Very few agency people are leaving their jobs for greener pastures since for the most part other pastures don’t look so green today. But, that’s going to change and faster than most people think. It’s not the down economy you should be worried about, it’s the coming up market!

As the economy and the stock market improve, your best people will begin to search for better opportunities. We call it a coming storm and it’s gathering momentum off on the horizon. We believe that employee motivation and retention is more important now than ever before.

While building morale is critical to a well-run firm and there are countless inexpensive ways to do it — from awards, to celebrations, to after work social gatherings, to special perks — motivating your stars is a lot tougher.

In this column and our next we’ll offer some suggestions and ideas for motivating your stars in this kind of environment: Create a new culture of leadership — David Maister defines leadership in professional service firms as the ability to “influence other people’s emotions, feelings, attitudes...the ability to connect on a human level....” We call it creating a coaching mindset — focusing on the needs of others to ensure the success of your firm.

We know a CEO of a mid-sized firm who never wants to know how his people are doing and what they need because he’s afraid of what he’d hear. Instead he figures if they don’t complain everything’s ok.

We believe in the opposite approach: “if you don’t ask, how will you know?” How can you possibly know what’s on the minds and in the hearts of the people you want to keep if you don’t talk with them. Smart agency CEOs are having deeper, more personal conversations with their stars and following up on what they hear to ensure that their staff knows how important they are to the success of the agency.

Motivation can’t be delegated. Attend meetings you used to pass up. Open your door and your phone lines. Practice “walking the halls” management. Make a conscious effort to give instant feedback. Enlist your key players and ask them to help create a new vision for the firm as you enter 2003. Then share the vision for your firm with the rest of the staff. Ask for their ideas and suggestions and then act on them.

Today more than ever keeping your stars happy is arguably your number one responsibility. So ask yourself: what’s holding me back from giving more time to my most valuable assets?


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The PR Coach is NAIPRA’S new interactive feature hosted by George and Arlene Rosenberg, principals of The Rosenberg Group Inc., a coaching and consulting company serving the public relations community.

The PR Coach will feature a regular column on a key subject of critical concern to owners and managers of PR firms, a link to submit questions/comments and receive personalized responses and, in the near future, a free monthly teleconference with George and Arlene to address, as a group, some of the issues of greatest concern to our members.

We invite your comments and suggestions.