Vendasta’s Josh Singh on how to build a winning agency cultureBy Nicole Lauzon
Agency owners know all too well the intricacies of cultivating a successful and meaningful agency culture. Like being the conductor of an orchestra, it is much more of an art than a science to build a team that can move in concert towards your business's shared goals.
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With nearly two decades of experience coaching and training leaders to be at their best, Vendasta Talent and Leadership Development Manager Josh Singh knows a thing or two about leadership and company culture. In a recent sit down, Singh shared his formula for creating a thriving agency culture.
To achieve a successful workplace culture, Singh says people, vision, and recognition need to come forward prominently in the composition of your organization.
Getting the right people on the bus
Bringing the right people into your organization is any agency owner's first line of defense for forging a strong agency culture.
“If you get the wrong people on the bus, it can be a disaster for an organization. But if you get the right people that are humble, hungry, and smart, you're going to start developing a winning team culture inside the organization,” says Singh.
Singh recommends checking out The Ideal Team Player by Patrick Lencioni for more context, but summarizes the makeup of the ideal team player:
“Somebody who has humility, who is coachable, and who is willing to try new things. Someone that admits when they're wrong. Somebody who is intelligent, ambitious, and hungry, who wants to progress the company and progress their own career. When you find that trifecta, you’ve found the ideal team player.”
Improve agency culture by creating clarity around your vision
Especially for an increasingly Millennial and Gen Z workforce, agency owners need to look beyond simple directives. According to Singh, this next generation of professionals needs to feel invested in where the organization is headed to do their best work.
“What they want to know is where is this thing headed? Are we helping to make the world better? Are we contributing to our communities? Are we winning in various ways to ensure that there's a betterment, of not just a product? Are we improving businesses and helping people so that they can be with the people they love, do what they love, and actually save time? To improve agency culture, this workforce wants to know there is a purpose behind the work.
“Leaders within an agency have to be so clear on where they're going so that their teams have a sense of, "Yes, I want to be part of this. This is actually something that I want to spend one year, two years, five years, 10 years giving my life to.
“Another thing leaders should keep in mind to move their agency culture in a positive direction is that vision leaks. You can tell somebody where you’re headed. They might hear it, but over time as the rigamarole of the day-to-day sets in, they can lose it. And so it's a leader's job to fill that vision bucket over and over again to keep that clear so that people know how they're contributing to that overall goal,” says Singh.
What gets recognized gets repeated
Recognition, says Singh, is another cornerstone to an agency culture built around teamwork and positivity.
Having a regular recognition feedback loop set up is a good place to start. You could have a company-wide communications channel where messages of recognition can be shared, for example. Leadership should be paying attention to these shoutouts and celebrating them at team or agency-wide meetings to take it one step further.
“Otherwise people feel like they're not valued. They feel like their voice is not heard. They end up running around aimlessly with no real direction. What recognition does is it really celebrates what your agency values,” Singh says.
Quoting Vendasta’s own VP of People Operations Jean Parchewsky, Singh says that “What gets recognized gets repeated,” needs to live as a foundational mindset for leaders at any organization.
Create an agency culture that allows team members to bring their true selves to work
Unlike the Apple TV+ series Severance, your agency employees can’t simply separate their work selves from their personal lives and challenges. To run an agency and to lead your team is to understand that sometimes the outside world will bleed into your business.
The best way to combat that?
Embrace it and model to your teams that it’s okay to be human.
According to Singh, vulnerability is a key component of fostering empathetic, kind, and understanding interactions with your teams.
“There have been times I have royally messed things up or have missed the mark or have not done maybe what I was supposed to do in ways that I should have. For me, it's always been about leading by example. So if I'm not doing something that I should be doing, I'm happy to own it.
“When you lead in vulnerability, it allows for an ecosystem of vulnerability. Your team will know you're not looking for perfection, you are just looking for people that will put their best foot forward on a day-to-day basis to get maximum impact for the organization,” explains Singh.
Great organizational cultures don’t happen by accident
To achieve a thriving agency culture, leaders need to put in the effort to create that environment intentionally.
“Great leaders take the time to figure out who they are, what characteristics they want their companies to exemplify, and they intentionally, day to day, make sure that those values and those things are recognized and cared for on a regular basis,” shares Singh.
According to Singh, by intentionally hiring good people, ensuring your vision for the company is clear and consistent, and recognizing great work often, you are on your way to an agency culture you can be proud of.
And when agency culture is great? Clients will feel the affects too, especially when they're onboarded.
At the end of the day, it’s the people within an organization that will propel it forward. By taking care of your people, you’re fine tuning the instrument you use to create the perfect composition of culture and success for your agency.