The Leadership Insider network is an online community where the most thoughtful and influential people in business contribute answers to timely questions about careers and leadership. Today’s answer to the question “What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned in your career?” is by Andy Polansky, CEO of Weber Shandwick.
In 2001, Weber Group, Shandwick, and BSMG Worldwide came together to create the world’s largest public relations firm. It was clear we had assembled a team of some of the brightest minds in the marketing services industry. On paper, the combination was formidable.
As a member of the executive leadership team at the time of this merger, I was tasked with unifying Weber Shandwick and integrating various operations. But as I visited offices in our network and met employees, a clear picture began to emerge. With all of the merged entities we had enormous scale but, in effect, we were still behaving as a confederation of disconnected offices rather than one unified, collaborative team. The “listening tour” left a lasting impression. Understanding the talent and capabilities we now had was important, but focusing on creating the right culture to synergize that talent to best serve our clients was paramount.
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Fourteen years later in today’s digital world, our marketing services industry is going through a transformation (some may say upheaval) like never before. Now as CEO of Weber Shandwick, that important lesson from the first days of our merger has been vital to the long-term success of our business. Not only is what we do increasingly global, but we’re hiring talent from far outside the traditional “PR” world to include people from entirely new and different areas of expertise: coders, movie producers, journalists, web designers, PhDs, nutritionists, analytics experts, and more.
In any company, change at this scale and pace can be an immense challenge, even harmful. Bearing in mind the lesson I learned years ago about the importance of culture I’ve realized responding to feedback is what makes people stick around and unearths the best ideas from employees at all levels of the organization. Break down silos and reward employees for good work. Being the best firm is more important than being the biggest firm; even though we have offices in major media and financial capitals around the world, we are still only as strong as our weakest link.
Read all responses to the Leadership Insider question: “What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned in your career?”
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