CEO Talk: Ignite the Spark


BY Anamaria Suescun-Fast, CEO and Managing Partner

As leaders of an organization, it is incumbent on us to ignite the spark in team members to drive an organization forward.

Our agency’s evolution over the past 10 years as The DeBerry Group has everything to do with the people we have had the honor of working alongside––people who brought new ideas and a desire to step boldly into new arenas. Now as we look ahead to our next 10 years as talkStrategy, our people continue to be the hub and catalyst for what we do and how we do it.

Anamaria Suescun-Fast | talkStrategy

Our recent agency retreat—talkTALK Ignite the Spark—was our first all-agency gathering in 18 months. Through the planning of it and the actual gathering, I was reminded just how important the entire team is to an organization’s continued evolution. So from our retreat, I wanted to share my top five “aha” moments in case it can also help you ignite the spark in your team.

TT21 Lockup

Spark passion

Years ago, a key member of our public relations team announced that she wanted to do social media “all day, every day”—her words. I said “ok, what does that look like?” She prepared a solid plan and mapped out how it provided critical and ever-growing services to our clients. This was the beginning of our social media department. Soon after, another team member, who was highly skilled in public affairs and account service, saw the potential of digital  for our clients. She pitched a plan to take her love of data and digital advertising to create a new service offering for clients—which was the start of our digital and analytics department. We never stop asking our people “What gets you jazzed?” and “What do our clients need right now?” This keeps sparking personal passions which leads to organic and successful agency growth and evolution.

Spark creativity

We believe that anyone at the agency can offer a creative idea—anyone. This is what has made our unique integrated model so successful. We must find ways to help spark creativity in a way that opens minds to new possibilities. Laura Hotten, our Vice President of Creative and Digital started a tradition in the creative department—Doodle Monday—that was used as a “reverse brainstorm” exercise at our retreat. To get the creative juices flowing and break down the barriers we all set in our minds, players pull a very random topic from a hat and doodle it—whether through art, writing, or even bullet points. As each team member reported out their ideas, the brilliance and imagination was evident across the board, from the art director to our bookkeeper. Great ideas can come from anywhere when you give them permission to. 

Spark the “what-ifs”

When it comes to an in-office structure, I admit I was a traditionalist. People needed to be in the office, five days a week, 9 am – 5:30 pm. So these past 18-plus months have been quite the journey for me personally. Having been forced to work remotely and watching our entire team find a way to do that successfully, cracked open a fountain of new ways to reinvent the idea of an office. As we plan our return to the office later this year, we have challenged all of my prior notions, resulting in a reinvention of our schedule, our work spaces, our hardware, down to how we manage our server. We have obtained employee input all along the way and are really excited about the non-traditional work environment we’re creating for our team. This new model frees up our team to be as efficient and effective as possible on behalf of our clients while meeting the needs of their families—and importantly, themselves.

Spark confidence

We strive to find something special in every single team member, and then give them the space and opportunity to build their confidence and skill set. I credit our Vice President of Strategy and Accounts Kristine Smith for making this a priority. Even with our youngest team members, she has worked to build up their confidence and personal responsibility and it’s amazing to see how they thrive and grow every day.

Spark trust

Trust is always something to be earned; however leadership must provide opportunity. Give your team ownership of projects. Give your team opportunities to lead a meeting. Have confidence that your team will get the work done even when remote. Always give people the benefit of the doubt. This trust goes both ways meaning leadership has to earn it as well. I have enough self-awareness to admit that I can be a micromanager, and I was not only open to hearing that from my own team (no matter if it stung) but also willing to loosen my grip to allow individuals to grow in the space created. I am humbled and proud of how each and every team member has embraced their space and committed to the team and the overall agency.

When you give individuals ownership of their roles and understanding about how they personally impact the organization, they will bring the best of themselves.

The soul of any organization is its people. I’ve made it a priority to listen, to invite them to be a part of the solution, to give them a “seat at the table” for agency decisions, to ensure an open-door policy; and and most importantly, whenever possible, I have made it a priority to encourage and recognize each team member as much as possible. 

When you give individuals ownership of their roles and understanding about how they personally impact the organization, they will bring the best of themselves for the benefit of themselves, the organization and our clients. And hopefully, as we all continue to meet the challenges of today and create opportunities for the future, we can provide purpose, meaning, and pride to the people who make talkStrategy what it is .

Do you want to spark a conversation?

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