Creating a winning agency culture

Creating a winning agency culture

What makes a winning agency culture? These invisible, but oh-so-real boundaries that govern our working lives, can have a massive positive or negative impact on any agency’s ability to win and retain business. So, for our second breakfast session of 2017, Ken Kelling and Chris Wood looked to demystify this question. With their 45 years of combined experience on both client and agency side, they’ve learnt a thing or two about what it takes to foster a winning agency culture. Here are some top tips we cobbled together from our morning session.

Have a shared purpose:

Understand why you get up in the morning and why your agency was created. Believe in it, shout about it and maintain it and you’re twice as likely to hang on to your people, or five times as likely if your people happen to be millennials.


Don’t hide in comfort zones:

Isn’t it nice, doing the things we’re good at and enjoy? Beware, this isn’t necessarily in line with what the client thinks is important, and can lead to inefficiencies or a hectic work environment.


Respect the change curve:

Change – be it positive or negative – will affect everyone in different ways at different times. Being aware of this and acknowledging it will help keep your internal channels of communication open, and your people as happy as clams.


Trigger a positive felt reality:

When we feel good, we’re more able to access our skills and utilise resources that lead to great work. Figure out what triggers those feelings of comfort and happiness among your staff and you’ll be rewarded with more effective and creative work.


Listen actively:

Anyone can nod their heads and open their ears, but it takes some work to listen actively. If you’re good at it, you’ll be rewarded with happy staff, better chemistry meetings and more effective client meetings.


Give productive feedback:

Keep it consistent and constantly reviewed, and you should see more of your feedback acted upon. Offer help where needed, too… improving is tough for anyone if they don’t know how to go about it.


Be (mostly) adult:

We have three mind-sets: Parent, Adult and Child. Too much parenting, and people will feel patronised. Too much child, and you could end up throwing your toys out of the pram. Keep it adult most of the time, and always be aware of the mind-set you’re in.


Say thank you:

It really is that simple. An all-expenses paid trip to Ibiza isn’t going to fill the void that a simple show of gratitude can fill, and it’s free! So, say it loud, and say it frequently.


Have clear lines of accountability:

Confusion, last-minute changes to presentations and playing the blame game can all be the result if you don’t stick to this. With any assignment, decide who’s Responsible, Accountable, Consulted and Informed upfront, then stick to it.


Have co-created and coherent goals:

60% of people find the SMART terminology (Specific, Measurable, Appropriate, Relevant and Time-bound) irrelevant. Make your colleagues feel like co-authors of a goal, and the whole team is more likely to stick with it.


The short answer to what creates a winning agency culture? “Asking acutely, listening non-judgementally, being open to learning, and embodying your culture”. Many thanks to Ken and Chris for sharing their insights with us