I’ve been a marketer for a long time, much of that spent as a senior executive. I’ve had large teams, small teams, and no teams. I’ve made many mistakes. I’ve even had employees come into my office to stage pseudo-intervention, asking me to trust them to do their job rather than micro-manage them. What I’ve learned is mostly from the trenches, as well as from the age-old idiom “Do unto others as you’d have them do unto you”. Therefore, I present to you five lessons I learned to help manage and develop your marketing team.
Recognize each team member is human. Having empathy is critical if you aspire to be a good marketer. You need to be able to put yourself in your target audience’s shoes. The same thing applies with your employees; you need to put yourself in their shoes. They may be having a bad day. They may have personal issues at home. They may be dealing with medically distressedproblems. In other words, there may be underlying reasons for an employee exhibiting a behaviour that is not ideal. Beyond that, we have to remember that they’re human. Like you, and I, they are probably a bit insecure, immature, inexperienced, self-righteous, and full of pride. They may also be ambitious. And they’ll deny all of these attributes, just as I did when I was their age. That’s okay. Your job as their leader is to recognize these issues and mentor them accordingly with compassion. Create a plan that they can attain. Hold them accountable to goals and objectives. Don’t over-protect them. Don’t shield them from the consequences of bad decisions. And never, ever, micro-manage them. In other words, don’t let your own control issues influence their development. Remember, they’re always watching you and learning from your cues.
Groom them to replace you. Your job isn’t just to manage each employee. Your job is to inspire them. Paint a picture of what their future could look like. Be candid about their strengths and weaknesses. Answer their tough questions with constructive honesty. Explain to them that sometimes hard decisions, and sacrifices, must be incurred to achieve their ambitious career aspirations. If they don’t want to make those sacrifices then explain to them that it’s okay, however they’ll need to revise their career goals based on that desire. Applaud them when they have victories. Promote them to others in a public fashion. Reward them for working hard. I’ve been blessed with incredible employee loyalty over the years because I took time to recognize their accomplishments and reward them with simple things like a $5 Starbucks card. I’ve watched my employees grow to career heights that I’ve yet to accomplish because I taught them early on that they are responsible for their own brand. They need to develop it. They need to maintain it. A good marketer will always be marketing themselves first and foremost. Teach them that, and remind them when they forget.
Inspire risk taking. There are two ways an employee can work for you: they can take orders, or they can create results. If your tendency is to be controlling about all aspects of the marketing team, and the marketing plan, then chances are your staff take orders…from you. You tell them what needs to be done and they do it. If a decision on a campaign needs to be made, they seek you out and look for direction. If you’re not there, then they’re probably lost. I propose that you don’t be the over-controlling leader. Instead, outline for your team what the objective is and let them tell you how they propose to achieve that objective. You still have oversight. You can steer the strategy and the tactics but your employees own the campaign. They feel empowered. I had to learn this the hard way early on in my career when my own employees came into my office, closed the door, and told me to stop micro-managing them. They acknowledged that I knew more than them, but they asked me to give them the chance to make the same mistakes that I once did. It was a brilliant point and something I’ve never forgotten. I recognize now that my team may not do things the way I would do things, however if they achieve the results we set out to achieve then who am I to complain? After all, they may teach me something new along the way that I hadn’t considered. That leads to one of the hardest things I have had to teach my employees – taking a risk is not only okay but also strongly encouraged. Let them know that it’s okay to make mistakes as long as they have a Plan B, or Plan C, or Plan D, to correct the issue and achieve the original goal of the campaign. My job as their leader is to create an environment where they feel secure enough to try something new, and protected enough to know they won’t lose their job as long as they communicate with me throughout the process.
Deliver Value-Add. Your marketing team is hired for their specific skills and expertise. However, I could also search Google or YouTube and figure out how to do most tasks myself. I don’t want my employees to do as they’re instructed. Instead, I want them to take a concept, apply their knowledge, experience and intuition, and make it ten times better than I ever imagined. I want them to add value. The same applies to our customers. I don’t mean those people who buy our products or services. Rather, I mean those people who work at the same company we work at and come to Marketing for assistance. Those people are my internal clients. Our job as marketers is to not only help them, but to also educate them, coach them, encourage them, and motivate them to achieve results that they never could have attained on their own. That’s adding value. If you do that, Marketing is no longer viewed as an administrative function but instead becomes a strategic function and is funded and staffed accordingly. Every Marketer should always be adding value.
Let your employees find their voice. When you have successfully transitioned your management style from “telling them what to do” to asking them “how would you do this”, then you will watch as your employees start saying to you “We need to do it this way”. Creating an environment where they lead the charge will free you up to captain the ship. In the end, that is your role, is it not?
Building a cohesive marketing organization pays off with happier and more talented staff, longer retention, and better campaign results. Creating a great team positions you, as their marketing leader, for a fantastic career with unlimited potential. If you haven’t figured it out yet, you’re doing this for yourself! Your life will be easier. Your job satisfaction will be higher. Your relationships will be more fulfilling. After all, isn’t that what everyone wants?