Borrowed, Learned, & Thought (or BL&T) is a weekly newsletter sent on Mondays. In every edition, I share weekly themes and progress in running an agency business/team and doing my best to live a good life. Published posts do not include all details shared via email to subscribers. Subscribe here.
"Weak leaders blame the messenger. They see problems as threats to their ego. Strong leaders thank the messenger. They see problems as threats to their mission. Great leaders promote the messenger. They see recognizing and raising problems as acts of vision and courage."
From Adam Grant [via Twitter]
Another week in the books, and one to remember at that. Over a week ago, I started feeling sick with typical cold symptoms. I decided to skip a wedding we had on Saturday to rest. Good thing I did.
After three long days of waiting, I got a positive COVID result on Wednesday. Yes, I'm vaccinated. By then, the worst of my symptoms had passed, but my sense of taste and smell was gone (still is), and the achiness was killer. Not to mention the mental toll it played on me; scary stuff.
Luckily, I started feeling much better yesterday. I spent the day leaning into my suburban life in the woods - tinkering with my motorcycle and doing some light wood chopping. In the evening, my parents surprised us with a Christmas tree. My Dad even dressed as Santa #nextlevel Nice way to end a long, taxing week.
I'm patting myself on the back for canceling meetings and taking it easy two out of five days last week. There was a time where I would have pushed through and tried to ignore the symptoms because I thought that was what I needed to do. In early March 2020, I remember doing just that. As a result, I ended up getting more sick and without a voice for days.
Over the years, I've learned that as impossible as stepping away may seem, it's always possible. We find excuses to work ourselves to the ground. "It's so busy" or "they need me," but then, there's an emergency, and we figure it out. The trick is not waiting for an emergency or dire situation to slow down. This way, we can get back to speed sooner without ever having to stop altogether.
I feel lucky to work with partners who value this lesson the same. I'm also grateful to be feeling better and have the luxury of working from home and prioritizing my health.
With the team stacked on projects last week, I became a part-time Webflow developer, and Christine, our Design Director, reclaimed her role as a designer. I am proud of how we jumped in and what we accomplished.
Sometimes, a small task like designing a splash page can take more time to secure a resource and plan than to get it done. It was awesome to see Christine step up and take this on herself. Despite turning into one too many revisions, she was a total sport and got it out the door.
A great leader is always willing to do themselves whatever they're asking of others. That's what I see in Christine and really — across the team. In fact, over the last few weeks, all of the partners have gotten their hands dirty to support the team and keep projects moving along.
With this, I am continually inspired by the lack of ego from my co-workers. We try to avoid these situations but sometimes, it just happens, and no matter what, everyone is always to roll up their sleeves. No task is too big or small, and to me, that's the beauty of being on a team.
A fun Barrel launch last week was Well+Good's annual wellness trends report. Seeing it go live was a moment of reflection for me. I re-designed the Well+Good website in 2015, then soon after, their wellness trends report.
Years later, Well+Good is a top client for Barrel. We've designed every trends report for them since, in addition to collaborating monthly on everything from website optimizations to new campaigns. It's been amazing to see the team own this account and bring real value to the client.
Well+Good will always be special to me - they're not only a symbol for Barrel has grown as an agency but how I've grown, too.
For as long as I can remember, we've had a part-time Office Coordinator role focused on keeping the office tidy, handling lunches, keeping bathrooms stocked, and the like. Given the nature of the work, it was always a struggle to keep someone long-term. Not to mention, we often hired aspiring artists who ended up moving on to pursue their craft.
After transitioning to a distributed model, we took the opportunity to reimagine the role since the Barrel office would be getting less and less foot traffic. We also didn't want to lose Allison, our Office Coordinator at the time. Our goal was to answer two questions:
In the end, we decided to change the role to "Team Experience Coordinator." Months later, Allison didn't only stick around; she became full-time. It has been amazing to see Allison grow and further define this role. She now helps with everything from getting employees set up on their first day to organizing team events to planning and hosting Barrel Spotlight Series.
I'm sharing this with you today because Allison has been working on initiatives for next year and our end-of-year party. Chatting with her last week got me thinking about how great it has been to have Allison on the team in the new role.
In my opinion, one of the most valuable aspects of Allison's role is her relationship with the team, specifically her monthly check-ins with them. In these sessions, Allison comes with several areas for feedback. She then captures notes and shares those with the partners.
While we're always encouraging direct feedback from the team, we know that some folks will feel more comfortable speaking with Allison. This channel has been invaluable as we shape and improve our company culture.
I've been thinking about my semi-recent transition from Creative Director to Chief Experience Officer, CXO. As I get more involved in client work and projects, I'm noticing some confusion from the team on where I sit, especially folks who have been here for years. Am I overseeing design? Driving the creative process? What meetings should I attend?
I don't have definitive answers to each of these questions yet, and I think that's okay. The opportunity here is to make sure I'm clear on where I sit from the get-go. With that, my goal is to continue giving Christine space to do her thing and own the design team. I know that the more I get involved, the harder it will be for her to take the lead.
Changing your image is a tricky thing. In my mind, it's no different than a branding exercise. I may not be launching a new logo or name (that would be funny), but my rebrand is top of mind as we head into the new year.
Are my co-workers clear on how I'd like to be involved? What am I assuming they know?