5 Ways to Be a Stronger Marketing Leader

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Two standout marketers discuss the keys to leadership in today’s fluid business environment.

Marketing is an incredibly complex machine, not unlike the filmmaking process. Like the lead actors in a blockbuster, one or two individuals may come to represent the culmination of a particular campaign’s numerous parts. But it’s vital to note that those parts not only exist, but also play an integral role in the campaign’s success—and those parts are the teams behind the marketing.

This is one of the chief functions of an effective leader: to advocate for the team behind the success. Two other key aspects of a successful leader’s role are contextualizing the circumstances surrounding any missteps, and motivating the individuals who bring the marketing team—or the business in general— together. The importance of taking that supportive approach was a main point that two panelists made at the Direct Marketing News 2016 Marketing Hall of Femme Leadership Summit & Awards during a session titled “10 Ways to Become a Stronger Team Leader.”

Panelists Mish Fletcher, senior partner and worldwide managing director of marketing at OgilvyOne Worldwide and a previous Marketing Hall of Femme honoree, and Tammi Harrison, ​​VP of digital marketing and CRM at GrubHub, provided some of the most lucid advice surrounding managing a team heard throughout the day. Here are five essential takeaways from the panel.

Leading is not about positional power

Great leadership comes in many flavors. Positional power isn’t one of them, but it is a trap many leaders fall into in their efforts to manage a group of individuals.

“I tell you to do something, you do it. That’s not leadership,” Fletcher said. “Leadership is about vision, creating a mission, being very single-minded about that mission, and finding people [who will] follow and believe in that mission.”

Advocate for transparency

“[Being transparent] is about treating people like people. It creates an environment where someone wants to work with you, for you, around you. It’s about truly giving context and spending the time to make sure you’re giving [people] the real deal.” Harrison said.

Advocating for transparency within an organization does come with its own set of challenges, though; just as it does for marketing in general. Singing the organization’s praises is much easier to do when there’s plenty to praise.

“It’s very easy to be transparent when things are going well. When things aren’t going the way we’d like, it’s very easy to then internalize things until we find a way to solve the problem,” Fletcher said. “Being transparent is also about sharing the reality of the situation.”

Do “you

A popular phrase in hip-hop vernacular, doing “you,” is all about authenticity. Along with approachability, integrity, passion, and transparency, Fletcher and Harrison both cited the merits of being as authentically “you” as possible.

“You do you best. The best version of you will be the best version for the company,” Harrison said. “Being honest and comfortable in your own skin conveys confidence, and really helps others.”

Reward accomplishment

Everyone wants to receive credit where they feel it is due, and business leaders must remain cognizant of this, Fletcher and Harrison noted. Of course, leaders must strive to reward big accomplishments, as well as incremental successes between. An important extension of the reward conversation that the two panelists pointed out is the impact that rewarding good work has on motivation and morale, two often-underestimated qualities of a high-performing team.

“Ideally, there are formal and informal ways to reward someone, but you have to understand what motivates people,” Harrison said. “Some are motivated by things as simple as a thank-you, which is informal. Other people like something that is more formalized, and has some form of compensation attached to it. Think about what you would appreciate.”

Listen and take feedback

Fletcher and Harrison stressed the importance of hearing and accepting criticism from colleagues and clients. Professionals, especially those in marketing, are constantly reminded to listen to their audience. Similar to the challenge of remaining transparent, listening to feedback gets more difficult the closer the criticisms veer toward negativity.

“I try to tease out any feedback or objections just by asking questions,” Fletcher said.

“Whenever I do performance reviews, I always take the time to ask what feedback they have for me. I usually start with feedback that I’ve heard in the past, just to open the dialogue.” Harrison added. “If you’re incredibly vulnerable and honest with someone, it creates an environment where people feel comfortable sharing.”

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