It’s great if your team likes you, but they damn well better respect you!

Every agency has it’s own unique personality. Some are casual while others are corporate. Some are folksy and some are intense. Some are quite humble while others are over-the-top confident. Some are friendly with one another internally, while others seem to operate with little more than a sense of tolerance.

The actual personality of the agency by itself is not a predictor of success or failure. But there is one trait whose presence, or absence, is the single biggest predictor of success: The leader(s) must have the respect of the team.

I think that because so many agency leaders were once, and perhaps still are, producers themselves, they struggle embracing the real responsibilities that go with their leadership position. In their minds, and all too often in reality, they simply remain “one of the guys/gals”. These can be fun places to work, and there can even be a fierce loyalty, but these agencies don’t produce results.

No individual, in any role, can command the respect of their team if they don’t own up to the responsibilities of the position.

I heard an agency owner reflecting on his team in answer to the question of which current producers he would hire again. After a slight pause he responded, “All of them, they have all become great friends of mine.” When challenged to answer again, but to take the personal attachment out of the answer, he simply said, “I can’t take the personal out, it’s impossible.”

The production team in this agency has averaged less than $20,000/producer/year over the past three years.

Leadership is not for the faint of heart

Enabling the team to remain comfortable in the moment does nothing short of setting them up for certain future failure. And, given the challenges being faced in our industry, the future has arrived sooner than expected; the future is now.

The agencies we see producing the greatest results are being led by leaders who are making the tough decisions; decisions that, while maybe not immediately popular, command the respect of their team.

Respected leaders:

  • Solicit input from their team, but aren’t afraid to make an unpopular decision.
  • Have an extremely clear vision of where they are taking the agency.
  • Are willing to call out team members who aren’t performing.
  • Don’t ask the team to do anything they aren’t willing to do themselves, but are willing to do whatever is needed for the greater good.
  • Have high expectations for every team member, but even higher expectations for themselves.
  • Do not tolerate division within the ranks, for any reason.
  • Listen to reasons, but do not tolerate excuses.
  • Ensure the team has everything it needs to be successful.
  • Communicate constantly, especially in difficult times.
  • Will fire any team member who can’t/won’t do his or her job.
  • Will fire any team member who is doing the job, but is toxic in doing so.
  • Are always open to constructive criticism.
  • Are never afraid to ask for help.

Sadly, our industry leadership has been allowed to simply be “one of the guys”. Those days are over. It is no longer enough to be liked; our leaders have to command respect.

Enabling your team to get by with mediocre effort and results is not kind; it’s not effective; it’s not even friendly. It’s downright cruel.

If you are in a leadership position and are struggling with results, if you are liked but not respected, if you are holding back from making the tough decisions, something has to change. You must do what it takes to become an effective leader. If you can’t or won’t become an effective leader, then hire someone else to be the leader. And, if you aren’t yet ready to make such a hire, then at least look to the outside for some assistance.

Agencies without leaders who command respect are struggling. However, those agencies who have respected leaders are, predictably, the most respected and feared competitors in their market.


Photo by mantinov