whatever." You have to be mindful of the outside consequences of asking for a lot of input that you've now asked for personal investment from people, and you have to treat that the way you would want yours to be treated, you have to treat it with respect.

David: So let's talk about feedback going in the other direction. We talked about feedback from your team, but you're also expected as a leader to give feedback in an annual review type situation, or you get one of those calendar invites that has an ambiguous subject line like "chat" or "catch up" and you have to go into that meeting with some feedback. So we talked about this before with expectations. This is part of the leadership process and that sort of thing, but when you go into those situations — how do you make sure that you're going to give feedback that is valid and actually does lead to improvement and is constructive?

Kindra: The way I prefer to look at reviews is that they're a really easy quick check in, because we've already laid the framework of feedback. I prefer to give feedback in the moment, so it doesn't fester. So when we get to this big review or 6 months have gone by since our last review and we're ready to talk about performance. It's very clear what we're going to be talking about because it's what we've already been talking about. If I'm not doing that, then I find that I thrive on getting that feedback for myself. I find that a lot of our team members also thrive on that. So I'm trying to give feedback in the moment and constant, and really cultivating that culture of being open and honest and getting to the root of problems so that there's not such a big buildup. I've certainly had reviews where people come and they're so nervous because they don't have a clue what I'm going to say. I feel awful if we've reached that point because I don't want it to get to a point where there is this big buildup. David, I see you're smirking, and you and I have done reviews several times. But we do it several times a year. We don't wait until that 6 month check in to list the problems and send people off to find solutions. So I think keeping the feedback open all the time as a leader really helps with those mandatory or formal check-ins.

Roberts: Yeah, I think one of the things that we do well is make the expectations for each person on our individual teams pretty clear and like Kindra said, they're very regular parts of our conversations. So it shouldn't be one of those things where 3 or 6 months go by and somebody feels they're performing well and we get to a conversation and I'm like "actually not so much." The combination of expectations and regular conversations with everybody on the team gives us a leg up in those more formal conversations to hopefully affirm the things that we see that are going well and to remind them of maybe some of the areas where we're seeing lack of growth or lack of progress. Also to set the stage for the next 3 or 6 months and say, "based on our conversation today here are the next things that I want for us to do."

Ervin: If you have to give negative feedback, you want to make sure that it is understood that it is given in such a way that you want to help the person get better.

Roberts: Yeah, that's good.

Ervin: It's the context, right? If we're coming to this meeting and I'm going to get onto you, that's one thing, right? That's not productive or constructive and it makes people act less mature. If we're coming to this meeting and I'm going to say, "Hey I've noticed some things that you could do better, or I've noticed some things that could make you better at your job or make you a better contributor here." If it's in the spirit of "let's get better together" then, first of all, you can give criticism more readily. But when it's your turn to accept criticism, if it's coming back in that same nature, it's so much easier to accept that way.

Kindra: If I could turn the tables, David, you are in a position of leadership and will be participating in some reviews, but as an employee, what are things that leaders shouldn't do or should do in those formal times?

David: In the formal reviews? Well, I would back it up to the point you made about doing it in the moment, because I think that anxiety that you mentioned is real for me. For a lot of people going into the review, they wonder what they did. When there is no communication and no feedback, positive or negative, it can easily brew. I'm not that young anymore, but when you're early in your career, that can easily come out of thin air. But going into the reviews, if that's already been taken care of, it does feel it's a conversation to catch up and it's way more productive when that's already gotten out of the way. Obviously there could be times where it's not 100% possible, but I think the point I'm trying to make here is that reviews can be really good and beneficial if that's taken care of on the front end. If not, it's a stressful thing that nobody wants to do.

Kindra: That positive feedback is really an important thing because I forget to do that. I'm generally a pretty positive person, but I forget to be explicitly complimentary of work. I think you are completely right, that it's really good to get good feedback too, not just negative feedback. So that's an important lesson.

David: I would also stress that if you keep negative feedback to yourself then nothing's going to change, and I think that's our generation this day and age. It's all about positive feedback, positive reinforcement, but if you're too nice and don't give that negative feedback, all this other bad stuff is going to fester more. Because you're thinking, “I think I'm doing a bad job at this, but nobody has said anything.” I will say one more thing. This is specific to Speak and gassing us up a little bit. But I think one of the benefits in terms of giving feedback, especially from the three of you guys, is that I really do trust all three of you on a very personal level. It's been four years since I've been here and Matt Ervin, I've known you a little bit longer than that. I really do think that factor of the conflict coming out of feedback is not as intense when you have that level of trust and that level of respect for your leadership. So there could be times if I get feedback that's negative, I might be mad or frustrated in the moment, but because of that relationship we're all gonna get over it and grow from it. So I do think that, at least at Speak, we have a little bit of a head start and advantage because of the way we treat each other and the way we relate to each other. So if I did have one compliment or one positive specific feedback for you guys, it's that.

