Noticing the Gap Between Leadership & the Executing Team

On Monday, I attended our Design Director Christine's first 2022 Upward Feedback session with her team: the Design team. We run this process twice per year. After a manager's direct reports submit feedback via Lattice, the manager runs a meeting to review the comments openly with the entire group. Since experimenting with this format last year (read: Conducting My First Upward Feedback Survey), these sessions have been a powerful tool for managers to capture feedback themes and identify opportunity areas for their performance.

One of the themes highlighted in Christine's session stood out to me. Her team shared that while she's great at creating space to provide feedback on the agency, they don't always feel in tune with company-wide initiatives and how or if their feedback has contributed.

This feedback got me thinking about my time leading the design team before Christine took over. As Creative Director and Partner, I would naturally share updates (from my conversations with the other partners) with Christine and the Design team. It didn't matter if these updates were ideas or future decisions; I would give everyone a heads up on whatever seemed important enough. Looking back, this channel of communication helped keep designers in the know.

While Christine's Upward Feedback session surfaced the topic, I take it as valuable for all the Team Leads and a good reminder for me as Chief Experience Officer, now managing the Team Leads of our executing teams. As a Partner team, we often focus on writing team-wide memos and touching upon updates in team-wide meetings. I still believe these are important, but I see an opportunity to mentor our Team Leads on their communication, closing the gap between conversations with leadership and conversations they have with their teams.

The Team Leads are the glue between the Partner and the executing teams. It is up to us to share a vision and invite them to take part in shaping where the agency is going, but it can't stop there. While the Partners may interface with the executing team, the Team Leads are the guide. Helping them communicate agency progress and vision will be critical for us to work as one, or as we say, one Barrel.

This post originally appeared in Edition No. 085 of my newsletter. Subscribe here.

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