I have worked in marketing since I got out of college. I love the people, the work, and the culture of marketing. It combines the two things I love most: (a) measuring and adapting campaigns and programs based on test-and-learn (my MBA is in marketing and statistics), and (b) interacting with people—the buyers and users of the products we market—who are unpredictable and driven by emotions, and who often surprise me with "irrational" behaviors.
Through the years I've watched marketing adapt to technology, the Internet, and two-second attention spans, but I've probably spent the most time thinking about how change has affected how I've had to adapt to effectively manage my teams.
1. The Death of Command and Control
Fresh out of college, we followed the rules and paid our dues. There was a boss, and a set of directives, and we did what we were told. We didn't always know how our work affected the department or the business, and it didn't matter: It was what we were asked to do. Today, that wouldn't fly. According to Marc Prensky, "Future leaders will be much more directly influenced by those whom they lead, in a true democratization of all organizations."
That doesn't mean teams don't listen to their leaders, because they absolutely do. But they are listening for different things. Leaders need their teams to think, speak up, and—most important—do things in the best interest of the business. So the leader needs to make sure everyone knows what the goals and priorities of the business and Marketing are, and then they need to help their team get those things done.
Today that means more coaching and listening than what my early bosses did with me! Luckily, my interesting, geographically diverse team of all ages has great perspectives on marketing, and they are constantly bringing fresh points of view to the marketing challenges at hand.
2. Equal Access to Information
First there were desks and offices, then Silicon Valley introduced the "cube." Facebook popularized bullpens and if you watch House of Cards on Netflix, the new journalism—Slugline—happens in a beanbag-filled room where the reporters are encouraged to file their reports from their phones in the field.
We are seeing the physical environment change in response to a real need: faster access to information and people.
But reconfiguring an office setup isn't exactly how to solve the problem. Just because we can all see each other doesn't mean we are talking with one another. And in today's marketing environment, it's rare that the whole "team" is even in one office, or even the same time zone. It's just as likely the marketing team is global, with multiple agencies, part-time contractors, and multiple vendors and partners helping the team do its work.
And marketing moves quickly: Decisions are made in scores of places, and leaders need to help their team members connect with the right people to flesh out an idea, solve a problem, and to execute quickly and flawlessly.
3. Let them 'Have it Their Way'
The best marketing teams are made up of different kinds of people—numbers people, creative people, strategy people, writers, developers... you name it. And, no surprise, different people like to work in different ways. To get the most out of your team, you have to respect and value that diversity.
"Managers who dislike conflict or who value only their own approach often fall victim to the comfortable clone syndrome, surrounding themselves with people who think alike and who share similar interests and training," warn Harvard professors Dorothy Leonard and Susaan Straus in "Putting Your Company's Whole Brain to Work" (PDF)
That is especially true in marketing. If marketing teams had people who were all the same, that would be the death of creativity and innovation. I'm not suggesting chaos—that would drive me nuts (I'm a numbers person, after all). Having plans and milestones keeps everyone on track. But I know that the creative types aren't necessarily detail people and the quants like to keep records. My job as a marketing leader is to support the differences so that all the pieces of marketing come together to create something bigger than the sum of the parts.
How Have I Managed These Changes?
I let tech facilitate the new democracy.
When I think about it, technology and the Internet have helped me shape the new workplace. With tools that allow for collaboration, anyone on a project can share ideas, insights, and provide support. There is transparency: Team members see how their project ties into department goals as well as how a project moves forward day to day.
Moreover, everyone learns from each team's actions. With such transparency—jobs posted in areas with shared access—everyone can see course corrections and feedback. It takes us much less time to launch a new project these days because more people on the team have participated in more activities—even if just by watching—and they can therefore hit the ground running.
Finally, collaboration tools are flexible; they can be tailored by each team as needed during the life of a project. Teams might share common applications (existing within the social collaboration tool set), and they can set up how their teams will work and communicate together in the way that makes sense to them.
And with mobile support, no matter where my team is working, they have access to everything happening at work—work that isn't necessarily happening "at the office" because really our office is now in the Cloud.
* * *
Marketing is fun, dynamic, and fluid. We are often on the leading edge of change—showing others in the organization how to take risks and test and learn our way into trying new things.
I'm interested in hearing how your marketing organization has changed and what you've had to do to adapt as a leader.
• Marketing leaders today are much more directly influenced by those whom they lead, in a true democratization of all organizations.
• Today's office environment is changing in response to a real need: faster access to information and people.
• Support the differences within your team, so all the pieces of marketing come together to create something bigger than the sum of the parts.
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