Creating a Powerful Senior Leadership Team: A Crucial Step in Building a Self-Running Agency

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Welcome to the guide on building a self-running agency by creating a powerful senior leadership team. In this post, we'll delve into the crucial steps involved in transforming your agency so that the burden doesn't just sit on your shoulders. You will gain insights into the importance of forming a senior leadership team, common challenges faced, the right time to initiate this, who should be part of the team, and the focus and frequency of senior leadership team meetings. Let's get started.

The Importance of a Senior Leadership Team

As an agency owner, you may often find yourself juggling numerous roles, from a strategist to a salesperson to an account manager. This can lead to burnout and limit your agency's growth potential. Creating a senior leadership team allows you to delegate responsibilities, freeing up your time to focus on strategic growth. It brings in diverse perspectives, drives innovation, and improves decision making. Additionally, it fosters a sense of shared responsibility and accountability, empowering your team to make decisions and take on leadership roles.

Challenges and Hurdles

Building a senior leadership team is not without its challenges, one being the task of finding the right individuals who align with your agency's vision and values. Another significant challenge is the fear of letting go. As agency owners, it's natural to want to control every aspect of the business, but to achieve growth, trusting your team and empowering them is crucial.

The Right Time to Form a Senior Leadership Team

Contrary to common belief, the right time to form a senior leadership team is as soon as possible, even for small agencies. By starting early, you cultivate a leadership mindset, create a culture of shared ownership and accountability, and set the tone for your agency's growth. Early senior leadership team meetings provide the space for strategic decision-making, allowing every team member to contribute to the agency's success and preparing your agency for growth.

Who Should Be on Your Senior Leadership Team

When forming your senior leadership team, consider individuals who bring diverse skills and perspectives, demonstrate leadership potential, understand strategic insights, and are a cultural fit for your agency. While the roles within the team may vary depending on your agency's size and needs, their ability to contribute, challenge, and take ownership is essential. Even if you're a one-person agency, starting with a trusted partner or mentor can be a step in the right direction.

Focus and Frequency of Senior Leadership Team Meetings

The focus of these meetings should be strategic, not operational. Discussions should centre around your agency's vision, goals, strategies, financial performance, talent retention, and culture building. Using your vision document or business plan as the basis of conversation can keep the meetings focused on activities driving the agency forward. As for the frequency, starting with monthly meetings fosters a culture of shared ownership and strategic thinking without overwhelming your team.

Conclusion

Building a self-running agency doesn't happen overnight. It's a well-thought-out journey that involves strategic delegation and creating a culture of shared responsibility. By initiating a senior leadership team and conducting strategic meetings, you empower your team to contribute to the agency's success. This proactive approach not only sets the tone for growth but also allows you, as the agency owner, to focus on strategic insights and long-term goals. We hope this post has inspired you to consider the crucial steps in building a self-running agency and creating a powerful senior leadership team.

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Links to the tools I mentioned in this episode: 

 Full Episode Transcription

Rob Da Costa:

Welcome back to the Agency Accelerator podcast. Today we are discussing a crucial step in building a self-running agency, and that is the need to create a senior leadership team. In this episode, you'll learn the crucial insights to transform your agency so everything doesn't just sit on your shoulders. So firstly, you will understand why forming a senior leadership team is a key step in building a self-running agency. Also, we'll discuss the common challenges that you might face without 1 second of all, we'll explore when is the right time to form this team and how even small agencies can benefit from early implementation. Lastly, we'll delve into the focus and frequency of senior leadership team meetings, ensuring that they are strategic and they foster a culture of shared ownership. So stay tuned as we unravel these insights to help you grow your agency in a profitable, sustainable and enjoyable way. I'm Rob Costa and this is the agency Accelerator podcast.

Rob Da Costa:

As someone who has stood in your shoes, having started, grown and sold my own agency, I know just how it feels in the ups and downs of agency life. So this podcast aims to ease your journey just a little by sharing mine and my guests experiences and advice as you navigate your way to growing a profitable, sustainable and enjoyable business. Why is a senior leadership team so important? You might be thinking, and especially that's true if you're a small agency. Today. Well, as agency owners, we often find ourselves wearing way too many hats with a strategist, the salesperson, the account manager, the admin, and sometimes even the firefighter putting out day-to-day operational fires. This not only leads to burnout, but it also restricts your agency's growth potential. Creating a senior leadership team allows you to start delegating some of these responsibilities, freeing up your time to focus on the things that you are great at, your superpower, which is usually strategic growth. It brings in diverse perspectives and expertise, it drives innovation, and it improves your decision-making.

Rob Da Costa:

A well-structured senior leadership team can also enhance your agency's culture, fostering a sense of shared responsibility and accountability. It empowers your team, giving them autonomy to make decisions and the confidence to take on those leadership roles. However, building a senior leadership team is not without its challenges. One common hurdle is, of course, finding the right people who share your vision and values and can think in that strategic way. It's more than just their skills or their experience. It's also about their fit in your agencies their buy-in to that longer-term vision and their ability to lead and inspire others. Now, another big challenge that stops a lot of agency owners. Doing this, if we are honest, is a fear of letting go.

