Cultivating culture – by Andreas Keller.

Andreas Keller turned his previous agency into a Top 10 Great Place to Work in the UAE for six consecutive years. He is now setting up Leidar in the Middle East, and shares his tips:

  1. Innovate and inspire

Leaders are expected to captain the ship and take the agency into the future. Your employees will expect you to focus on the big picture and innovation rather than what time they come to work in the morning. Share your vision with them so that everyone feels part of the same mission and, most importantly, they know where the agency is heading and are working towards a common goal.

  1. Be accessible, but not overbearing

Being available and accessible as a leader is so important. You want to ensure that you are there for your direct reports, especially when things become challenging. However, you want to also give them autonomy and not micromanage. Striking a balance between these two is key.

  1. Treat people equally

Sounds easy, but it’s harder to do in practice. Being fair and transparent In dealing with employees is the key to establishing leadership credibility and ensuring harmony in the office. Nothing upsets employees more than seeing colleagues getting apparently preferential treatment.

  1. Maintain diversity in the workplace

It is important to have a good mix of nationalities in the workplace, as each can bring a unique set of attributes to the table. It also ensures that the office is a fun environment where individuals of different backgrounds and cultures can feed off each other.

  1. Think about employee growth

Never think for one minute that your employees are there for you or the brand. They are there to learn and better their careers at the same time. Ensure that you have a Plan B for the most indispensable resources as well as growth opportunities for the rising stars. Growth also means employees leaving your agency for the client. Embrace this and they just might become your client.

  1. Make sure you value your junior resources 

Account executives can be some of the agency’s most valuable talent. They always end up being more client-facing than you expect, so they need the right environment to be successful. If they are overwhelmed and not looked after they will leave. Always make sure that they enjoy coming to work, are learning and are given good mentors.

  1. Fix mistakes quickly

You can’t always hire the perfect employee. Sometimes you hit, sometimes you miss. If something is not working out, don’t wait too long to take action as it can only cause more problems down the road. Too often companies don’t address the problem early and let bad hires negatively affect a cohesive team or office.

  1. Do small things that go a long way

Agencies never have massive budgets or the great perks that big companies might have. Celebrate small events and occasions, and this usually goes a long way. Luckily the element of surprise
is on your side, so do things that your employees won’t expect. You can then surprise and delight without breaking the bank.

  1. Make people accountable

Agency leaders need to do their jobs and take control of situations. Ensure everyone is doing what they are supposed to do and be clear and consistent with your instructions and decisions. Only  become a leader if you are ready to take tough decisions and never become overly emotional about situations. If you shy away from responsibility, some employees can become more entitled and upset group dynamics.

  1. Celebrate successes

Most agency employees work way more than they should and are always under a lot of pressure. It’s always good to take a step back and say: Let’s celebrate this! Whether it’s a new business win or a job well done for a client, don’t underestimate the impact of “spreading a bit of love” to your employees.