I recently passed on to my employees a clever and insightful new book by Sally Hogshead titled, Radical Careering. This book is definitely helpful in clarifying that only you are responsible for your own success or failure. One of the most insightful observations Ms. Hogshead makes is that you can be fired from your job, but you can never be fired from your career.
Rather than a risk of sending employees onto bigger and better things, I think books like Radical Careering are actually a way to keeping good employees longer. Helping employees with their career growth shows you care about their happiness, not just the work they do for you. Believe me this is a novel attitude in our industry. So many times agencies view their employees in a very narrow way. They don’t acknowledge that employees have dreams that go beyond their present job. To get the most out of an employee, invest in their future, including the one that doesn’t include you.
When I first became a creative director I knew if my agency was to do great work I had to be involved in my employees careers. I talked to them about their books and how to make them stronger. I encouraged them to plan their career; to make their job moves with an end goal in mind. I still do this because I know if I truly care about my employee’s career as much as they do, they will care more about the work we do together. I know from experience this works.
I remember when I left my first agency my co-workers threw me a very nice going-away party where they gave me a book of their advice on how to succeed. It was done for laughs, but there was true insight in that book. In fact, I still have it on my bookshelf. I read a bit of it every few years and laugh. It shows how my youthful obsession was in need of perspective.
The bottom-line is that if you want your agency to do great work, invest in your employee’s career. Don’t be hurt or angry with them leaving. Pat them on the back, wish them well and mean it. They are going out to tell the world how good you were for them.