What will agency leaders need in 2013?
January is always a time for predictions and in this year’s glut of articles there has been a lot of crystal ball gazing around the usual suspects – increased digital marketing, big data, new marketing technologies, greater consumer power etc. However, there seem to have been few predictions around the most important of all marketing assets – the people.
All the changes we expect to see in 2013 will have a direct impact on client marketing teams and agency staff in terms of the skills required, the roles they need to play and expectations. Take a look around a creative or media agency today and you will already see a workplace that is unrecognisable today compared to ten years ago. If change is the only constant, what will agencies look like in 2023? And what should marketing leaders be doing to ensure that their teams have what it takes, whatever comes their way?
Agency heads (and marketing directors) will need to develop quite a different set of skills and leadership techniques. As new techniques and technologies continue to enter the marketing arena, it is going to be impossible for leaders to have a working knowledge of all aspects of the marketing activity the agency is carrying out. They are going to become increasingly reliant on their junior staff to provide an understanding of these new activities. For some, this shift in knowledge might sound concerning – but, it doesn’t need to be. It’s about learning to let go and becoming true leaders, rather than doers.
So, in the coming years, agency heads need to learn leadership development techniques that help them to understand how they can have the bravery to ‘let go’ and empower staff at every level to become leaders in the areas where they bring unique skills and knowledge that can make a difference. They will also need to learn how to unlock emotional intelligence and bring some ‘heart’ into the business. Being open and authentic will bring staff on-side so that individuals are less worried about individual one-upmanship and more concerned about how they can work as part of a team for the good of the business overall. By the time we get to 2023, the best agencies will be democratic ones.
Also driving the need for democratised agencies is the fact that they are likely to look quite different compared to today. There will be a significant shift towards brands taking part in mobile-based, realtime conversations with consumers. If they want to play a part in this, agencies will need to evaluate the structures, skills and experience that their staff require if they are going to to talk knowledgeably and appropriately as true brand representatives – potentially with skills being split between the ‘techies’ operating the online platforms and qualified content providers fuelling the conversations.
In addition, the 2023 agency team is likely to be working more remotely and virtually than today, with more team members working from home as independent microbusinesses. In her book ‘And What Do You Do?’ author Katie Ledger predicts that more people will establish ‘portfolio’ careers, having two or more jobs for different employers as they increasingly look for flexibility, a way to feed their passions and keep money coming in at the same time. For agency heads this will create issues as they will need to understand how to make remote teams work effectively.
There will be issues around trust and leaders will need to be totally on the ball with project management, ensuring that everyone knows what is expected by when – without a physical presence it’s easy for projects to go wrong. This means leaders will also need to understand how to make best use of the technology available to facilitate the all important face-to-face contact we all need to work as a team – but via remote devices. Motivation will also be more important than ever, ensuring that staff never feel isolated or out ‘out of sight, out of mind’.
The key, for me, is that agencies need to make sure they learn that change is good – and that it’s important to start planning today for what we predict we will need in the future. Last year Virgin Media created a video with their vision of how we’ll be working in the 2020s – http://youtu.be/ZY7_S66BUIs. It’s an interesting view of what might be to come. My only disappointment was the total lack of hover cars – but I guess not all our hopes for 2023 will come true!
Michael Lewis is the Managing Director at leadership development and training consultancy Different Dynamics