How to stop making expensive leadership mistakes in your creative business
My job is a privilege.
I get to partner high-performers in world-class creative organisations to successfully make change at work and break through to their next level of growth and success - both on a very personal level and on a highly commercial one for the business.
Although every client and their challenges and opportunities are unique - making all my work bespoke - from my unique vantage point, I see similar challenges and problems cropping up all the time.
To help you avoid the major pitfalls that come with people/leadership-led change, and set you up to achieve greater results faster, let me share with you 3 common problems faced by ambitious leaders:
1. Most leadership, people & talent change programmes in creative organisations are born from a place of fear. Harsh, but true. For example:
- Agencies unexpectedly lose key senior talent to a competitor, leaving them suddenly exposed and even more under-resourced
- A client pulls their account, meaning security (which is an illusion anyway but that’s for another article!) is threatened and the hole/pipeline has to be filled
- The agency isn’t keeping ahead of the competition curve, so “a senior saviour” is hired to help the agency evolve the offer into a “full creative service” or the like.
Any decision that is driven by fear is vulnerable & likely to fail.
Why? Because emotion clouds judgement and the fear of inaction often overrides common sense, leading to hasty results that in the long-term are likely to cause more harm than good.
For example, I was chatting with a senior leader who had just left their previous agency after “trying to make it work”, and estimated the cost of their leaving had impacted on the Founders to the tune of at least £250,000.
2. Change isn’t thought through adequately.
Experience shows me the gestation period for leadership/people-led change to fly or fail is 9 months, in an agency. When it fails, here’s the common pattern:
- The first 3 are the honeymoon period where everyone wants to believe this will work, even though usually there is no clear role or remit, boundaries, benchmarks or targeted support in place. Sounds familiar?!
- At 3-6 months, emotions, and therefore confidence, start to wobble and the “lens” that people look at the change through turns from green to red. What our subconscious believes, rightly or wrongly, is what we will look to find evidence for, whether true or false.
- 6-9 months, people want to save face and limit the fallout. Rather than get to the now dreaded 12-month mark, the attitude of "better cut our losses" kicks in and damage limitation strategies start to roll out. Even though the damage has been done already!
3. New leadership does not guarantee better culture.
Internal culture rises or falls down to the leadership style, skills, remit and motivation of the folk in charge.
I have lost count of the number of agencies I have seen take the extremely risky strategy of hiring in a “big gun” to make change: the Founders (this is most common in owner-led businesses) either don’t make enough space or step back completely for the newly appointed leader, whilst the newly appointed leader cracks on with their definition of success, riding roughshod over the established senior leadership team.
The result? The past suddenly seems not so bad after all, the present becomes a place of confusion, conflict and chaos, and the future looks scary and uncertain. Talent leaves, your employer brand crashes (it takes years to build a positive employer brand reputation, but only a few weeks for it to be fatally tarnished), profits plummet, and the owners are forced to step back in, pick up the pieces, pay-out a hefty notice period and often Search Fee that is now non-refundable, and start again - only from an even weaker position than before - to effect successful change.
NO LEADER OR BUSINESS OWNER WOULD CONSCIOUSLY CHOOSE THE ABOVE SCENARIOS, RIGHT?
So why are they being played out right now in a high proportion of creative businesses, including the major players? And how can we ensure you, your team & business are equipped to avoid them?
My proven 3 C's for Successful Change Framework is a great place to start!
- Get CLEAR on the change you want to make, how to make it, who will drive it, how it will be measured when, and what support is needed to drive this successfully
- Be CONFIDENT to drive the change effectively. It’s way too easy to assume there is authentic confidence working at the heart of change. Most often though, there are limiting beliefs, inner-critic voices and good old-fashioned insecurities at play that get in the way of effective change
- COMMIT to seeing the change through. Too often, these vital ingredients run out - time, money, energy and positive emotions.