At this point in my business, I’m finally living the ultimate CEO dream… completely removed from our delivery and immersed in growth and viability. The key to getting there? Grow a really great team.
Over the last 4 years, I’ve built a team of 24 fully remote employees, and I’ve scaled my business to a multimillion-dollar agency.
But to get to where I am now, I had to grow tremendously as a leader, CEO, and human being.
So if you’re a little nervous or unsure about fully embracing your potential as a team leader, listen up…
In this episode of The Optimized Business Series, I’ll show you the systems I have in place to grow, lead and coach my team to the best we can be.
I’ll dive into things like…
- Creating a constant feedback loop that allows room for growth, innovation, and most importantly clear expectations
- Our recruitment processes, and how we choose our new team members
- How we navigate our monthly self-assessments so everyone feels supported in their role
- How to handle those uncomfortable but necessary conversations when someone isn’t meeting your expectations
- And how to get your processes out of your head and into a format you can share with your team so everyone is on the same page
If you feel like you’re struggling to grow a team or you had bad experiences in the past, just know you’re not alone.
At the end of the day, facing your discomfort and growing into your leadership with the right people is a hundred percent worth it.
Remember: The goal is not to be perfect, it’s just to be better than yesterday.
Feeling empowered to lead your team like a boss? Drop me a line on IG (@emilyhirsh) and let me know if today’s episode was helpful for you!
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READ THE EPISODE TRANSCRIPT
Hello, everyone. Welcome back to episode four of our optimized business series. I am very excited for this one. We’re gonna dive into leadership and I have so much, again, I feel like with each one of these, it’s like I could have done an entire series just on this one topic, because this is one of my passions to talk of about I’ve grown my own team in four years from no employees to over 24 employees, I have learned a ton. I had no management experience, no team building experience before this, and, you know, have grown my team to the point where I’m completely removed from our delivery. So that’s kind of the ultimate dream. I feel like for a lot of entrepreneurs in is to be able to be in the true CEO growth mindset activities. But in order to do that, you have to grow a really great team. And so I’m sharing all my leadership tips and mistakes and lessons in this episode of the series.
So my leadership best tips again, like I said, I have a team of 24 employees. We’re all remote, which is we are remote before COVID. So I’ve grown my team. And I personally love it because I have access to talent all over the us. I’m not limited to a city or one specific place or state. It does obviously come with its challenges. You know, there are things I wish sometimes I’m like, man, I wish we could be in an office, you know, and be able to do this. But for the most part, I absolutely love it. So here are some of my best tips around leadership. I think the most important thing, like if I was to tell you, just take one thing away from this podcast is the importance of constant feedback, constant communication of your and accountability. And I think that these are things that are talked about in most leadership books, in most business books and people are always like, what does that actually mean? Like, am I doing that?
Am I not doing that? And I, I have learned, you know, gone through many. I feel like breakthroughs and times where I realize, wow, I didn’t think I was doing this, but I actually expect people to read my mind. And I’ve found myself in situations where I’m like, is it an obvious what you should be doing? And it’s not. And you have to remember that every single person on your team is operating from unique experiences, unique backgrounds, they’ve had different jobs. They’ve been told different things maybe by to managers who wanted to do something different. It’s like you have to explain and set the precedent for the rules. I wanna say the rules, but I don’t really like to call them the rules, but the expectations in your company and how to play the game of, of your, your company and delivering for your customers and, you know, fulfilling their role.
And so let’s talk about the first thing, which is constant feedback. This is very difficult to do. And again, it’s like, it’s obvious that feedback is so important, but I cannot tell you how many people do not do this. And, and the reason why is it’s uncomfortable and being a leader. And you know, I’m talking about this, like, especially in the last three months, I have really learned this big time that this was a big need in my company and that everything comes from the top down. Right? And so if we’re struggling as a team to have set clearly or everybody doing the same things, it’s because it’s coming from the top down. So it ha I have to take responsibility for that. And the feedback piece, you have to think as a human, you don’t wanna be in difficult conversations. Like we are wired to, to avoid that, to avoid conflict, to avoid feeling uncomfortable.
And if you think that there’s some people out there who just can like deliver feedback or deliver, you know, an uncomfortable conversation or a reality check or whatever it is and not feel nervous about it. I don’t know those people, like when I have to have a difficult conversation, I will like sometimes think about it in the night. My hands will get sweaty. Like my breath gets fast. It definitely makes me nervous. But you guys, leadership is about constantly, constantly stepping outside of your comfort zone, pushing yourself out of where you were comfortable yesterday into the uncomfortable zone. And in order to grow your company, you have to sign up for doing that every single day. And if you are not willing to have difficult conversations to provide feedback, you are not serving the people who report to you. And that is the reality that I have been hit in the face with myself, but also really trying to train my own leaders in the company is like, if you sit down, like we do a, we do a monthly self-assessment.
