A lot of agency founders think their organisation structure looks like a triangle, with them at the top:

An old-school org chart with a CEO at the top and different layers below, formed into a triangle

But, in a knowledge-based, people-powered business like an agency, this way of thinking about the organisation can be counter-productive. It can lead naturally into top down, command and control culture where people at the bottom wait to be told what to do, or for permission. As an agency grows this can make it crawl to a halt and be resistant to change.

Last week I was on a call with an agency owner who had heard the term 'servant leadership' and resonated with the idea (which is an important one). But often the concept is pictured simply as the same triangle flipped upside down — and that's not right either.

Instead, an agency structure can best be thought of as a series of circles:

A centre circle saying 'CEO/Leaders', set in a larger circle that says 'agency ops', set in a larger circle that says 'teams'. Outside the circle are the words Clients and Communities

You're right in the middle, surrounded by your leadership team, then the agency operations teams, and then the delivery teams.

Things like purpose, strategy and culture ('intent') radiate out from the centre — but it's important to note how insulated the centre is from knowledge and experience of the agency's interface with the outside world ('information'). That connection to clients, prospects, recruits and communities happens at the outer edge of your agency.

Your sales and delivery teams have this information, and you need to consciously work to absorb it deeper into the circle. That means spending time listening to them, and observing their work (You're not evaluating their work, you're looking for information about the outside world). It means involving representatives from this outer edge of the organisation to take part in activities with the leadership team.

This week, how can you get creative about ensuring you absorb more information from the outer circle of your agency, right where it connects with the outside world, and how can you better radiate intent to the edges?

Then, how can you embed that behaviour so you and your leadership team are always doing it?

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Things of note this week:

  • As many agencies start to work from their office more, leaders are grappling with how to do this safely while we're still in the middle of a pandemic. We have now opened up our Agency Playbook page on Covid-Safe Workplaces to the public in order to help more CEOs know how to protect their teams. Read it to find out about some simple, cheap steps you can take that make a big difference.
  • Through reading his most recent blog, I found this insightful post from agency coach Robin Bonn: Positioning is dead, it's time to make yourself scarce.
  • I had a chat this week with agency CEO Ryan O'Keeffe who pivoted his agency Jago during the pandemic to focus on helping CEOs establish and nurture their personal brand. This is a great idea, and could be so useful to agency leaders, because we all have a role as the ambassador for our agency. Ryan said it all starts with emotional intelligence, and that's what they begin by nurturing with their clients.
  • Most agency CEOs see some level of hybrid work as the future, and so discussion is turning to how to make that work. There's been lots of discussion about the need to develop 'asynchronous working' skills, and this page from Gitlab is a great starting place for thinking of that.
  • We published the latest report from the Agency Senate (a group of the most respected agency founders) on how top agencies use boards. Over half of the Senators have a board in their agency, and they shared their views on how to make it productive and valuable. (Available to Convivio members)

What does Convivio do? We help you fall in love with owning and running your agency again. We do this by helping you tame the chaos by adopting our framework for healthy agencies and following our Agency Playbook, and feel less alone by being part of our programmes for agency founders like you. Find out more