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Agency Iceberg

Leadership lessons from Australia’s biggest agencies


At Agency Iceberg, I work with the biggest and best agencies in Australia. I’ve seen every leadership style you could imagine over the years.

Here are some of the biggest lessons I’ve learned from some of the industries most impressive players.

Omitting responsibility for underperformance

As a leader, your team should leave you better than when they started with you. It is your responsibility to grow and develop people into the best version of themselves while you have the privilege of working with them.

When agencies question the value quality people deliver to their business, it demonstrates not only a lack of faith in the candidate, but also a lack of reflection in the eye of the leader.   

If the candidate started well under your leadership, then slowly deteriorated, then it’s safe to assume a frank and constructive conversation may need to take place. A leader who isn’t afraid to have a challenging conversation will reap the rewards of an underperformer who is able to voice their feedback.

Leaders who are self aware, listen to feedback constructively, and whom continually work on self improvement enjoy a higher performance in their team mates, retain the best talent and minimise the risk of top performers looking elsewhere.

Adapting to your team

Leaders can only impact the culture of an organisation if they listen then adapt to what their team is saying to achieve the bigger goal.

Leaders can only start to understand what is important to their team by asking the question and hoping they have built an environment where team members are supported to (constructively) tell them the truth.

The best teams are those which are lead by people who listen – then adapt. This starts with open communication and sometimes, challenging conversations with team members.

At Agency Iceberg, as a result of feedback from employees, we now all work from home once a week, working remotely to save on travel time, focus in a different space and have time to reflect outside of the office. Cutting commuting times by just one fifth has had a big impact on the happiness of our team.  And it didn’t cost me a cent. If anything, the team is more productive.

Committing to diversity means putting processes in place

Many marketing and advertising agencies have yet to make a consolidated stance against the gender imbalance in the workplace. After acknowledging the problem, leaders then need to ensure a commitment is made to practice what they preach.

Leaders must demonstrate tactical examples of addressing imbalances in their workplace by putting processes in place that address subconscious bias and opportunities to even the playing field.

At Agency Iceberg, we find, as studies have, that women only apply if they have 100% of the job criteria; men only 60%, which possibly contributes to the pay gap in subtle and costly ways. To actively address this, we have a policy of purposefully seeking out recommendations from colleagues on top tier female talent that may not have had the opportunity to shine in their current roles, and whom may not have applied originally for the role on offer. This means, the wherever possible,we are presenting a balanced gender mix for every role.

This small process increases the likelihood of presenting an even gender mix at every possible opportunity which is better for job seekers, better for agencies and better for the industry as a whole.

Without your people, you don’t have a business.

Agencies can be so focussed on keeping their clients they are at risk of overlooking the wellbeing of their people. Unfortunately, it’s not until talented staff leave because of the internal culture they realise it’s a problem.  

When you value and respect the people you work with – your life gets a whole lot easier – and more rewarding.

A good leader understands the value lies within the people around them and takes the time to get to know them. Personality is paramount and any workplace should help people thrive in an environment where they can authentically be themselves.

Practicing open, honest and constructive feedback with your team, giving them the tools and support to deliver a workplace that supports them in ways that have personal meaning to each of them will contribute to a loyal team of creative individuals who love what they do.
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