I haven’t run a marathon in a while.
Well, ever, if we’re being honest.
Unless you count a Netflix marathon.
But you probably don’t, so… anyway.
I do, however, know that there’s a lot of training involved. A lot of sweat involved. Sometimes cute outfits involved. But there’s mostly a lot of preparation involved. And preparation is what gets you to the finish line.
I joined the Studio 8E8 team in 2019 (still just a little S8E8 baby) and starting with round one of the interview process, I knew this place was different. There was leadership, structure, margin, and healthy culture here – all while producing SO much excellent work. How was that possible? I was curious.
What I came to realize over my training period and on-the-job experience is that team culture isn’t happened-upon, it’s built. And it’s built intentionally. If you’ve got a thriving team, you’ve got growth – and that’s something we should all be striving for in the new year.
I picked a few favorite elements, that if implemented this week, would make a big impact at your practice. Here are some practical ways to prep your team for growth this year. Let’s get into it.
Meetings are integral to any company; they just gotta happen. In-person meetings, breakout meetings, large group meetings, zoom meetings, performance meetings – all of ‘em. The trick is to get information to your team, have good dialogue, and communicate well without losing engagement. Holding meetings for the sake of holding meetings bites. It’s not productive, not helpful, and it proactively trains your team to not look forward to future meetings.
Our team works in monthly leadership meetings, 1-hour weekly company meetings for setting the tone, weekly department meetings for on-going projects, and quarterly meetings for overarching goals all tracked with an agenda so we stay on task.
Gino Wickman lays out how to run meetings effectively, efficiently, and with purpose so your team stays engaged and proactive. In turn, your practice can flourish with newfound margin and, dare I say, excitement. Our team uses Wickman’s structure, alongside the tool Asana, to organize, track, and evaluate our work. We love meetings, and you can too!
People need to know what you expect, and more importantly, how they can succeed. Let the words flow – communication is vital. But clear communication can be a game changer.
“Clarity is kind.”
Brene Brown, Dare To Lead
On the practical side - being able to contact your team throughout the week is important. While new technology won’t help a communication issue, it can be a tool to help guide the endeavor. The goal is to have open lines of clear communication that are reciprocated quickly - questions answered, projects collaborated on, expectations explained, things moving forward at a swift pace rather than a slow crawl. Slack is an app that organizes our team’s communication similar to texting, but more streamlined. We use Basecamp to organize client and internal projects so information stays clear and compartmentalized. Spark is an email software that allows you to clean out your inbox and get to what needs getting to - easily add team members to conversations, cut down on forwarding chains, and clean out your inbox by the end of the week. All good things, all good things.
Here, we like to say “show me your snack budget and I’ll show you your culture.” Now, am I advocating for an area for snacks in your office? Yes. Yes, I am. Am I suggesting you get your team each a car? I mean, I’d take it, but no. Your team doesn’t need to be bestowed lavish gifts to feel appreciated. Instead of being reactive by rectifying your team feeling unappreciated, be proactive in letting them feel heard and valued. You can give bonuses, team CE “vacations,” or impromptu thank you moments in the office. Make your space inviting, approachable, and fun above and beyond what’s expected.
“In life, we can work so hard to get the kinks out that we forget to put the peaks in.”
The Power of Moments, Chip + Dan Heath
Celebrate the big wins. Celebrate the small victories. Take the time to get to know your team, their likes and dislikes, how they best receive encouragement (this introvert is telling you it’s not always in front of a group!), and then do it. Show them you care. Something as simple as a kind post-it note might be all it takes. Make a reminder for yourself and start there. It’s important.
A big part of what makes Josh and Joe great leaders is the fact they’re always learning, growing, and implementing new things without constantly changing the trajectory of the company. There is a strong vision and values driving each decision, and though we pivot when necessary, there’s a consistency and predictability our team can feel safe in. Which, actually, helps us be more creative. And productive. And generally happier humans. Who would have thought?
“Of all the things I’ve done, the most vital is coordinating those who work with me and aiming their efforts at a certain goal.”
Walt Disney, founder of Disney
Prepping for a marathon means you’re getting yourself ready to run. When leading any team, it’s important to have a vision for where you’d like to be and then move yourself in that direction. Even when no one is looking. Find resources, podcasts, articles, books, and mentors who can help you level up in your personal and professional life - the energy will be contagious, the results electric.
You can’t expect to run a full marathon without first taking the time to warm up. Use the start of the year to stretch those muscles, get new habits in place, and slowly bring your leg up over your head to kick 2021 in the teeth. Bottom line: you steer the ship, you drive the car, you set the tone, you pep the talk and walk the walk. Your team is watching.
“When your culture tells a great story, everybody wins.”
Donald Miller, Story Brand
Create great culture and you’ll see growth. It’s going to be a good year.