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Guest post written by Karl Sakas (email@example.com) |
Note: This article is adapted from Work Less, Earn More: How to Escape the Daily Grind of Agency Ownership (Karl Sakas, 2023).
A former boss liked to say, “We’re separated by a common language.” Just because you understand what you say… doesn’t mean others do. As agency owners, they invested time to ensure they communicated clearly. As their head of operations, this made it easier for me to support them and helped us grow the business—without their having to do all the work.
Good communication is an essential trait of any good leader. And when you communicate well, it makes agency life easier, too. For instance, up-leveling your internal communication skills can lead to:
- Less work for the agency owner and managers, because you can delegate more while trusting that the result will be good.
- Less re-work, because things were done correctly the first time.
- Less drama, because there are fewer misunderstandings.
- Higher team morale, because everyone has a clear idea of what you expect from them.
- Fewer emergencies, because people know what to do and have clarified questions in advance rather than at the last minute.
The bottom line is this: the better you are as a communicator, the easier your agency life will be. And as I share in my new book, it’ll help you find ways to “Work Less” and “Earn More.”
5 Tips on Being a Better Communicator… Especially When You’re Remote
If you want to get better at delegating, you’ll want to improve your communication skills. This is especially true for remote or distributed teams.
After all, it’s not just about what you say. Communicating is only effective if the other person understands what you’re saying in the way that you intended.
Don’t be like my former coworker, whose catchphrase was “I’ve explained that to you already.” Aside from their attitude… if you’ve explained something to five people and no one understands, consider the common factor.
With that in mind, here are some tips for becoming a better communicator:
- Include details. Want to ensure your team meets your expectations? Communicate what you’re looking for with as much detail as possible. Details can include timelines, specific deliverables, names of people to collaborate with, deadlines, expectations for quality, overall context, etc. Your team can’t read your mind. As you work with people longer, you may be able to dial-back on the details… but typically, “more is better” to start.
- Put it in writing. Keep everyone on the same page by outlining project tasks in writing, either during a meeting or after you delegate something. If you’re having a meeting related to a project or company initiative—no matter how big or small—consider keeping a “running notes” document that everyone has access to. Put tasks into your PM software, to track due dates and who’s responsible for what.
- Be ready to provide support. It’s great when you have seasoned team members—where you can essentially “set it and forget it” until the task is completed. But in general, you should plan to answer follow-up questions after you’ve delegated work. Don’t want to get interrupted all day long? Pre-schedule interim check-ins (or even internal Office Hours), to support your team.
- Give credit where credit is due. Recognize and thank everyone who was involved. After all, you’re all working together to accomplish these goals, and everyone values being recognized for their hard work. Ideally, customize the recognition to ways they want to be recognized. Remember: As a leader, your team’s success is your success.
- Use SMART goals when you delegate work. It’s not enough to just say, “I want to grow my agency.” To make it actually happen, you need to make every goal a S.M.A.R.T. goal. That includes your own goals, too.
Whether your goals are big or small, the S.M.A.R.T. framework keeps everyone on the same page—and helps you get things done faster and more profitably. Let’s take a closer look at what this means, and how to apply it at your agency.
Definition: What Are Agency S.M.A.R.T. Goals?
As a goal-setting framework, S.M.A.R.T. is an acronym to help everyone understand what “done” means. The letters stand for:
- Specific. The goal clearly conveys what you’re trying to accomplish. For example, instead of saying, “I want to grow my agency,” you might instead say “I want to grow my revenue” or “I want to grow my net profits” or “team” or something else specific to your business.
- Measurable. You can quantify the results. You want to make sure you can tell when you’ve grown. What measurable growth will tell you you’ve achieved your goals? Is it growing your revenue by 50 percent? Or maybe adding three new members to your team? Put a number to it.
- Assignable. You can assign the goal to someone… or to yourself. Who is going to do the work? Make sure you’ve got a person in mind—and if you’re delegating, that it’s not yourself.
- Realistic. The goal is achievable (based on the current resources and other circumstances), rather than impossible or improbable. Don’t commit to impossible goals.
- Time-bound. There’s a deadline, so you know whether you finished the goal on time. Otherwise, you’ll just keep pushing the finish line further down the track. You need a deadline and you need to stick to it. And be sure to tell people their deadlines in advance, so they’re not surprised later.
As an agency leader, you probably want to reduce your workload. But if you’re working less… that usually means someone will be working more. And that “someone” is generally your team.
We’ve talked a lot about delegating work—which is crucial for your ability to Work Less—but it’s important to make sure you’re delegating responsibly.
Abdication is not delegation. Make sure you’re not just dumping the work on your team, without considering how much capacity they currently have. Think about resource management. After all, an overworked team is more likely to quit… And high turnover means you’ll ultimately be working more.
Part of your plan to “Work Less, Earn More” may include hiring additional people (employees and/or contractors) to handle the workload you delegate. This is ideally a short-term expense, as an investment toward your long-term goals.
And consider: your team may welcome new responsibilities if these help them reach their own career development goals. My clients typically promote key employees at the agency, as the owners delegate and employees expand their roles. For employee retention, it’s important that your “Work Less, Earn More” program benefits your team, too.
Up-Leveling Team Communication at Your Agency
I hope you have some new ideas about how to start up-leveling your internal communication, including some you might try today.
Of course, you won’t become excellent at any new skill overnight. You’ll need to use and practice these tips, to grow as an agency leader. But starting is the first step.
For more advice on communication and more, check out my book Work Less, Earn More: How to Escape the Daily Grind of Agency Ownership. It’s available now, via Amazon worldwide.
About the Author:
Karl Sakas helps agency leaders make smarter decisions for smoother growth. Running an agency is complex, but it doesn’t have to be so complicated.
As a management consultant and executive coach, Karl has personally advised hundreds of agency owners on every inhabited continent. Channeling his background in agency operations, his clients often call him their “agency therapist” (but he is not an actual therapist).
Karl has written three books (including Work Less, Earn More in 2023) and more than 400 articles on agency growth. Outside of work, Karl volunteers as a bartender on an antique train, mixing martinis at 100 miles an hour. To learn more, visit SakasAndCompany.com.