So I can talk about that. But we essentially do an assessment where it goes both ways. The direct report tells the manager how they could support them better, where they were uncomfortable, kind of how they think they did it in their role. And they rate their, they rate their performance and they rate their satisfaction. And then the manager does the same thing for their direct report. And what I recently explained to my team was if you’re gonna sit down in that meeting and you are gonna keep it fluffy and be like, you’re doing an awesome job, but you could probably do it a little bit better. And, but it’s okay. Like our process is not perfect. So it wasn’t your fault. Like you are not doing them any service because people in their jobs, at least good people, they wanna grow, they wanna be pushed.
They wanna be told how they can do better, how they can get raises, how they can move up in the company, how, where they’re meeting expectations and where they’re not meeting patients. And so your job as a manager is to provide that, even if it’s uncomfortable, because it will be uncomfortable. And so if you are not giving constant feedback and another piece to this feedback is like, it doesn’t come from you doing a once a month performance review or a once a quarter, or like in corporate it’s like once the year that is not gonna make an impact. It comes from the immediate really micro comments. For example, you, you go into an interaction with a team or they, they complete a task a certain way. How many of you, I can guarantee they don’t meet your expectations? And you’re like, man, I really wanted ’em to do it this way.
It’s all right, I’ll fix it. I’ll adjust it. Or I’ll just do this thing. And, and it it’ll take me more time to explain it to them than it will just to fix it. Well, next time they’re gonna do it the same way, because you never told them that’s not how you wanted it. And so next time, when something happens where somebody doesn’t meet your expectation right there, you just very nicely, very kindly, but very directly say, Hey, thank you so much for this. I really appreciate your work on it. But next time I would just love it. If you could include this or next time, my suggestion to you would be to add this in, or, you know, we really wanna make sure we’re in alignment with our company value here, which is X, Y, Z. And so I think to do that, we should do this.
What do you think about that? And it comes from those immediate, like somebody does something and then you give them the feedback. Somebody does something, and then you give them the feedback and the channel goes both ways. But by doing that, you are also opening the door and allowing that direct report to understand that they can do that to you too. And then you have to respond well to that. You know, if, if a direct report comes to me and is like, Hey, I feel really uncomfortable about this. Or like, I feel like there’s a better way we could do this. I’m like, yes, I love that. Tell me more, you know, let’s fix it, let’s change it. And so the other piece to this is the feedback, but also the expect. And I have found personally that it is hard to communicate expectations because I think it’s hard to get out of your head and verbally verbalize exactly what you want, but you have to learn.
And this is a practice thing, and I’m still improving this, but you have to learn to communicate exactly what you want. It’s like, you can’t just say, Hey, we respond to clients quickly. It’s no, we respond to clients within six hours. Or another example is we send, you know, ideas every month, right? To our clients on videos that they should create. If I just kept that broad and I was like, Hey, every month I want you to meet with our clients. And I want you to send them some video ideas. Well, some video ideas could mean five to one person, three to another two to another. So no, we have to be specific. We want you to send this many video ideas for clients that are spending this much. Ad spent this many video ideas for clients spending this much ad spent. You have to be so of it that, you know, a three year old could not confuse it.
And I don’t mean that like rudely where it’s like, oh, your employees aren’t intelligent. I mean, I work with the smartest. I, I mean, I am blown away constantly by my team, but what you have to realize is nobody’s in your head. So you, what is obvious to you is not obvious to your employee. And so you have to have clear expectations. How fast do you want somebody to respond to something? What is your expectation for that? Are you even clear on that expectation? You know, do you know if a, here’s an example, if, if a, a client is upset about something, let’s say, and they’re asking for something that you don’t normally provide, but you know, if you provided it, they would be happy. Well, you have, your job is to be setting the expectations with your team of like, do we accommodate or do we not accommodate?
Do we, you know, here’s a good example in a restaurant that I, I heard this the other day in a video that I loved, which was, if you, if you own a restaurant and let’s say the kitchen closes at 1 0 5 or, or 1:00 PM, and someone comes in and they’re like, it’s 1 0 5 and they just ordered food when they’re, they can really only order drink, cuz it’s five minutes past. So do you make the customer happy by accommodating and going and making them the chicken and put the order in still? Or do you say no, sorry. Or a kitchen closed at one peop two different people are gonna do two different things because they’re gonna base it off of their experience, their opinion, what they’ve been told. And so if you don’t accept that expectation of, if it’s just within five or 10 minutes, we can accommodate, but if it’s past 30 minutes, we definitely don’t.
