Great leadership is hard to find
In a previous life I was a professional rugby player.
I played in the second tier of English rugby for 8 years, and experienced a range of high-performing team environments – all completely unique yet undeniably familiar at the same time.
Familiarity came not only in the ruthless drive to win, but in the things that underpinned it. The unwritten values, implicit behaviours and common understanding that while we needed to excel as individuals, we were there to become greater than the sum of our parts.
These cultural nuances have given me a unique lens through which to view the challenge of scaling an organic digital marketing agency since I took over from Richard 5 years ago and completed my transition out of sport.
There are many tired clichés when it comes to talking about the parallels between sport and business, but having been immersed in both, there are two stand-out attributes that characterised outstanding leadership throughout my career and have been driving inspirations behind Career Architect:
The best leaders give complete clarity
The most impactful coaches I worked with were able to give complete clarity on everything from broad team strategy to the minutiae of closed skills that would help me add an extra 1% of value to the team. They would leave me under no illusions of what was good, what was falling short and crucially what could be done to get more out of myself and contribute better to the group.
The best leaders increase self-awareness
The highest-performing players were those that were most self-aware and therefore able to cross-reference feedback against an honest self-appraisal of their own performance, emotionally regulate in any situation and hold themselves accountable to the changes needed to keep developing.
The environments where these behaviours were not only facilitated but encouraged and fostered, were by far and away the most fulfilling, and allowed me to extract the maximum I could from my potential.
The Yang to this Yin is that I have also been in environments where neither happened consistently or successfully, and it wasn’t pretty.
What is Career Architect?
Over the past year or so we have been building, refining and piloting a career progression framework designed to underpin everything we do at Builtvisible and ensure everyone gets exposure to both of these crucial aspects throughout their time with us.
The framework provides a complete picture of expectations for every role across the agency, genuine clarity about how people are performing and moving towards their goals and crucially it gives people true ownership over their own careers.
Not only that, it drives our approach to hiring – ensuring we are being transparent, fair and completely unbiased in the way we source, interview and recruit candidates into our ever-scaling agency.
It was inspired by our incredible current team, those who have used their time at Builtvisible to springboard themselves onto new challenges and opportunities and of course the lessons learned from my past experience in professional sport.
How does it benefit people’s careers at Builtvisible?
Organic digital marketing is a strange industry because unlike other professional services such as accountancy and law, there’s no well-trodden career path you have a line of sight on from the get-go. If you don’t have a 10,000ft view of what opportunities lie ahead for you, how can you ever have a true sense of context and clarity about where you want to go?
No standardised career path trickles down to no standardised understanding of what good looks like in organic digital marketing roles. Expectations, behaviours and quality of work vary widely agency to agency.
Our approach has always been to invest consistently and heavily in training up our staff to ensure we are always building on the exceptional quality of work for which we are known. After 12 years of organic growth we know what good looks like, and have formalised it in Career Architect.
Not only that, we have ensured all 4,500 data points that comprise the framework are accessible to all our staff, ensuring everyone has complete transparency of expectations and total clarity about how they’re performing, with true ownership over their own progression.
Having full transparency, context and clarity is already a step ahead of most organisations, but the gold in Career Architect is how it gives our people true ownership over their own progression.
A common pattern in agency life is that people are pushed into management roles because they are good at the services of the agency, not because they have the experience or structural support around them to bring out the best out in the people for whom they are responsible. This fails managers and it fails the people they manage.
We have built a unique, clearly defined management philosophy driven by the belief that self-awareness is a trainable skill; a team that knows exactly how it is performing, what opportunities exist for it and where it wants to go is far more autonomous, fulfilled and effective than one that is missing any of this context.
All major performance-related conversations are self-driven, and our managers are trained in coaching methodologies. This ensures progression is facilitated in a safe environment where employees have the autonomy and control they need to explore what’s possible, take advantage of the opportunities most meaningful to them and grow as both marketers and human beings.
Every stage of the employee journey is catered for
Fundamentally, we see Builtvisible as a people business, and Career Architect exists to drive everything in relation to our people – our biggest asset – throughout the employee journey.
Career Architect underpins all our hiring, ensuring our recruitment processes are transparent, unbiased and fair and making sure we are providing equal opportunities at all times.
Spec building – Defined, tangible remits and expectations for every single agency role means every time we need to hire we are able to work “spec-first” and advertise accordingly. This removes the possibility of limiting opportunity by creating a spec for a specific person. Associated remuneration is also inherently tied to each role meaning we are transparent and ethical about salary bandings from the outset, both internally and externally.
CV selection – Every CV that gets submitted to Builtvisible gets anonymised before being passed on to hiring managers. This means assessment of what progresses through to interview is undertaken purely against the spec we have in Career Architect and without any additional bias.
Interview process – Once at interview, pre-defined scripts, based on the competencies outlined in Career Architect are used to assess suitability and all answers recorded. This again ensures we are assessing candidates purely on their ability to perform the roles we have live, and on no other basis.
Decision making – Whether successful or otherwise, all feedback is given to candidates within the context of the competency framework and the resulting interview script. This means that even is a candidate is not successful there is a value-add for them in the form of tangible learnings they are able to take away and work on to continue their development.
The core of Career Architect is used day-to-day to drive progression.
Our belief is that if someone is able to evolve in their role, they are able to have a bigger impact on the team. Nobody achieves anything alone, and being able to develop skills that better equip people to work within and impact team environments is a sure-fire way to develop a stellar career in anything.
At an individual level our people are able to understand what is expected from every role in the agency and plot their career with us accordingly. “Vertical” progression within a certain discipline becomes crystal clear, as does “Horizontal” progression such as switching teams or diversifying skillsets.
As I said previously, the difficult thing about organic digital marketing is it has no well-trodden career path. People enter it for a wide variety of (usually fascinating) reasons but rarely, if ever, with a clear plan of what they want to ultimately achieve. Our job as a good employer is to change that.
70% of Builtvisible’s hugely talented management team are completely homegrown, having joined the agency in junior or mid-level roles. Since Richard founded the agency in 2009 our culture has always encouraged entrepreneurialism and given people the opportunity and autonomy to pursue their passions and the manifestation of this is very clear to see.
This extends to the people that have passed through the agency and moved on over the years. We have been privileged to work with some of the brightest minds in our industry over the past decade; seeing what they have gone on to achieve was one of the big inspirations for building a career progression framework that leaves nothing to chance.
Regardless of what they do in the future, helping people achieve clarity about what they want out of their career and going on the journey with them to achieve that as their employer is a real privilege, and one that Career Architect exists solely to achieve.
If you’re interested in not just doing a job, but building a career, check out our opening roles or sign up for job alerts as soon as they become live.