Over the past 10 years or so, I’ve worked at a number of different agencies – large and small. Each agency had its own culture, varied personalities and even a prima donna or two 😉 Some agencies produced amazing results, others less so.
Why is that? Well there’s many reasons of course, but a major factor in my opinion is team happiness. If you have an unhappy team, your agency will not run like a well-oiled machine and your profits will suffer as a result. Simple as that.
The happiest team I’ve ever worked with produced fantastic results for clients, on time, on budget, every time. We respected each other, we socialised with each other, we were committed to each project and each other, and as a result, we were highly motivated to do whatever was required to get the job done.
So how do you achieve a happy team? Well, you could read several books on the subject, but here’s my top 10 tips based on 20+ years of experience managing people:
- Select the right people. Achieving a productive and positive working environment starts with recruiting the right people for your roles. Carefully select people who hold similar values to you and your team – its not just about their skills and experience, they need to fit culturally as well. And avoid creating a role to suit a particular candidate; I’ve seen this happen several times and it fails every time.
- Make time to induct well. If you’ve been in business for a few years, your approach to delivering services to clients should be bedded down, and you can use it to induct new people into your team. You should also take the time to develop an induction checklist that you can re-use each time you recruit, so you know every new team member is getting the same message about your business, irrespective of who conducts the induction.
- Encourage flexibility. I’ve always been a flexible manager (ask anyone who’s worked for me) – letting people have days off at short notice for good reason, agreeing to them working at home occasionally, allowing them to leave early for personal appointments, being ok about them arriving late now and again. But if people show any signs of abusing the flexibility – continuously arriving late or leaving early, going to suspect personal appointments (read ‘job interviews’) or they stop delivering the good quality work expected of them, that’s when I tighten the reigns. I’ve seen other managers use the opposite method – not allowing any flexibility until people prove themselves, and I must say my approach seems to make the team much happier more quickly and is long lasting. It is based on mutual respect, so set some ground rules from the outset, monitor, and at the first sign that the person is abusing the flexibility, pull them up and tell them why.
- Create a comfortable working environment. At the very least, make sure the team has quality chairs, good natural light, balanced heating/cooling, current hardware/software, adjustable monitors and a fridge stocked with beverages. You don’t necessarily need to invest $$$ on a Wii and you certainly shouldn’t do that if the basic environmental factors have not yet been taken care of – people can resent the gaming equipment if they perceive the money could have been better spent on Aeron chairs!
- Involve and empower the team. Involve team members in business decisions as well as project decisions. Seek the team’s input to help solve problems which directly or indirectly affect them. Empower the team to make certain decisions themselves (within reason of course). Doing each of these things not only enriches the quality of the outcome, but also fosters ownership and increases the team’s loyalty to your business.
- Encourage your team keep in touch with their followers and tweet about today’s happenings. I can’t believe I’m saying this – a year ago I would frown if I saw someone tweeting, thinking they were just slacking off – but I now realise this was only because I wasn’t yet a daily Twitter user and did not fully understand its ability to keep you up to date with the world around you. Many people keep their industry knowledge up to date using this media, and should be encouraged to do so.
- Encourage teamwork. I’ve seen the emphasis on teamwork in business rise to its peak in the late 90’s – where everyone was talking teams, team-building, team dynamics, high performing teams – then slowly decline over the past 10 years where it seems in some industries, teamwork is now almost a dirty word. This is a real shame – I’ve seen the most negative, arrogant, self-centred individuals light up whilst working in a team and enjoy the benefits of solving shared problems and working with like minded individuals. The benefits of teamwork are enormous to individuals, the team and the business, so bring teamwork back I say! #teamwork #rocks
- Reward at the right time. Be quick to give praise, do it regularly and publicly, so people can see you care about their efforts. If someone does something wrong or not up to standard, pull them aside, tell them immediately and explain why. Don’t hesitate, or the exercise will become much harder to do the longer you leave it. Timeliness is everything when it comes to rewarding (or reprimanding) people. If you are giving away tangible rewards, make sure the reward is commensurate with the effort – movie tickets are a great reward for small wins, but can be a slap in the face if the person perceives their effort to be huge and is expecting a monetary bonus!
- Laugh out loud! I’ve worked in places where it was not acceptable for people to have a good laugh or make low levels of noise. Those places had no soul as a result, and the turnover rate was high. You don’t need to go as far as playing practical jokes, but encouraging people to let off steam now and again with a good belly laugh is very healthy.
- Remunerate fairly. Sure, you can only pay what you can afford, but take care to attract the best people by offering competitive salaries. If you cannot afford high base salaries, consider offering performance based bonuses. As they say, if you pay peanuts, you will get monkeys.
Of course, there’s more to creating and maintaining a happy team working environment, but considering these 10 things is a good start.