Rob Da Costa:

As agency owners, it's natural for us to want to control every single aspect of our business. Indeed, that's probably why we started our agency because we wanted to control. But to grow, we need to learn to trust our team and give them the space to make mistakes, do things their own way, and learn. But for now, just take a moment to reflect on your current structure. Do you currently have a senior leadership team in place? If not, what's holding you back? And if you do, are they empowered to make decisions and drive your agency forward? Remember, a self-running agency isn't a distant dream, but a tangible goal that begins by building a strong leadership team. So in the next section, I want to talk about when is the right time to start forming your senior leadership team. So let's jump into that and you'll probably be surprised at my response to that question. One question I am often asked is, Rob, when is the right time to form a senior leadership team? And the answer is really simple, as soon as possible.

Rob Da Costa:

So if you are a one-person agency listening to this thinking this doesn't apply to you, then please do stay tuned, because it absolutely does. You see, the concept of a senior leadership team isn't exclusive to large agencies with dozens of employees. Even if you're a small agency with just two people, you can and you should start forming a leadership team. And if you're a one-person agency, then you might have a coach or a mentor or a buddy that can be part of your senior leadership team at the start. So why so early? You might be wondering. Well, forming a senior leadership team isn't just about delegating tasks or sharing responsibilities. It's about cultivating a leadership mindset and creating a culture of shared ownership and accountability. And also getting into the rhythm of putting the pause button on and reviewing your agency strategically, doing some planning before you take the pause button off and step back onto the client service hamster wheel of Doom.

Rob Da Costa:

When you start having senior leadership team meetings early on, you set the tone for your agency's growth. You create a space where strategic decisions are made collectively, where diverse perspectives are valued, and where every team member feels empowered to contribute to the agency's success. These meetings also provide an opportunity for you to mentor your team, helping them develop their skills, and giving them the space to contribute, and the confidence to take on leadership roles. It's all about preparing your agency for growth. So when the time comes to expand, you have a team ready to step up and lead. So don't wait until you're overwhelmed with tasks, or you feel completely stressed and burnt out, or your agency has grown beyond your control, or you've become the bottleneck to your agency's growth. But start forming your senior leadership team now. Start having those strategic discussions, start delegating responsibilities where you can and start empowering your team.

Rob Da Costa:

Remember, a self-running agency isn't built overnight. It's a journey that begins with a single step. And one of those key steps is forming your senior leadership team. So in the next section, we'll discuss the key roles in a senior leadership team exactly who should be on your senior leadership team and what credentials they have to earn that seat around the table. Okay, so we've discussed the importance of having a senior leadership team and when to form one. Now, let's talk about who should be in this team and what their role should be. The composition of a senior leadership team is really crucial because it's not just about seniority or how long someone's been in your agency. It's about the team member's ability to have strategic insights, and leadership potential, and also be a good fit in that they are aligned with the future vision of your agency.

Rob Da Costa:

It's about people earning their seats around the table. And what I mean by that is that they speak up, they contribute, they challenge and they take ownership. Firstly, your senior leadership team should represent a diverse range of skills and perspectives. Don't just put people in your own, like around the table. So this could include leaders from different parts of your agency like operations, sales, marketing and finance. This diversity ensures a holistic view of your agency's operations and strategic direction. Now, of course, you may not have that team in place today, so just put one other person, if that's all you have, who's going to bring some different perspectives, who's going to challenge your thinking, and as I say, who's going to take some ownership of actually delivering the plan for the agency. Secondly, when you do have a choice, look for people who demonstrate leadership potential.

Rob Da Costa:

These are individuals who show initiative, they take responsibility and they inspire others. They're not just good at their jobs, they're good at leading others to be good at theirs. Thirdly, consider their strategic insights. Are they able to see the bigger picture and make decisions that align with your agency's vision and goals? Can they anticipate some of the challenges coming down the road, and the opportunities and devise strategies to navigate them? And lastly, consider their cultural fit. Your senior leadership team sets the tone for your agency's culture, and their role models and they should embody your agency's values and be able to foster a positive and inclusive work environment. Remember, the roles within your senior leadership team will vary depending on your agency's size and needs. And if it's just you today, then start with a trusted partner or a coach who can sit on this team and get you into the habit of spending time looking strategically at your agency. So that's who should be on your team.

Rob Da Costa:

In the next section, I want to talk about why exactly should a leadership team be discussed in these meetings. So hopefully by now, you buy into the idea of forming a leadership team. But what on earth should these meetings focus on and how often should they occur? Well, the focus of your senior leadership team meeting should be strategic, not operational. I want to say that again because that's super important. The focus of your leadership team meetings should be strategic in nature and not operational. I've sat on too many so-called management meetings where they're talking about client x or the Christmas party or the state of the kitchen, and whilst there's lots of emotion attached to them, they're just not relevant for moving your agency forward. So they need to be taken offline and discussed at some other point. Because these meetings are not planned to discuss the day-to-day tasks or client issues. Instead, they should be centred around the bigger picture, your agency's vision, your goals and the strategies to achieving them.

