Project & People Management: How Agencies Keep Work Moving Forward

Apr 01, 2024

At Advocation, our mission is to help agency teams increase results while decreasing stress. Our proven framework has doubled and even tripled profit in just a year for the agency's we support by fine-tuning operations to increase efficiency within the organization and across the entire team.  

Efficiently managing up and down are important skill sets to achieve this goal. When agency teams can master these skill sets, we see:

  • An increase in both the team’s success and the ease with which they get there
  • Less stress on a day-to-day basis 
  • Agency teams have the tools to take radical responsibility for the work they are doing
  • An environment of trust and camaraderie, in which every member of the team can depend on each other

Managing Up

Managing up often has a negative connotation. This term is regularly used when referring to an employee maneuvering around a subpar manager who doesn’t know what they're doing. While that is one meaning for it, we’re talking about managing up in the context of professionals ensuring that they get what they need from their managers, bosses, and leaders to do their jobs well.

In an agency, this is especially important because teams are typically working in a fast-paced environment where multiple client accounts are juggled at one time and things can easily be forgotten and lost in the shuffle. When everyone takes accountability to ensure they have what they need to succeed, the team can be successful and stress is reduced for both employees and leaders. 

Doing it effectively requires an understanding of what is most important to the manager. In many cases, agency leaders are most worried about:

  • What is most important to the client
  • Delivering results on time and on budget
  • Staying a step ahead in strategic planning 
  • Keeping clients satisfied

The best strategy for managing up is to identify common challenges that come up in the team’s work and find strategies to alleviate them. Presenting this information to the manager in a way that addresses one of their common concerns will ensure that everyone sees the importance of the request. 

It’s important to remember that good managers don’t ignore employee requests on purpose or out of spite. Usually, they are busy, miss a request, or don’t recognize that what someone needs is a high priority on the list of requests they are juggling. Relating a request to an important goal for the manager can alleviate this issue. 

Managing Down

Managing down is what most people think of as "typical management." This is when someone in a management position is overseeing the team under them and ensuring that the client is being served well, on time, and on budget. 

For the manager, this takes years to master. This concept can be broken down into four pillars, each of which is necessary for managing down effectively. 

  • Vision. The manager is either creating the plan for the team to get to the next destination or creating the map and inviting others to help create and finish it. Regardless, the manager is the driving force in creating the vision for the team. 
  • Communication. This is the manager’s ability to articulate the vision and everyone’s role in bringing the vision to life. It’s also important that they are communicating what they need from others to get there. Without clear communication from the manager, the team cannot operate as a cohesive unit. 
  • Trust. The manager must create an environment in which everyone can thrive, trust each other, feel safe, and be encouraged to grow. The manager is responsible for fostering that environment inside of an agency. 
  • Responsibility. The manager ultimately holds the responsibility of ensuring things are done and done correctly but also plays a major role in encouraging the team to take responsibility for their part in successful outcomes as well. While the manager is ultimately responsible for delivering results to the client, team members who feel empowered by their managers will take some of that responsibility on themselves. 

Each of these pillars is important for managers when trying to keep work moving forward because the obstacles that prevent teams from progressing are typically not tangible. Obstacles like confusion, defeat, and frustration hinder efficient workflow within an agency. It is the manager's job to help eliminate these obstacles or, at a minimum, aim to minimize them with their team by giving them the tools necessary to succeed. 

A simple mindset shift to “fewer problems, more solutions” can help propel managers develop and fine-tune these skill sets. Today’s professionals have infinite resources available to help them solve problems. The most successful agency professionals worry less about being wrong and aim to keep up the momentum by taking the first attempt at solving the problem and providing others something to build upon when asking for support. 

Whether in the position of managing up, managing down, or both, these skill sets are essential for agency teams to efficiently and effectively keep work moving forward and avoid frustrating and costly bottlenecks in workflow. 

If you’d like to learn more from the Advocation team on best practices for PR & marketing agency teams, follow us on social media–Instagram, LinkedIn, and YouTube.