Hi, my name is Jason and I’m Head of Digital Strategy here at Eyekiller. I’ve been a member of the team since 2015. I started as a Digital Marketing Executive before advancing to a Digital Specialist, and then Head of Digital Strategy.
In my time at Eyekiller I’ve watched the digital marketing industry and web design industry change, I’ve seen our team grow, I’ve grown my own team, and have weathered the storm of a few global events that… I’ll not get into here.
But, in these 7 years, I like to think I’ve learned a few things. Here’s a list of 7 - you be the judge.
1. Communication is a Two Way Street
It goes without saying that you should listen to your clients and your colleagues and understand what they need, but it’s easy to forget that effective communication is a two way street.
When you listen, actively listen. Be present in the conversation, ignore any distractions. Don’t think about your list of questions, don’t think about what you need, and certainly don’t try to second guess the speaker and race them to the end of their sentence.
Let them talk, and listen. Most of the time you’ll find the answer to what they really need in what is being said - or left unsaid. You’ll miss that if you’re just waiting for your turn to speak.
As well as listening, when you speak, do it with purpose. Whatever your role or level of responsibility, you need to make sure that you’re being understood - just as much as you’re listening to understand.
If you give someone incomplete instructions or omit key details and they don’t deliver what you wanted, that’s probably your fault, not theirs.
Check a person’s understanding. Ask them questions about the task, ask them if there’s anything else they need to know that will help them complete the work to the best of their ability.
2. It’s Okay to Make Mistakes - It’s Not Okay To Hide Them
Messing something up is scary. Coming clean is even scarier. Doing both to someone who pays your salary and has control over your employment status is a nightmare. A workplace shouldn’t make employees feel that a mistake will be punished. The threat of reprimand for honest mistakes or misunderstandings encourages your team to do one of the below:
Hide mistakes, shift blame, pretend it didn’t happen, cover things up, let them snowball into bigger problems.
Be so afraid of getting something wrong that they never try anything new. They stop innovating and everything stagnates. Everybody makes mistakes. If there’s someone you work with who never has, then they’re not perfect - they’ve just mastered Behaviour 1 or Behaviour 2.
3. Never Say “But That’s The Way We’ve Always Done It.”
Very few things are perfect as they are. Except for Kinder Happy Hippos, or the first cup of coffee of the day, The Muppets Christmas Carol…
But for everything else, there’s always room to make it better.
If you’re interested in improving your team then you need to experiment with different ways of doing what you’ve always done.
Don’t allow people to become jaded and resistant to change. Encourage experimentation, allocate time in schedules for research, learning, and most importantly, sharing that learning with the rest of the team.
If you’re afraid to try something new and your team has that fear too, then refer back to Behaviour 2 and remember what can go wrong when you stop trying something new.
4. You’re a Team, Act Like It
Depending on the size of your company, your team is anywhere from one other person to hundreds or even thousands of people.
On either side of the scale, that’s a lot of brain power. Certainly more than you have on your own. So involve your team, make use of their skills, their strengths, and their weaknesses.
You should be hiring a varied team with a range of experiences and then bringing those experiences to bear in how you work.
If you’ve got a research project or are looking for a better way to do things, use the hive mind you’ve got inhouse. Two (or five, ten, or fifty) heads are better than one.
"If you take out the team in teamwork, it’s just work. Now who wants that?"
- Matthew Woodring Stover
However, don’t get bogged down in democracy. At the end of the day someone is in charge, and they have to make a decision. Bring the entire team’s experience to bear but at the end of the day, there needs to be a decision made, and if you’re in charge, that’s solely your responsibility.
5. No Two People Are The Same. Stop Treating Them Like They Are
We’re all individuals, even if we’ve outgrown the band t-shirts and bad haircuts and started to blend in a bit more. No two people are the same, even if you’ve given them the same job title.
It seems obvious in the real world, but in the workplace people are often reduced to a series of qualifications, years of experience and skills rather than being looked at as individuals.
A quick Google search reveals that the experts think there are anywhere from four to sixteen different types of workers who should all be treated in their own ways.
As a leader, you should understand your team without the need of a white-paper that breaks them down by their key traits and personality types - but if you don’t that’s a good place to start.
A better place to start is to just get to know them. Have a cup of coffee, ask them what they are motivated by, ask them what they’re interested in. Figure out what tasks they enjoy and what they dread doing.
Then take action, shuffle around responsibilities to give everyone more of what they want to do.
Sometimes you’ll have to do things you don’t like or aren’t very good at. That’s life, that’s work, that’s even play. But the point is to minimise it where you have the power to do so.
Just because your five year superstar team player can thrive in the deep end doesn’t mean your new hire won’t drown there. Some people need more nurturing and guidance, others need room and encouragement to use their initiative and bring new things to the table.
You need to find out who is who. If someone leaves because they couldn’t handle the pressure or workload, that’s a failure of leadership. How does it cost you to find, hire, and train someone new? It’s certainly more than it does to lighten the workload of someone who is struggling, and show them you value them on a personal level.
6. Change Is The Only Constant
Benjamin Franklin said something about Death and Taxes being the only certainty, but even that thought was borrowed from another author. Long before that, the Greek philosopher Heraclitus said that “The Only Constant In Life is Change.”
We’re all resistant to change. It’s natural, when things stay the same we are comfortable and we feel secure. It’s odd that we labour under the impression that things might stay the same when they never do.
People used to have careers for life, and now they scarcely stay at a company for more than a handful of years. The industry I’ve worked in for the last decade barely existed when I was asked in school, “what do you want to do when you grow up?”.
Whether it’s the work you’re doing or the members of your team, the software you use, the industries you specialise in, they’ll all change over time. Global events will change how you work, clients will move on when you make no mistakes, other clients will stick with you against all odds, even through the biggest f-ups of your career.
Remember that things will change and embrace that change, it’s where your greatest learning comes from. It’s where you develop resilience that stops undue stress and lets you leave the work in the office. It lets you pass that attitude and those skills along to your team.
7. Try To Have Fun With It
Work is serious and you should treat it that way, but it can be fun too. If you’re in a position in your company to control how things are done, think about ways to make them more enjoyable.
Good work can be good fun. Don’t take things too seriously, don’t take your colleagues and team for granted. Clients pay your bills and keep the lights on. They can be frustrating but we’re all human beings and if you treat each other that way, everyone will have a much better time.
How can you build relationships? How can you bond your team and incorporate fun into work?
Away days, coffee and donuts, yoga classes, cheesy pop music, water-cooler chat, flexitime, mental health days, working from home… there’s a lot of ways to make life easier for your team, and make work more fun.
According to a study by the University of Warwick, happy employees are up to 12% more productive, so there’s benefits other than giving each other the warm and fuzzies.
You spend a third of your week at work. A little positivity can go along way, and good attitudes are just as infectious as bad ones.