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Whether you work for a small business or a Fortune 500 enterprise, marketing is a critical part of the business. How you organize your marketing team and your work says a lot about whether or not your team will succeed.

Developing a productive environment where team members can do their best work even under stressful deadlines is a true leadership skill. But how does one create an environment where creativity can grow and productivity is king?

After working for several startups and Fortune 1000 companies, I've had my share of experiences with marketing leaders—some great, some not so great. The most effective marketing leaders tend to have the following seven traits in common.

1. Effective marketing leaders mentor; they don't micro-manage

A good marketing leader surrounds herself with an A-list team she can trust—the people who just "get it done." Such people empower the team to take ownership and provide a model of responsibility for other team members to emulate (because we all know not all teams are made of only "A" players).

Great marketing leaders can identify who these A-list folks are by having clear visibility into team projects, if need be by using tools that allow for such insight. When leaders can clearly see all the nitty-gritty details of projects, they can identify top performers, which also encourages others to step up and contribute. And that's what marketing leaders should want—a culture of accountability and self-motivation.

2. Effective marketing leaders assemble the right team, no matter the location

The office is becoming more and more mobile, with team members often working across locations, cities, or even countries. As a result, team meetings and conversations around the water cooler are going virtual, with social and collaborative technology playing an increasingly important role.

The most productive teams, in my experience, rarely work from 9 to 5 in the same office every day. Today's marketer should be able to work from anywhere and keep the team informed, in real-time, of the status of projects.

3. Effective marketing leaders support cross-functional collaboration

A marketing team cannot be successful if it lives in a bubble. Cross-functional collaboration is extremely beneficial to an organization because it gets everyone—marketing included—pointed in the same direction, with a unified goal in mind.

An effective marketing leader is not merely committed to cross-functional communication; he or she may actually lead the initiative to ensure that Marketing is integrated into relevant company initiatives, such as product development and sales.

Great marketing leaders break down barriers among these various teams and find ways for them to connect to make sure everyone is in sync. Want to find out whether other team's projects are to be delivered on time—without scheduling a meeting or picking up the phone? Using online collaboration tools to share plans, status information, related documents, and team assignments alleviates the need for time-intensive meetings, which leads me to the next point...

4. Effective marketing leaders know where their teams spend their time

The world of marketing moves fast. The best leaders help their staff to be efficient and quick, to get great work done, and to streamline project management processes. They don't give in to the endless meeting-to-desk-to-meeting cycle of today's typical business day. They find ways to easily track their team's projects and availability, and they make the most out of automated processes and tools to improve efficiency.

The best among these tools should let teams replace, or at least simplify, lengthy reports on leads, sales, and other metrics that are common pain points in the marketing world, so that teams can see what impact their efforts have on the company's sales or bottom line.

5. Effective marketing leaders know how to strategically tap the creativity of their team

The most effective group brainstorming sessions are only 15-45 minutes long, and studies have found that the best ideas often come from individual brainstorming rather than group sessions. Therefore, an effective marketer doesn't spend hours trying to come up with new ideas as a group. An effective marketer knows when to disperse team members, have them research to come up with their own best ideas, and regroup to kick off a brief yet productive brainstorming session, after which actions can easily be assigned.

6. Effective marketing leaders foster an entrepreneurial spirit (but with balance)

Big companies in particular tend to become complacent over time, using marketing tactics that may have worked long ago. But an effective marketer will see what's become stale and will inspire the team to come up with new ideas to adapt to new trends in customer behavior.

The ability to be scrappy, switch directions on a dime, and fearlessly try new things are all entrepreneurial traits that work well in the marketing world. That said, it's equally important to know when to stick with tried and true ideas that continue to yield results.

Using data and analytics to make these decisions is crucial to success. With so many analytics tools available, including many that let business pros see real-time data, marketing leaders need not rely on gut reactions to make decisions. Great marketing leaders remember to start small, test, then roll.

7. Effective marketers see their work through the eyes of their customers

The company website, social media profiles and other outward-facing content are all part of the customer's experience. Marketing pros think about how they can provide value for the customer (and potential customer!) every step of the way—from branding to content development and even in the internal processes their team uses to get work done. Effective marketers therefore truly understand how customers interact with their product. Especially in tech, where there can be a chasm between the day-to-day work and lingo of the engineering side of the office and the marketing side, it is critical that marketers speak the language of their product and understand its value for customers.

* * *

The above traits are learned; after all, most of us aren't born leaders. It's important for marketers to take the time to improve their own workplace habits to foster the most effective, productive environment where creative ideas can flourish and work gets done.

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Seven Traits of an Effective Marketing Leader

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image of Jodi Sorensen

Jodi Sorensen is the director of marketing for, a spreadsheet-inspired collaboration tool used by more than two million people worldwide to organize, plan, and execute projects and processes.

Twitter: @jodisorensen

LinkedIn: Jodi Sorensen