A marketing agency boss's guide to employees

Ian Lurie
Cue MacGyver theme

Important note! I should point out that these lessons had nothing to do the crapstorm that was my Monday. In fact, my employees probably kept me from flinging myself, clothed in raccoon pelts and howling with laughter, into the Green River. No one at Portent is in trouble! Except me, maybe.

Yesterday, I finished some writing, pulled together a training presentation and wiped my inbox down to only four e-mails. I was ready for the week, baby. I was professional, ready to go. Hot to trot.

Today, I walked out the front door. An enormous butt descended from the sky. Said buttocks proceeded follow me around, all day, poo-ing upon everything I attempted.

While dodging the poo-cano, I jotted down some lessons for future marketers who happen to be bosses:

The marketing boss’s guide to employees

  1. Your employees have your back. They’ll always try to do what it takes to make you happy.
  2. Sometimes, having your back means they accidentally plunge a three-foot spear through it. Usually, if that happens, it’s your fault. Seriously. Either you failed to train them, or you hired someone who can’t do their job, or you failed to fire someone who shouldn’t be there.
  3. When that happens, extract the spear with a smooth, swift jerk. Retreat. Calm down.
  4. Think. Could you have given your team the tools to avoid the screw-up?
  5. If the answer is yes, figure out how to impart that wisdom. Then do it.
  6. If the answer is no, consider a warning, a firing, or a re-assignment of responsibilities. Don’t do it angry. This isn’t about angry. It’s about the health of your business and the long-term happiness of your team.
  7. Emphasize that you trust your team. If you let your employees know that they can make decisions on their own, you can minimize tragic incidents of back-splitting spear-plunging.
  8. Keep your oversized proboscis (aka your nose) out of what they’re doing, particularly in a crisis.
  9. Doing so will drive you insane. It will make you want to scream. It may make you actually scream. Too bad. Deal with it.
  10. In order to deal with it, consider the worst case. If your employees totally, utterly blow it, you’ll have to fix the resulting tornado of stink. Which is exactly what you’ll have to do, right now, if you don’t keep your nose out of it. This way, your employees learn. They’ll probably successfully resolve the crisis, too.
  11. Use the time you just freed up to teach your employees the stuff you do need to teach them: The basic expertise they need to do their jobs. Not checklists. Not rules. Knowledge.
  12. The more complex the situation, the less a checklist will help, and the more important knowledge becomes.
  13. Use any remaining time to drink heavily, eat chocolate or reflect on the fact that there are infinitely worse things that can happen.

As the buttocks retreat over the horizon, you’ll find yourself breathing easier. You can’t fix everything. You can’t teach everything. You can’t learn everything. But you can continuously improve on all three.

Now, I have some chocolate to consume. Toodles.

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Ian Lurie

Ian Lurie is the founder of Portent. He's been a digital marketer since the days of AOL and Compuserve (25 years, if you're counting). Ian's recorded training for Lynda.com, writes regularly for the Portent Blog and has been published on AllThingsD, Smashing Magazine, and TechCrunch. Ian speaks at conferences around the world, including SearchLove, MozCon, Seattle Interactive Conference and ad:Tech. He has published several books about business and marketing: One Trick Ponies Get Shot, available on Kindle, The Web Marketing All-In-One Desk Reference for Dummies, and Conversation Marketing. Ian is now an independent consultant and continues to work with the Portent team- training the agency group on all things digital. You can find him at www.ianlurie.com

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  1. Great check list not limited to just marketing bosses, but great advice for ANYONE who supervises people!

  2. I love that you started with “Your employees have your back.” I have to keep reminding myself of that.
    And what they don’t tell you when you start an agency is that the hard part of tolerating accidental three-foot spears through the back is THEY HURT! But you gotta hold your tongue. And move on.
    I enjoyed reading your post. I needed it today.

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