Rob Da Costa:

Topics could include financial performance, business development strategies, talent acquisition and retention, process improvements and culture-building initiatives. It's also a space to discuss challenges and opportunities in the market, new service offerings and potential partnerships or collaborations. Now, a really good tip here to keep your leadership meeting strategic is to use your vision doc or your business plan as the basis of your conversation. This is what I do with my clients who work on their vision. That's their long-term vision, their year vision, their quarterly plan and their monthly plan. And then we'll use that plan as the basis of our leadership team meetings because it keeps us focused on those projects that will drive the agency forward and as I say, not get distracted down an operational rabbit hole. As for the frequency, there's no one-size-fits-all answer here. It really does depend on your agency's size the growth stage and the pace of change in your industry.

Rob Da Costa:

However, a good starting point is to have these meetings monthly. This frequency allows you to stay agile and responsive to changes without overwhelming your team. With too many meetings that stops them from getting on with their day job. Remember, the goal of these meetings is to foster a culture of shared ownership and strategic thinking. It's about empowering your team to make decisions and contribute to your agency's growth. And it's about ensuring that we are all aligned on the same journey. To ensure that these meetings are collaborative with open and honest communication. Be willing to hear things that maybe you don't agree with and encourage your team to voice their opinions, ask questions and challenge the status quo.

Rob Da Costa:

So I want to share a couple of example case studies here of clients that I've worked with that have been successful at putting senior leadership teams in place. First of all, I work with a full-service agency where the owner really does want to build a self-running agency because he wants to pursue his passions outside of his agency. He had one other really senior person who was like head of operations, but they didn't really have much of a senior leadership team. They were typically having operational conversations in an ad hoc way, and of course, those are important. We formed the senior leadership team meeting once a month, and as I've already outlined, we used the vision document as the basis for those conversations. This meant that the agency owner was able to start delegating some key parts of that vision to his second in command. And they've got to the point now where they have a really good rhythm for running these meetings every month, and the second in command is pretty much running the agency, freeing up the owner to provide strategic insights, but also pursue his other passion as well. So that's the first case study example, and the second one is one where I was brought in because the owner was frustrated with his senior leadership team.

Rob Da Costa:

So he had two or three people, like head of operations, creative director and head of sales, but they weren't really all aligned, they weren't really all pulling in the same direction, and they kind of made the owner feel like they were doing him a favour when they took on tasks outside of their core role. So again, we formed the senior leadership team. We kind of created a rules of engagement to say, this is what it means to be part of this team, this is what it means to earn your seat around the table. We introduced them to the concept of our three-page vision and the idea that we would use that document as the basis of our conversations. We'd review what we did last month and we'd update the plan for the following month, and then we'd allocate ownership to the various tasks. And everybody understands that they need to take on working on agency-type tasks as part of their role and part of their seat around the leadership team table. And now the weight has been removed from the owner's shoulders and he feels able to focus on his superpower and delegate tasks to the rest of the senior leadership team and trust that they will be done to a satisfactory level. So there you go.

Rob Da Costa:

There are a couple of examples for you. Now, we've covered a lot of ground in this episode of the agency Accelerator podcast. We've discussed the importance of a senior leadership team when to form one, what the meetings should focus on, and who should be in this team. So let me summarise the key points. Number one is that forming a leadership team is a crucial step in building a self-running agency. It's not just about sharing responsibilities, it's about cultivating a leadership mindset and creating a culture of shared ownership and accountability. Second of all, the right time to form the team is as soon as possible, even if you're a small agency, start having these strategic discussions as early as you possibly can. Thirdly, the focus of your senior leadership team meeting should be strategic, not operational.

Rob Da Costa:

Discuss your agency's vision, goals and strategies for achieving them. Fourthly, the composition of your senior leadership team should represent a diverse range of skills and perspectives, and look for individuals who demonstrate leadership potential, strategic insights and cultural fit. Remember, building a self-running agency takes time, and it all starts with you getting work off your plate. And putting a senior leadership team in place is a key step on this journey. Now, if you want to learn more about building a self-running agency, then download a copy of my book called The Self-Running Agency. Now it normally sells on Amazon for 599, but you, my listeners, can get a copy for free, so just see the link in the show notes. So I hope that's been inspirational. I hope that's got you thinking at the beginning of this year.

Rob Da Costa:

And if you enjoyed the episode, then please make sure you've hit the subscribe button. And do consider leaving a review on Apple Podcasts because it helps me reach a wider audience and of course, share this episode with your colleagues as well. But other than that, have a great rest of your week and I'll see you next Thursday for the next episode of the Agency Accelerator podcast.

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