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People — Not Places — Make the Best Workplaces

Company culture and the right people are the key ingredients to a great workplace, not fancy amenities. Look Left's Bryan Scanlon shares his insight.

My goal was always to do things differently, or at least differently enough for Look Left to stand out in the market. Sure, there are different services, processes, clever phrases and technology, but with 30 years under my belt, what really makes an agency different is its core values and living those values with the right people (teams and clients included). 

You need great people and the ability to see how they fit together. Smart, curious and hardworking? All critical attributes. But do you want to know the secret ingredient? They have to be caring. Caring for clients. Caring for their team members. But most importantly, caring for themselves and their family. And you’ve got to give those folks the fuel, fun, responsibility and breathing room to thrive. 

For the third consecutive year, we’ve been named one of Inc.’s Best Workplaces. And what’s a workplace if not the people who come to work there every single day? There’s no foolproof equation for bringing great people on board and keeping them, but here’s what we do at Look Left.

Live values that aren’t just for show

Belief is what you’re fighting for, but not in a cult-like way (those workplaces are toxic as all heck). We’re talking about everyone sharing and living the same basic values that values manifest themselves in real ways. Like enjoying the chase of getting coverage. The curiosity of the science. Jumping in to help a teammate. Getting giddy when a client does well. Problems don’t scare them. 

Find curious people who care about those values

This has nothing to do with writing, media chops or strategy. A lot of those things can be addressed through training. Do they display empathy? Folks who do will go the extra mile because they want to, not because they have to. Those are the types of people who will build great relationships with clients and colleagues. And as we know, relationships combined with talent are a recipe for successful, long-term partnerships.

Trust the people you hire

The best lesson I ever learned was to let go. Micromanagers lack self-confidence. If they truly believed in their ability to find great talent, they would trust their gut and let people do what they do. No one wants to work someplace where a manager is continuously checking in on them, questioning every decision and making them feel like children. Work under the assumption that people will do great things until proven otherwise. Sure, that approach will backfire from time to time. But by and large, the best organizations give employees room to be creative, try new things and, sometimes, make mistakes. And those folks are less likely to spend their day on Indeed.

Listen and act

I don’t care if someone’s fresh out of college or rounding out an exemplary career, there’s value in your employee’s input. Working on the trust theme, you should assume that if you hire someone, they will have insight that your blinders had previously kept you from seeing. The best leaders will tell you that they’d rather be surrounded by people smarter than them than be the smartest person in the room. But beyond just listening, you should have a plan for how you plan to implement new ideas. You should always be ready to act on new insight that will drive the business forward and maintain alignment with evolving markets. 

Lead with empathy

We’re all people. We all have lives. And those lives require our attention during and outside of working hours. Leaders who understand this and prioritize employees' lives over whatever KPIs they’re trying to achieve will build unbreakable trust. Are the kids sick? Take care of them. Brain fried? Take care of yourself. Death in the family? Stop working until you can. Here’s the thing: when you hire good people, they’ll feel empowered to take the time they need without abusing it, and their colleagues will gladly jump in to pick up the slack. It’s a simple concept, but one so many in our industry only give lip service to (or just completely ignore).

Like all agencies, we’ve had our ups and downs. But way more ups. And ups that make the downs feel like hiccups. And it’s all because of the team. Just be a good person and surround yourself with other good people. It’s a formula that’s worked for Look Left, and it’s probably something to consider if you’re consistently updating your “Careers” page. 

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