(This is the final post in a three-part series by Idea Grove’s CEO describing the agency’s core values and how they guide its relationships with clients and employees.)
In my last post, I wrote about Idea Grove’s first three core values: creativity, respect and energy. Today we’ll dig into the meaning and importance of our final three values: accountability, teamwork and empathy.
I hope this exploration gives you a better idea of what it’s like to work with, or for, Idea Grove.
Our fourth value is accountability.
Accountability means that we keep our promises, that we meet our deadlines, and that we deliver the value and results our clients expect.
It doesn’t mean we expect our employees to be superheroes. Sometimes, we show accountability by asking for help before it’s too late. Other times, we show it by helping a coworker to honor their commitments. Still other times, we show it by communicating openly with clients about their expectations, or explaining the contingencies that might affect the timing or outcome of a project.
No one at Idea Grove is expected to work miracles -- just to work together to achieve our clients’ goals and our own, with everyone doing their part.
When soldiers at war are asked what motivates them to fight, the most common answer is that they do it for the other soldiers in their unit. If they don’t complete their assignment during a mission, or aren’t where they are supposed to be at the designated time, this lack of accountability can cost a friend their life.
Obviously, the stakes at work aren’t life and death. But for our team to achieve its goals, each one of us has to hold up our end of the bargain. If we don’t have our colleagues’ backs, we can put them in an awkward position with a client, or force them to jump through hoops to meet a deadline when they shouldn’t have to.
We can’t be accountable as a team if we aren’t first accountable as individuals.
When I think of accountability, I think of the Idea Grove team members who keep the trains running on time for us, our account teams. This value extends across our agency. Our designers and writers, for example, consistently volunteer to handle last-minute requests and QC work after hours just to make sure the work is right or a deadline is met.
This kind of accountability feeds off itself and challenges us to become more dedicated to our goals, to our craft and to each other every day.
Our fifth value is teamwork.
We believe in collaboration. We believe in shared goals and shared ownership. We believe that when we work together, we win.
A lot of agencies call themselves “integrated” marketing or “integrated” communications firms today. What that usually means, in practice, is that these agencies sell a cafeteria of services delivered by a group of individuals separated into silos.
Idea Grove has worked very hard, and endured substantial pain, in a quest to be more than that.
That’s why I don’t describe Idea Grove as an "integrated" agency. I describe us as a “unified” agency.
“Integrated” means parts coordinated to form a whole. “Unified" means uniting to speak with a single voice. We are committed to being a unified PR and marketing firm.
Those of us who have worked at agencies know how hard it is to bridge the natural silos that develop within organizations. Overcoming silos means having tough conversations and challenging planning sessions. It will continue to mean that. But we are willing to put in the work because we know it is worth it.
The results show our approach is successful. We are growing unified engagements across multiple accounts. We have comprehensive marketing programs in place for clients that includes brand strategy, content marketing, web design, public relations and HubSpot consulting. That is everything we do.
That is how teamwork makes Idea Grove a better partner for our clients, and a better place to work.
Our sixth and final value is empathy.
While all of Idea Grove’s values are fundamental to who we are, I would argue the most important core value is empathy.
Going all the way back to my first conversations with clients in Idea Grove’s early days, my No. 1 priority was to demonstrate empathy and understanding. I won clients because I listened to them. I learned their technologies. I related to their daily pain points, internal bureaucracies and other frustrations. I built relationships -- and a business -- because I actually cared.
As Idea Grove has grown, we’ve extended that ethos of empathy to everything we do. We have a team of some of the most compassionate leaders I’ve ever known. These are people who truly care, not just about the work but about the people doing the work, and about our clients, too.
When I ask people who have left Idea Grove what they recall most fondly about the agency, the answer is almost always the team’s empathy for those in distress. When a colleague has a health issue, or a death in the family, or is struggling in other ways, every single person wants to know how they can help. Every single person is willing to take on their teammate’s workload to give them the time off or support they need.
Do you know what most people’s biggest regret is at the end of their lives? According to surveys of hospice patients, it’s that they did not do more to show people how much they cared about them. What we value most in the last days of our lives is not our possessions or accomplishments -- it’s our relationships.
These relationships are built by listening to each other, helping each other, sharing like interests, reaching mutual understanding. In other words, empathy.
What’s more important than that?
I could point to many examples of Idea Grove’s empathy in action over the years. One of our senior-most leaders would tell you that a big reason she came back to Idea Grove, after being hired away by a global agency, is that Idea Grove has taken into account her family life in a way that that massive agency never did. That other agency had her constantly on airplanes. Idea Grove has helped her to find a better balance.
At this point, I’ve come to the conclusion that people pick up on our ethos of empathy instinctively. It’s something in the water.
We praise one another for a job well done on Slack, in a channel called “Way to Grove.” I am struck by the empathy embedded in this praise. For example:
Thank you so much for powering through and helping us stay on top of our SEO tasks, especially while you’ve been sick.
She has been slammed with work, but has gone out of her way to help us out with some relatively small tasks for a client. Thank you.
It’s not just “Thank you for helping me.”
It’s “I’ve taken the time to get to know you and what’s going on in your life, which makes me all the more grateful for your help. And which makes me want to do the same for you in return.”
We believe that when we adhere to these core values, Idea Grove becomes more than a job for our employees and more than a vendor for our clients. We become a family for our team and a partner for our clients.
Trust expert Scott Baradell is CEO and founder of Idea Grove. Idea Grove helps its clients secure trust at scale through its unique Grow With TRUST approach. Scott is an established authority on trust and editor of the online publication Trust Signals, as well as author of the upcoming book Trust Signals: Brand Building in a Post-Truth World. Idea Grove celebrated its 15th anniversary in 2020, earning honors including the 2020 Pegasus Award for Small Agency of the Year, being named a Top 200 B2B service provider by Clutch, and ranking in the top 25 tech agencies in the U.S. by O'Dwyer's. Scott has an Accreditation in Public Relations (APR) from the Public Relations Society of America and speaks on PR and marketing topics at industry events nationwide.