Kindra: I'll take that kind of feedback all day.

Roberts: Heck yeah, man. Alright. Let's line David up for promotion.

Kindra: He just got one!

David: So we'll close it. If you guys had to summarize, we've had a lot of great advice today, but you guys had to leave one piece of advice for somebody that wanted to improve their leadership skills, be it a book or anything, what would you say and what would you recommend?

Roberts: I'll start. I wrote this down at the beginning of the conversation and didn't really have a chance to share it in any other context. There's a pretty good book called “How to lead when you're not in charge.” I remember reading it a few years ago and I was in a position of leadership, but the idea that unless you're in charge of the company you're always having to lead from a place of not having total authority. That was really helpful for me to think about it. He talks a lot about the coming together of influence and authority. So obviously, getting a title that puts you nominally in charge of people is the authority side. Of course, we all understand influence hopefully. But that was useful for me to think about the idea that whether or not I am in charge, I have the ability through the relationships that are part of who I am to influence and to export leadership into some other folks. That was really empowering. That's a weird word to use, but I guess I'll go with it.

Ervin: I think you're talking about the difference between authority because of position and then authority that is granted to you because of relationships of trust. That's a big deal.

Roberts: Yeah, that's right, because nobody wants to be the guy that's like "you have to listen to me because I'm in charge." You just lost everybody underneath you.

Ervin: Check out the name tag. You're in MY world now, Grandma!

David: I want to be that guy, but continue.

Ervin: You can't go wrong with a Ben Stiller quote. You just can't.

Kindra: Two books that I've read that I think are really great. One is called "Herding Tigers" by Todd Henry, and it talks about leading creative teams well. The other is one that was actually recommended to the leaders here on our team, which is by the folks that ran Basecamp and it was called "It Doesn't Have To Be Crazy At Work." So those are two leadership books that I found super valuable, but as far as advice, I would say not everyone learns the way you do. So you can't expect people to hear things the way you're saying them or intake the things you're saying, if that's not their learning style. So really letting other people lead and let you know how to lead, taking cues from them, has been really helpful. Because not everyone is a visual learner, not everyone is going to hear what you say and take it in the first time. So really understanding how your team works has helped me a ton.

Ervin: I'd start with a principal. I think the biggest principle to learn in leading people is empathy. Because Kindra said, not everybody learns the same. Not everybody likes to be talked to the same way. Not everybody has the same values or gets value out of the same things from their work. Learning how to read people and trying to understand how you behave is going to affect them in a way that is effective and positive. So I think empathy is a really big key. I've read several books. I would have to say the books that have helped me learn empathy or learn personality stuff from other people the most are books by Patrick Lencioni. You can read "The 3 Signs of a Miserable Job" and whatever his other one was. It was his first big most popular one. The cover is red. But those help you understand that when you're in a room with a bunch of people, they're all thinking about things differently than you are and hearing things differently than you. So if you can get somebody who is really good at personality stuff like Lenocioni is, to explain how other people think. It helps you quickly identify that one guy thinks like that and processes things this way. So here's how I need to explain things to that person. I think that's, I think that's the big one. The big one for me is empathy. Also as a manager, it's really important that you set people up so that they can take shots. You have to give people the ability to take a shot.

Roberts: Yeah, because you miss a hundred percent of the shots you don't take.

Ervin: Gretzky. What a leader.

David: There it is. Here's our signature catchphrase. That sound means we're out of time.

Ervin: It actually means I thought of a way to try to set that up. I actually enjoy the set up more than the execution.

David: It's a sport now.

David: Well, that's it for today. I hope you guys enjoyed it. Thank you to the VPs, once again, for sharing their thoughts on leadership. We had a lot of fun with that conversation. If you're interested in learning more about life in the agency world, we have a ton of content that touches on the various facets of content strategy, web design, digital marketing, you name it. It’s there on our blog. Head over to madebyspeak.com to check it out. If you’d like to embark on your own web design or digital marketing journey with Speak, be sure to reach out, you’ll find our contact info on madebyspeak.com as well. As always, if you have questions or feedback for today’s episode, we’d love to hear from you. Speak is on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, whichever social media platform you prefer, we’re there for you. If you enjoyed the show, I ask you to please subscribe and leave a review on your podcast platform of choice. So from myself, our panel today, and all of us at Speak, thank you for getting a little off topic with us. 

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Posted by A Little Off Topic at 07:42