Living out your brand values. It matters. 

As a leader, there are a lot of times I feel lucky. Maybe to call it luck is too dismissive. I put in the hours, stay up to date on all sorts of industries and have been a student of not just advertising but organizational behavior. So, giving myself a little grace here, I will say fortunate.

Through all the learnings and all the applications, there is a good amount of serendipity and happenstance to how we arrived at our MBB culture. So much of it just feels organic, and that is a good thing.

Then, someone articulates what you have aimed to build, and you think—hey, we were part of a movement! That movement was what pundits call a Growth Culture, distinct from a Performance Culture.

If you know me and you know our managerial team, you will know we are competitive people. Our CFO’s punctured lung at beer kickball is all the evidence you need. I have a collection of broken tennis racquets if you need more proof. However, what we have built at MBB is a more congenial version of competitiveness that relies on responsibility from each team member and provides latitude for mistakes.

And the reason we built a Growth Culture is that it is more sustainable. Performance Culture and all its devotees fall into a trap of “winners” and “losers.” The metaphors and lessons are often couched in sports or military cliches. And I get it. There are winners and losers in businesses. I also understand that there are many times we have lost in the short term only to win in the long term. There is real satisfaction in a client that passes us over only to call back 6 months later and say, “Hey, I think you may have been right in your assessment.”

A Growth Culture falls in line with what Robert Kegan and Lisa Lahey describe in their work on “deliberately developmental cultures.” We strive to have a culture that encourages incremental development. Can we be a better version of ourselves tomorrow than we are today? Can we make our clients better? Everyone loves the eureka moments—but they are not sustainable, and they are certainly not predictable. 99% of the time our clients are looking for sustainable and predictable results. For us and many the idea of Growth Culture is summarized with the following concepts:

  • An environment that feels safe, fueled by leaders willing to model vulnerability and take responsibility for their missteps.
  • Focus on continuous learning through inquiry, curiosity, and transparency.
  • Time limited and managed experiments. We are willing to challenge our own thinking without fear of retribution.
  • Feedback – up and down, side to side. There is a shared commitment to hear from staff and clients even when it’s uncomfortable.

Beginning in 2023, as an agency we invested in Lift Relations. It is a platform that allows us to measure client satisfaction and staff satisfaction. We ask because we want to grow. Nobody ever wants to lose, but if we do, we need to learn. Lifelong learning and willingness to evolve have kept MBB churning since 1982. We plan to be at this for a lot longer. Sustainability demands open minds. Open minds flower in the absence of fear.

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