You see how specific that is. And so whatever that means in your business. And, and I think a lot of times is us as CEOs and, and leaders. We’re not even clear, like we haven’t defined it and made it really clear, which means how could we have very clear expectations? And then the final thing is accountability. And making sure that you have some form of accountability in every single role, whether that is they, they submit a weekly report to you, a monthly report to you, you have satisfaction surveys or something that, that gauges KPIs that gauge their performance, whatever that is, there has to be accountability. And I get asked this question a lot. When people ask me about my team being remote and they’re like, well, how do you know people are working? And I kind of laugh because I’m like, literally if somebody didn’t work for one day in our company, like we would know because there’s so much accountability and you just, can’t just not show up.
Like, it’s not like people don’t know what you’re doing and you’re not accountable for it. Like you can’t even not work for a half of a day without us knowing, because you’re accountable to so many things, depending on your role to whether it’s client facing or it’s projects internally or communication or whatever it is. And so I get asked that question a lot and I always laugh, cuz I’m like, you don’t have to look over someone’s shoulder to know if they’re doing a good job. If you have have the right processes set up in place. So those are my like top tips. Now I have some more tips around leadership and things that we do specifically in my company. So one is KPIs, key performance indicators. And I mentioned this in the previous episode about your delivery and operations, but it is really important that every in your company, every role like individual role, they need to understand what are the KPIs that they are responsible for, that they make a difference in your company.
And usually there’s like three to five for every role. And I found that, you know, the, the head of a role, the, the people below them come and have the same KPIs. So it’s like, there’s a department KPI, but then the individuals impact those KPIs. And so you need to create process for explaining what those are. When someone starts working in our company and in their, their job description and their requirements and responsibilities and the results they should be getting from their role. We have KPIs like you are responsible for this. This is our expectations because then you can’t confuse the expectations. If the goal is we get 80% of our clients live from the day they pay to the day, you know, 30 days after that we get ’em live within 30 days and that’s the metric. Well, the person who’s in charge of our onboarding, they cannot confuse that.
That is what our expectation is. Right. Versus get clients live quickly. What does quickly mean? Right. So KPIs for every role every department and ask yourself, could everybody in my company answer the question and be on the same page as their manager or me did I do a good job this week? Like how do they know that they did a good job? Usually it’s tied back to some sort of KPI and metric and is not up for debate. Like they know I did a good job. I met everybody’s expectations. I met my manager’s expectations or I didn’t. And do they have the information in order to answer that question? The next piece is having a regular conversation for feedback. So I just mentioned this, but we follow a process of self-assessments. And so we have a document that basically has different ratings and then different questions on, you know, essentially asking like, where’d you do well this month?
Where do you think you could do better next month? Are you uncomfortable anywhere? Are you inspired? You know, for the next month. And then the manager gives feedback on here’s your strengths. Here’s what you did well, and here’s your area for opportunity and growth. They also rate them and they also are, are sent back to look at their job role, their results, their role, their responsibilities, like are they meeting those? And what I have found this does is it makes it so that anybody who wants a raise or wants to grow, like they, it’s never a question. They understand, like I need to do these things in order to grow. And this also, what I love about it is in the beginning, we have questions where they, where the direct report tells the manager or how the manager could have supported them better. And for me as a manager, that is incredible feedback.
Like, I wanna know what could I do to make your job easier to make working with me better to make your experience here better? Like what feedback do you have for me? And then that opens the door that I can give feedback to them. So every man manager with their direct report performs a self-assessment at the beginning of every month. And it may seem like a lot, but these conversations are extremely powerful. And that doesn’t mean we’re not giving feedback in all of the, in betweens. The goal in these reports is that somebody, if, if somebody came in and was like, I’m doing a five and the manager’s like you’re doing a three, I would be like, why is there that confusion? You know, because that means in between these reports, you are not giving feedback and you’re not setting expectations. And so they’re confused and they think they’re doing a good job.
And that’s on the manager. Like if somebody that you, you manage thinks they’re crushing it and is like, I’m doing amazing. Like I’m all some at this. And you feel like they’re not, the problem is not the direct report. It’s yours because you haven’t been providing the feedback to them. And if you’re providing feedback and you’re setting expectations and there’s no room for argument that they are not meeting those expectations, then they’re clear and you’re clear and it makes your job so much easier. The next piece is creating a culture of collaboration. And this also happens in very micro actions. And so throughout every interaction we have a, we have a daily huddle. It actually is Monday through Thursday, cuz we made Friday free space Friday with no meetings. Um, but we are constantly asking for feedback, asking open-ended questions, asking the team how we could improve, how we could deliver to our clients, better asking where the problems are asking where they’re uncomfortable.
