When I started at 88 Creative as the new Managing Director, some of the team members had been there for over a year, and some for just a few months. I was the new kid on the block. I knew all of them were probably wondering what my impact would be on the culture and work environment.
My approach to getting to know each team member was a one-on-one coffee. This was the time where I could get to know the individual personalities and get a gauge on their day-to-day priorities. I also sent out an anonymous survey to get a feel for what was working, what wasn’t, and what they wanted to see changed over the next several months.
These initial meetings and questions helped identify a lot of the big issues, but I found it didn’t address the smaller daily things that can have an enormous impact on the overall health of organizations.
That’s where 15Five came in.
They say you don’t know what you don’t know. But I say, you don’t know what you don’t ask.
When I started using it the first week with a few simple questions, I immediately found out that one team member who sat at a different table felt isolated from the rest of the team. I offered her a new desk and saw a huge difference in mood and the impact on collaboration. Using 15Five helps me understand what challenges each person faces week-to-week, both in terms of client work as well as internally working with other team members. Having this knowledge as a manager helps me make immediate, incremental adjustments to support our collective efforts.
Although we all sit at one big table in an open-concept office, I can’t always take the time to sit down with each team member to ask how things are going or disrupt them during our daily operations. I can’t put a number on how much time 15Five has saved us, but definitely an hour or two of meetings, both with my boss and with my team.
With a small team of 7 people, we’re always chatting back and forth. This means it’s not always easy to find time to write that proposal or work “heads-down” without interruptions but sometimes, we just have to. Coming in early helps, as does using one of many breakout rooms to get work done. Luckily my team also knows I’m always here to answer emails, questions, or just Gchat about the latest clever campaign making the rounds.
But even when we can’t talk all the time, It’s good to know there’s a way to stay in-tune through our weekly reports about the things we don’t necessarily talk about out loud.This helps everyone, including myself, get more work done without losing sight of the little things that matter too.
Asking my team for “one big idea” every week has resulted in some great changes to our team. For example, one suggestion spawned Illustrator classes led by our Creative Director, helping collectively enhance our team’s skill set and giving us more time to grow and learn together.
Sometimes I have no idea the challenges a team member is facing with a client, or a morale issue that needs to be addressed. We’ve also had a few big ideas come through that helped us change the way we source and create content for clients.These are pleasant surprises to discover when reading the reports.
Keeping a pulse on the team is invaluable. It helps us overhaul and rethink processes. I can make sure people are happy, provide access to the best tools and create a productive environment.
The question that I find helps the most is, “What are your biggest challenges? Where do you need help?”
It’s sometimes hard for employees to put their hands up and say ‘I need help.” Knowing that it’s there and that they can touch base weekly to get help, has been really helpful.
As the new kid, having a way to keep an open dialogue with my team means I can make the small changes necessary to make the most positive impact and reach our goals together.
Erin Bury is the Managing Director at 88 Creative, a Toronto-based boutique digital marketing and design agency. Prior to 88 Creative she was the Managing Editor at startup publication BetaKit, and she regularly reports on small business and technology for CTV News and the Financial Post. She was named one of Marketing Magazine’s top 30 Under 30 marketers, journalists & PR pros in August 2012. Find her on Twitter at @erinbury, and visit 88creative.ca.
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