Event agencies are turning down ‘more work than ever’ due to lack of resources as client demand for live meetings and events continues to increase post-pandemic.
Leaders are also having to be more mindful of stress, burnout and the emergence of ‘tribes’ within their workforce and adapt their leadership style to meet these growing challenges.
These were the key issues discussed at our virtual monthly nineteen leaders meeting last week, attended by heads of agencies including Purple Dog Solutions, Owl Live, Gray Dawes Group, TRO, Identity, Live Group, Yellow Fish and more, and chaired by Worldspan director Jennifer Jenkins.
Following on from last months’ meeting, which focused on the battle for talent and inflation challenges, many agency leaders admitted they are finding leadership more challenging than ever right now, even more so than during the pandemic.
Burnout was a big issue cited by many, with one agency leader sharing that several employees had been signed off recently due to mental health issues: “We are being much choosier and turning down work we would never have turned down before, and that is due to bandwidth and capacity. Quality over quantity is our mantra now. We are conscious of burnout – there are only so many hours in the day.”
“My leadership style has changed, and I am more empathetic with people and mindful to the mental health scenario,” said one agency head. “I check in with my staff more now than I used to. Trying to bring the team together is tough but important, but the noise in the office is so loud now after we have all got used to working at home.”
Another agreed: “There is definitely a change in leadership style, you always need to adapt it to the moment. We are finding that some of our people are having to relearn how to work, as many have lost some basic project management skills. But we can’t go back to the skills that were required in 2019 skills, it’s about learning the skills for the ‘new next’. We must be kind and cut people slack because everyone is struggling a bit – clients and suppliers as well as our teams.”
The increase in remote working is putting further pressure on leaders. “There is a fine line between adrenalin and stress and it’s hard to monitor that when you are not with your teams all the time,” said one agency leader, while another said that working virtually had resulted in a few ‘tribes’ being created within the agency.
Another added there had been some real issues and ‘bad vibes’, directly because of remote working, which had led to a reshuffle of the leadership team. “I am finding it very difficult to lead in this remote environment. It feels a bit like you are working in a vacuum. Some days I go in and there are only 3 or 4 people there, and everyone sits in their own corners and doesn’t speak.
“We identify that remote working is important, but there must be a business case. For example, I am working remotely as I have a client meeting, or I have these deadlines to meet, rather than people just working from home because they fancy. It’s just not working now, so we are toying with introducing ‘planned’ remote working.”
Several agency leaders also said they were trying to shift from being reactive to proactive and get clients to think about what’s next. “During the pandemic, we were managing a crisis day to day. Now we need to strategically look much further ahead especially with this inflationary environment. We are talking to clients about 2023 and 2024 and trying to get them to commit at the early stage of their budget planning. But it’s quite hard to do when you have spent two years living in the moment,” said one.
Another added: “Rather than constantly pedalling to catch up with demand from clients, we want to start thinking again in a more strategic manner and go after the type of projects we want.”