SoDA Nashville rocked!

September 08, 2019

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to make it up I can let you dunk over me


Operations Director

Reason was voted onto the Society of Digital Agencies in early 2019. It was a moment of pride for us as a business, as SoDA is well-regarded by the industry and full of peers we admire. In August, I attended the annual general meeting, with a couple of my co-founders. It was an intense couple of days, surrounded by people who think differently for a living.

Here’s my summary...

What is SoDA?

  • SoDA - Society of Digital Agencies. Running ±10 years.
  • Quality is really high! You need to apply to get in - friends at Red Badger & Agency Agile confirmed our application. All members vote on new applications, and Reason has been a member since May 2019.
  • Annual General Meeting was in Nashville. Two days of talks, break-out sessions, and socialising.

We provide agency leaders with access to a powerful, global network for peer collaboration, leadership cultivation, industry best practices and business optimization.

Random learnings & notes

“Fall in love with something again”: (buy an expensive guitar!?)

“Replace fear with action!”

“To be a successful leader you need to be in excellent emotional state yourself - so take care of yourself.”

Are you aware of what triggers you? - If you’re ready to blame, if you think you’re a victim, if you think “I’m right” -- you’re not really present or ready to be a Leader.

“You don’t have the right to enjoy your work - but it’s great when you do!”

Ethics Keynote

This was led by Bruce Barry from the Owen School of Management at Vanderbilt.

For me, the overarching takeaway was ‘I have much to learn’. Bruce presented a framework for when you have a problem, ask these four questions to help yourself design an ethical solution:

  • What are the effects of the action I take?
  • Should I be guided by specific values or principles?
  • Should I act from dogma? (law/religion)
  • Should I act in a way a good person should?

Which can be summed up philosophically as: Consequentialism, Deontology, Conventionalism and lastly Virtue Ethics.

If you think you have a grounded ethical nature, a study by Harvard’s Maryam Kouchaki shows we are more likely to be unethical in the afternoon. They attributed this result to the “psychological depletion” people experience as a day wears on, which makes them cognitively weaker. Yikes!

Break out sessions

These were great! There were about 12 but they overlapped, so you had to pick and choose.

OKRs for Agencies.

OKRs: 'Objectives & key requirements' is a framework for companies to align teams with objectives and enable them to be measured and tracked.

Mostly confirming what Reason has already been enacting this year, but noted:

  • KRs need timeframes / deadlines, whereas objectives don’t have to have these.
  • Transparency shifts behavior.
  • Encourage teams / people to be creating their own key results - run at more than company level.

Opening an remote office / culture across offices.

We recently launched Reason East, which allows us to expand our capabilities with talented team members outside of the south east of the UK (AKA London), so this was super relevant.

Budget for sharing (work-related) gifts between offices: nice touch.

Encouraged to look at Northern Ireland as a location too. 👋🏼

Transitioning from Do-er to Leader

This is a great problem to have for founders as your business grows. A lot of strategies on how to “not disrupt” your teams’ workflow (“swoop & poop”) and how to protect yourself, not so much covering how to help others, or how to lead.

I wasn’t getting good answers on the core question What does good leadership look like?. On a tangent, Simon Sinek’s “Leaders Eat Last” is spot on and I’m getting a lot of value out of that.

Best part of break out sessions:

Everyone had ~1 minute to introduce themselves and their interest in the topic. This fostered:

  • hive-mind solving
  • high speed networking.

What came out of the break out sessions was that almost everyone will have similar problems, or have solved similar problems. This made the networking much simpler as you’d already had a chance to identify those who are interesting to you! Otherwise it’s actually quite hard (and nerve-wracking?) to network at a ~100 person event. As an example of unconference style, it was super inspiring!

I look forward to:

  • attending next year’s SoDA AGM; seeing how everyone has progressed; learning more

  • trying to capitalise on the inspirational facilitation style from the break-out sessions. So many meetups and conferences just have terrible facilitation and are ultimately a dissapointment. I want to help do better here, so watch this space!