Management Tips From Havas Worldwide's Andrew Benett

As global president of Havas Worldwide, one of the largest advertising agencies, Andrew Benett knows a thing or two about managing creative talent. In his book The Talent Mandate, Benett argues that cultivating and developing employees should be your organization's top business priority. 

As the author puts it plainly: "In the future, the strongest companies will be distinguished by the CEO's hands-on involvement in identifying, grooming, optimizing, and retaining talent."

In addition to sharing lessons from his experience at Havas Worldwide, Benett draws upon nearly 100 interviews he conducted with leaders from an array of successful, talent-centric organizations. In this excerpt from The Talent Mandate, Benett makes the case that managers should empower employees ­and "get down in the trenches" with them:

Equip Your Players

The seeds are being sown today for a very different type of company, culture, and employee. Rather than closely monitored and hierarchical environments in which conflicting interests are pitted against each other and compromises reached, workplaces are becoming more collective and holistic ­– highly interdependent networks in which everybody's interests are woven together.

Pivotal to the new way of doing business are two factors that were in short supply in the businesses of old: trust (the antithesis of the traditional command-and-control culture) and empowerment. Rather than follow orders, workers are given clear information so that they are able to make intelligent decisions on their own.

How do you get your company aligned with these new values? My advice: Spend less time managing and more time doing. We try hard to follow this dictum at Havas Worldwide. While we still consider it critical for a company of our size and complexity to employ people with traditional management titles, we believe the time they spend managing should be minimized and the time they spend actively participating in activities maximized. In our most successful companies, almost without exception, the management ­– especially the senior management – are actively engaged in our craft and doing hands-on work for our client businesses. That means our most senior people are deeply involved in everything from brainstorming ideas to pitching accounts and developing creative for our clients. They don't clock out at the close of the official business day as their teams struggle to meet tight deadlines, and their job isn't just to give the thumbs up or down to the work their teams produce. They are players on their teams, not simply coaches or managers.

At the same time that we are creating an environment in which managers spend the bulk of their time "doing" rather than managing, we are working at the other end to ensure all team players ­– at whatever level – have the tools and trust they need to succeed without anyone hovering over their shoulders. To be effective, this requires a shared understanding of our agency goals and the specific objectives of each particular client project. In the absence of such an understanding, it would be impossible for team members to work without direct ­– and near constant – supervision.

How do you create a workplace centered more on a shared vision than on rules? A few basic principles will help:

• Let the information cascade down.

• Empower the team.

• Get down in the trenches.

From The Talent Mandate by Andrew Benett. Copyright © 2013 by the author and reprinted by permission of Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Ltd.

Tags: Books, Management