Written by: Joanna Staniszewska CEO, You’ll Ltd., Poland
As the head of one of the fastest growing marketing consultancies in Pomerania, I need to be able to forecast change and constantly ideate to help my clients grow and stay ahead of the curve .
As exciting and exhilarating as it sounds and as much as I love it, it is tiring. I won’t lie. It’s exhausting trying to reach out to the clients and make them understand. It's arduous to have to constantly coach your employees and partners to accept change and move faster to achieve rapid growth. To motivate yourself to be the best version of yourself is even more fatiguing. It is like childbirth, after all that pain, when you see your newborn’s eyes; your face lights up and break into a smile. Then, you want to do it all over again!
Enough about me. Let me ask you something. Do you feel like you never have enough hours in the day? Do you feel that things are changing faster than you can keep track of them? You are not alone in feeling like this. Things are changing so fast that it sometimes becomes impossible to keep track. I have days where I make my coffee and start working. I grab my coffee at some point only to realise that the whole day has gone by in the blink of an eye!
We, as a society, as humanity are growing by leaps and bounds, technology in all its glory has blurred the lines between work and the rest of our lives. The only way to deal with it is to become a polymath, to be able to look at the world through multiple lens at once. By that, I literally mean that sometimes you have to be able to pay attention to five clients from five different industries at the same time and deliver beyond their expectations!
One of the most important decision that I have to make on a regular basis is to decide how I am going to transform my agency and everyone in it from trying to hack a short term business reality by constantly trying to stay in touch with the latest tech. I want to transform us into an agile agency, ready to internalise the ‘change’ mindset, thus leading not only to quality long-term growth but also to an improvement in our collective consciousness.
I set high goals for myself and those who I work with. Not only that, I am continuously seeking ways to achieve my goals and making my life and my work more comfortable and fulfilling. A personality quiz I took recently indicated that curiosity is one of my defining traits. I got curious and did some research and starting talking to people from various genres. So, the other day, I met Raji Sivaraman in Warsaw and we got talking about running a company in today’s climate.
She told me about the Personal Agility Lighthouse™ Model (PALH™) shown below, and true to form, it got me curious.
I dug deep, read a lot and learned how to use the model. I wanted to share my experiences on how conscious agility has driven my transformation and accelerated my business growth.
Observation, empathy, understanding team values and synergy are crucial. Being able to put myself in the shoes of others helps me to cooperate more efficiently and to create a better, more satisfying relationship. I have learned that even if I seem to value direct feedback, not everyone can handle it, interpret it correctly and not take it personally. In our company, it is easy to see if you are empathetic to the client's needs or if you are treating the client as a necessary evil. Do you concentrate on being “right” or solving the problem, thus releasing the tension? These qualities are extremely important in employees dealing with clients directly. I have been educating and training my employees to fight for the client’s interest rather than against it.
I have learned that being in the present and paying attention to everything around me, helps me foresee and forecast the future. Connecting the dots aptly, actively listening to what people are saying and understanding their hesitation prepares me to anticipate and plan for obstacles and risks. These help me to figure out how to create options and manage expectations by only committing to what I truly understand because once the choices are clear, the decision is easy. It never ceases to amaze me how these small steps have helped the entire team become more efficient and productive. We have found ways to work collaboratively, find solutions and own responsibility. Being accountable and delighting our clients by delivering extremely complex projects on time is achieve due to honed change agility.
It may sound horrible, but all of us have to learn how to don different masks when dealing with different situations. There are times when I am a mentor, the target driven boss, the caring mom driving her daughter to school, the master negotiator, the dutiful daughter, and a sympathetic friend, all in the space of a few hours! At first, it was difficult, but then I realised that the key to being all these people and more, is never to forget what your values are and who you really are.
The most important lesson I extracted to be able to do this is that you need to be a bit more flexible with your ego and gain the trust of your team. The best way to gain your team’s and your partner’s trust is to be ethical at all times. It takes years to build a relationship, to build confidence, to construct a reputation. But, it takes less than a moment to lose it all. I recently had this situation where I stopped trusting a close business partner, who I thought was family. I am sure, the whole team will never forget the day I confronted them. But if my teams trust me, they will stand behind my decision and support me. Political agility certainly paved the way in this instance.
Juggling your associates and their different emotional states can be difficult. Being able to convince a skeptic, comfort and uplift a sad person, motivate, encourage others to stop being shy simultaneously can be quite a rollercoaster. But, the good news is that you can be trained.
The first step is to evaluate yourself. How stable and calm you are in a stressful situation. What is your ability to read a situation and diffuse it if needed and how self-controlled are you when faced with adversity? The best I gather from the PALHTM Model for this agility is to say, “Take your drama somewhere else! I don’t want to put my team through the unwanted stress of having to go through unnecessary emotional tensions.” The team needs to know that their leader has everything under control. Helping the team to manage their emotions is possible when you are able to manage your own. Although, at times I did allow them to witness my inner hesitation because that made them understand that regardless of how tough it got, I almost always put the team first and that would allow them to see that I am human too.Related: Personal Agility Lighthouse Model: An Indispensable Transformational Tool for Individuals and Organizations
Being cerebrally agile means being able to guage the circumstance, modify behaviour and deliver the right information at the spur of the moment. For me, part of this comes naturally and partly I have trained myself. As the head of an agency it is important for me to make quick situational decisions about whether it is possible to accomplish the project at a given time, will it be profitable, what competencies will I need to complete it successfully, and where to find the right people at the affordable cost?
An example in my company would be to be Agile 360 0 . There was an instance where we needed subcontractors asap. What I did was to have the whole company brainstorm and bring to the table all the contractors we had used in the past and whoever had any connections with contractors. This emerged to be a great solution as we did solve the problem. It is just spontaneous thinking with the right resources.
Some say we learn by our mistakes, some say there are no mistakes just lessons, and both are right. Some leaders say they forget their mistakes, but they never make them twice, while others continue to repeat them endlessly. In my company I advocate experimenting and learning from these experiments. I also say “Don’t hide when an experiment fails and it becomes painful, this is your chance to relearn. Stop fearing failure, instead be open-minded. Because when you learn from these experiences whether they are successes or failures, you learn to recognise the signs and red flags in future settings. Adjusting via observation is an important quality”. Finally, "failure" is only a thought construct, and it is nothing other than our subjective assessment of the reality which is what I have experienced in my company.
They say that you will never be happy if you are always striving for excellence. In my opinion as the head of my company, ‘having done something is better than something excellent which will never be done’. However, I think that it is impossible to achieve anything if we do not push ourselves to get the best out of ourselves. It is easy. Do you want to develop? Always be a step ahead of your comfort zone and keep improving. Clients will appreciate if the agency has its own quality check internally. The whole team can be engaged to improve the project only when the company culture is supporting and promoting these behaviors. For example, in my company I allow the proper time for the project delivery, not always agreeing with the deadlines given by clients enabling better outcomes.
Towards that end find time for a coffee with friends, movies, art, sports, and engagement with kids. Do not write an article at 1:30 AM (what I am actually doing now). Sounds like room for improvement?… Interesting?... Want to learn more? - ask Raji and Michał, co-founders of AgilityDiscoveries. They are available with their training and keynotes in Poland and globally.