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The 3D Director Framework: How to clarify your role as an agency Director

Are you or a member of your team ready to move out of the day-to-day and take on a Director-level role?

The role of an agency Director can be vague and lacking in clarity. That’s why I’ve created the 3D Director Framework, a guide for agency Directors to clarify their roles and responsibilities. This framework includes actionable steps and tips to help you move away from doing and focus on leading your department or company toward achieving your goals and metrics.

I personally like to compartmentalize my role as a founder and my role as a Director, as they are very different. Around two to three years into owning my agency, I made the natural transition out of the day-to-day and into a Director position. On my journey, I’ve discovered there is often a lack of definition around what a Director should be doing in an agency.

My thinking was validated when speaking with multiple agency consultants. The advice often given is for Directors to be more externally focused and driving new business to the agency. However, if you start transitioning your most senior team members to external roles, who’s looking after the internal quality of work? You always need internally facing Directors to focus on retention, long-term planning and innovation.

I’ve also found a similar need when transitioning members of our team from being the head of a department to a Director as the expected changes in responsibilities can be unclear. The framework will also help Directors to start working on their departments rather than in them, as often recommended to agency founders.

The 3D Director Framework can be broken down into three stages:1. Direct and plan.2. Define a way of working.3. Data and communication.

1. Direct and plan

Do you know what you want your department to do? This may seem obvious. A Director should direct. Yet according to Gallup, “only 22% of employees feel that leaders have a clear direction for the organization.”

Here are two steps to take:

Outline your vision

This is the natural step that differentiates a Director from a head of a department. Map your vision for the next 12 months, 6 months, 3 months and 1 month and finally down to the next 2 weeks.

This stage is often as far as it goes for a Director. You say what you want and that’s your job done. But this is just stage 1 of the framework.

Define output

Output is key here. If you don’t know what you expect the final output from your team to be, then they won’t know. As part of this, you should also be defining what “good” looks like in your mind. The more specific you can be, the better.

I recommend breaking down a long-term vision or strategy into projects typically spanning one quarter. Ensure that you are asking the “why” behind the project—this will act as a filter to ensure you are weeding out ideas that may not be meaty enough to cover months/quarters of work and that can just be tackled as business as usual within a few weeks. All expected output should be tied back to a business metric in some capacity.

2. Define a way of working

The aim of this section is to answer the question, “Do you know how you want your team to work?”

This is the more operational part of being a Director, and the part people often struggle with. Ultimately, you need to create a system for you and your team to ensure they are completing tasks with an output that’s in line with your expectations and vision. What does this look like?

You define. Create a system for how you work, the size of the project and the amount of resources available to you.

We use a combination of Notion for text-based briefs and documentation, and Click Up for projects, tasks and milestones.

Include a general way of working and a process around the tools (e.g., do you want to adopt biweekly/weekly sprints, a “Getting Things Done” methodology, or other forms of working and getting tasks done?). Define agendas for each meeting covering reporting as well as blockers, additional people you need to speak with and deadlines to hold people accountable.

Historically, I’ve gone for weekly sprint-based work for non-delivery teams (e.g., operations and project management) as they are 100% non-billable so they can get more done weekly (in theory). With delivery-based teams, we do biweekly as they have to work heavily on client work and team management.

3. Data and communication

In my opinion, one of the most valuable and underestimated skills of a Director is understanding how ideas, projects and the general mechanics of day-to-day working impact the bottom line numbers of an agency.

When you miss this stage, you end up with a lot of hours put into achieving an output that everyone deems a success; however, 2 to 3 months later, there’s a lack of tangible impact on the business.

Make sure you outline the metrics you defined in stage 1 throughout the agendas and processes during stage 2. And define how often you expect these metrics to move and what the goals are over the next 6 to 12 months.

The main point around communication is to ensure you regularly communicate your vision, plan and expectations to your team and department. On top of this, you’ll also want to define how you intend this information and data to flow up and down the hierarchy.

To conclude, the 3D Director Framework is a guide to help you clarify your role and responsibilities as a director. Without a clear framework, Directors often either get lost in a loop of stage 1, which is just idea after idea with no tangible impact on the business, or they end up getting sucked into doing again because there’s a lack of clarity around how day-to-day responsibilities tie into leading an agency. The framework helps you move away from doing and focus on leading your department or company.

This post was originally featured on Forbes.com as part of my agency profile here