Roles

Blog Post: The Four Types of Employees at Your Firm

Take just six minutes with me and think about the four different kinds of employees you have. You'll learn a lot more from this exercise if you participate and apply it to your firm as you read.

Start by answering two questions about each employee:

  1. Is this employee a cultural fit? Think about your values, as well as the importance you place on honesty, transparency, collaboration, commitment, etc.
  2. Is the employee a contributor? To answer this question, think about whether you could send them to talk with a client (on their own) or ask them to teach their fellow employees through an informal seminar for an hour or ask them to write an insightful blog post.

Draw your own guadrant, like the...

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Blog Post: You Have One Primary Job as a Leader

As a leader, your job is to make decisions. There are other things, too, but that is your main job.

Warring against that, possibly, is your fear of making the wrong decision. Rest assured in knowing that there is greater long-term potential harm in not making decisions than there is in making wrong decisions.

So to be an effective leader, try to master the timing of your decisions rather than the criteria for your decisions.

Key Times to Make Decisions

So, when should you make a decision? Here are the four most important times to make a decision:

  • When you see an opportunity you're small enough to pounce on. This is usually an opportunity that the big firm has to study, meet about, appoint a committee, assess the risks, get funding approval, and then build consensus around three times per week for five months. There are significant advantages around scale, but being nimble is not one of them.
  • When your people are...
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Position Paper: Five Important Personal Transitions to Make

As you grow, what transitions are useful and even expected? Let’s look at a few that you’ll almost certainly encounter and help you see what might be on the other side of the transition.

One: Hiring for Expertise vs. Money

The first good transition to make is to begin hiring people for their expertise rather than for what they cost you. In the early days, you have a budget and you hire accordingly. You aim for whatever you can get for that price, and that’s the best you can do. There simply isn’t any more money, and expertise takes a back seat to available funds.

Eventually, though, you determine that expertise is more important than money. So you outline what you’re looking for in great detail and you don’t settle for less. You have a budget in mind, but the budget takes a back seat to the requirements for expertise. That means you may bust the budget. But in this scenario, one very qualified person may actually be equally as effective as two less qualified individuals.

Two: From Judging to Shaping

The second good transition to make is to move from judging to shaping the work underneath....

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Position Paper: Essential Leadership Qualities

What are the characteristics of a leader that others want to follow?As you’ll soon see, this list is a very personal one. In other words, we’d all come up with different elements when building the list. What I’ve tried to do, though, is to think of a complete leader. So I’ve asked myself this question: can I imagine a leader who isn’t fair, for instance. The answer is obviously no. Each one of these, then, describes a leader’s characteristics, any one of which might hinder their effectiveness if missing in any significant proportion. What I’d encourage you to do--maybe even before you read this list--is to first make up your own list and compare it with mine. (These are not presented in any particular order.)

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Position Paper: Managing Your Boss

The idea of managing your boss is meant to be a bit tongue in cheek, but the concept is real and the extent to which you accomplish this is directly related to the extent of your positive impact as a manager. There are a few important aspects of managing your boss, and they start with understanding why you were promoted in the first place. Then we'll look at preferred communication methods and how to determine the unspoken expectations your manager has of you. Finally, we look at the management commitment you each have to each other, which actually forms the entire basis of the relationship.

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Webinar: Running Your Business with a Partner

Webinar: You'll spend more time with your business partner than with your significant other--or maybe they are the same. Either way, a business partnership can be the best or worst thing you do. Whether you're considering one, in one now, or need to dissolve one, get 90 minutes of insight on making it work well. Learn the advantages, the challenges, the two ways to qualify partners, the five important best practices in establishing one, how to avoid the four communication pitfalls, and how to plan for the eight critical triggers that should be addressed in your written agreement. $160 Purchase.

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Blog Post: Thinking Digitally...If You Do Digital or Not

Click here if you would rather listen to this blog entry (8:16).

Marketing firms have been understandably concerned about how digital they must be in order to remain sufficiently central to the marketing mix. We’ve lost something, though, by framing this discussion around whether we should actually develop digital properties instead of around the broader question of how we should learn from digital thinking. In other words, we might need to approach our work—digital or not—with a more digital mindset. I want to talk about that, but I also want to talk about how you might go about deciding the degree to which you do digital, too.

At the outset of this movement, there were so few firms developing digital properties that it was actually difficult to make a poor positioning decision. The tools were rudimentary, no one knew what good digital really was, and that world was there for the taking.

Developing digital properties, though, now shows more signs of being a mature market, meaning that there are few gaps to arbitrage. Strong tools are widespread, we have nearly twenty years of experience to inform our work, and suddenly kids in the garage don't seem to own this anymore. (They have gotten bored and moved on to social media.)

The last two decades have ushered in a new medium, but the true impact of digital is barely felt. Worst of all, even digital firms aren't thinking digitally. But—and this is so exciting to say—the promise of digital impact is at your doorstep. If you miss the promise of digital thinking, you'll suffer far more than missing digital itself. I'd like you to consider thinking digitally....

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Blog Post: Navigating Employee Compensation

These are the things I've learned about paying humans, most of which I didn't absorb until some time after I was managing them.

The two groups of employees who are typically overpaid are those who have been with you a long time and those who know what other people make.

There are five issues more important to good employees than money, and when they talk about money is when some of those five things have eroded over time.

No employees in the world are mature enough to know what other people make and not read "intrinsic value" into that equation.

Real power comes from shaping how and what someone is paid. Unless a "manager" is that same person, all they are really doing is making suggestions about projects.

Small, frequent adjustments are better than...

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Position Paper: Impact of Internal Culture

What is culture? What defines culture in an organization? One thing we know for sure is that it's not strongly connected to the "vision," "mission," and "culture" signs hanging in the lobby. Heck, the most evil companies in history said all the right things, and they said them in engraved marble in the lobby! No, culture isn't what you say.

Culture is what you do. Period. Even bigger than that, culture is the sum total of all your actions. You know that very talented employee who is selfish and territorial? Keeping that employee around speaks to the real culture at your firm. It says that you value output pretty much regardless of what comes with it.

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Blog Post: Managing Client Relationships

I had trouble getting to sleep last night, and for some reason I started thinking about how managing client relationships has changed over the years. I'm not talking about my clients, but your clients. Do you know the really important things about how to do it right? I'm not sure i would have figured all these out, but I have paid attention to the hundreds of firms I've worked with and tried to cull out the best practices that have been proven in the field.

Just for fun, I started writing these down as they came to mind in a stream of consciousness style. Here are a few of them:

  • The only power you have in a client relationship is to withhold your expertise.
  • The degree to which you have power in a relationship is directly related to how long it takes to replace you.
  • There are only two ways to have more opportunity than capacity, which represents your ability to say "no" to prospects and clients: create more opportunity or reduce your capacity.
  • The most important criteria in evaluating a prospective client is whether or not they've used a firm like yours before. Never be the first.
  • Your cheap ass clients are the ones spending their own money. You want to work for clients with budget authority over someone else's money.
  • The clients who trust you say: "I have $140,000 for this project. What's the most we could do with that money?" The ones who don't trust you say, "Here's what I need. What will it cost?"....
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