And then the important thing is not just asking those things, but is also then acting on those things and having the team actually see us act on the, on their feedback act on the places that they said, Hey, we could do this better or Hey, this is really inefficient and actually make a difference because then what happens is in those micro actions, when you act on it properly, you are able to show them, Hey, if bring me a suggestion, like we’re not gonna implement every suggestion, but we’ll tell you why. If we don’t implement it, we’ll explain to you, you know, the other pieces to the puzzle that they maybe don’t understand from their viewpoint, but it creates this amazing collaboration. And you want your employees telling you where the problems are telling you where your business can roof or where they were uncomfortable or where, you know, an experience happened with a client or you name it.
You want that because you are not in the day to day, if you’re managing a team correctly. And then the other piece is creating that space. Kind of like I mentioned for feedback and making sure that you’re creating opportunities to, to get the feedback as a company, as a whole. So we do about a quarterly survey. That’s like anonymous and is as a company as a whole feedback. But then also directly with the managers or certain departments, we’re constantly creating space for feedback and showing the team that the goal is never to be perfect. The goal is to be better than yesterday. That’s another one of our company. Values is strive to be better than yesterday because that’s all I can ask of everybody. That’s all I can ask of myself. Like I’m not gonna do things perfect. They’re not gonna do things perfect, but we can all be better than we were yesterday.
And we can all be growing from that. And so it takes leadership to set the X. That that is what we want, that the goal isn’t to be like make, never make a mistake, right? Which is ridiculous because everybody’s gonna be making mistakes for human. And also we have different interpretations of how things should be. And leadership has to set those expectations. The final thing I’ll say is remember that the people that are on your team, if you hire the right people and that’s a whole other thing you’ve gotta have process for recruiting process for hiring. Don’t not just hire someone because you’re like, oh my gosh, I need help. I’ve been there like you guys. When I first hired people four years ago, I needed help. So bad. Cause I was so overwhelmed that I was like, okay, you can do it. Come watch me on zoom.
You’re hired. And it was terrible. I, I, I really messed up. But as, as I’ve grown, I’ve created process around recruiting. I mean, we treat our hiring department like we do marketing, like we write sales, copy, job posts. And we know the number of interviews we have to do to get people through the first interview. Then the test and the final interview. Anyways, you hire the right people. The reality that you have to remember is they wanna be held accountable. They wanna be told how they can grow. They wanna be told what they’re doing well, and they wanna be told what they could do better because most people, especially high performers want to be better, better than they were yesterday. And it is not just, you know, something that’s nice to do as a leader. It is your responsibility. It is your commitment. Like if you’re gonna lead people, you owe them them to take the time to coach them, to hold them accountable, to tell them how they can grow, to tell them their strengths and to tell them their weaknesses and their room for growth and doing that is not always comfortable.
Like I was saying in the beginning, that is normal. Like for me too, I’ve gotten better at it. It’s still like conflict. I hate it. I did not wanna get on a zoom call and have an uncomfortable conversation with someone. I try to talk myself out of it every single time. But leadership is about stepping into those uncomfortable moments those times where you are being pushed to grow so that you can be that leader that your team deserves. And when you’re able to do this, you guys growing a team of people who are working together in an incredible way of people who are so smart and have all different, you know, experiences and things that they do well, strengths and weaknesses that balance each other. It is that one of the most challenging things that you’ll ever do, but the results you’re able to create.
I mean, I look at my company every day and I’m like, we are accomplishing a hundred times more than I ever could on my own. And that makes it worth it. That makes it worth it, the liability, the responsibility, the, you know, the, the entire component of being a leader is worth it for me when I get on a huddle and I’m like, wow, the, the power of all of these people. And I only have 24 employees like wait till I have a hundred, you know, I will get there one day. And I believe I’m, I’m pushed outta my comfort zone every day that I have to, you know, have a difficult, a conversation or set expectations or do something I don’t really know how to do because I’m growing to the level I wanna get to, which is hundreds of employees one day. And when I look at the power of all of us working together in the collaboration and the feedback and the collective buy-in to our values and who our growth into us being better than we were yesterday, I just feel it like I, everything feels worth it when you can get there.
So if you’re struggling to grow a team or you, you know, have had bad experiences in the past, just know you’re not alone and it’s worth it when you’re willing to put in the time and the effort to be uncomfortable, to create process around it, to bring on the right people. And then to lead those people is a hundred percent worth it. I’ll talk to you guys soon.