All You Need Is Love: Embracing the Secret to Agency Growth
Love is the most powerful force in the world. It's undeniable. Yet most people shy away from acknowledging love in the workplace. This is a mistake. After all, as love grows stronger, so does your agency. Believe me. I've seen it happen.
We're not talking about the kind of love that raises eyebrows in HR or creates an unhealthy buzz around the office. Nor is it simply the platonic love of friendship, although that's part of it. No, it's a deeper, more satisfying flavor of love derived from shared responsibility and shared achievement.
It exists in a place where people are free to build and create, to express themselves, and, importantly, to try and fail and succeed together. As my co-founders and I have always envisioned at minds + assembly, it's a place where people love what they do and do work they love.
Love is brave.
When people know they are loved, they feel secure. This emboldens them to take educated risks with their work, safe in the knowledge that others will have their backs, whatever happens. It pushes them to reach further into their creative minds and to pull that through into their work.
My co-founders and I had never experienced such a feeling of mutual respect and support before. Gone was the caustic competitiveness and passive aggression that we'd found in other agencies. Gone was the subtle but persistent atmosphere of fear, anxiety and self-involvement that made coming to work an increasingly unpleasant experience. In its place was selflessness and satisfaction at the success of others.
Love is trust.
Everyone at minds + assembly, from interns to managing directors, proves themselves every single day, not because they need to but because they want to. Love unlocks a fierce desire to do better, born of good intentions and made possible by another vital ingredient: trust.
Each one of us trusts that our efforts will be recognized without having to prove that we are better than someone else. We trust that we will be seen and heard, no matter what our role. This feeling is definitely different. It takes some getting used to. So much so, in fact, that when people join us, they often have to go through a bit of "deprogramming" to appreciate that it's OK to be authentic and open again, that they can genuinely be themselves.
To love, and err, is human.
It's no secret that love leaves you open to the possibility of pain. It's unavoidable. So, why fight it? In fact, my experience is that the most inspirational, successful leaders are those who acknowledge their vulnerability in the service of something they love, whether that's personal or professional. It's far better to let everyone see who you really are. Have fun, allow yourself to be wrong, remain open to being challenged when it's needed. Vulnerability builds trust and, in turn, allows everyone to bring their whole selves to work.
Love is always offered, never demanded.
You cannot mandate love. It must be given freely. However, we've found that there are some things we can do to encourage love, by building trust and expressing vulnerability. For example, every week at our All-Agency Assembly, we offer a platform for anyone to present a "Me Plus." This is a chance for people to share anything they like, to let everyone else in on who they are. Some talk about where they grew up, some share what they do outside of work, some take us along on their travels, while others speak honestly about significant life challenges they have overcome. Whatever the topic, it is their chance to be seen and heard and appreciated. We also reserve time during these sessions for people to express gratitude for each other. The same is true on a dedicated gratitude Slack channel. These public displays of appreciation and acceptance are crucial to forming a loving environment.
In advertising and design, people don't just make the business, they are the business, which is why a human-centered environment of love can propel an agency towards growth.
Love makes our work better. It makes our people happier and more satisfied (with a corresponding positive effect on retention). Even our clients experience it: they've told us many times that the energy is different at m+a. They bond with their teams during meetings or presentations—it's infectious.
Love may not be the only answer if you're trying to create and sustain a healthy, growing agency, but if you want to succeed, it deserves to at least be part of the question.