7 leadership behaviors for marketing agility
The following is a selection from the e-book “MarTech’s agile marketing for leaders.” Please click the button below to download the full e-book.
Agile marketing is all about mindset shifts, and the 7 Essential Attributes of Agile Leadership by Leon Purton is a great place to start. They are:
- Focused on people
Humble leaders decrease power instances between themselves and others. They acknowledge their mistakes and weaknesses.
My family and I like to watch the show Undercover Boss. That’s the show where a corporate executive goes undercover as an employee at their own company and experiences life on the other side. During an episode we watched recently, the boss (let’s call her Sally), was a command-and-control leader who wrote ridiculous policies and micro-managed the fast-food store employees through video surveillance.
When Sally went undercover as Norma, a fast-food employee, she quickly realized that the order times she had set as a company standard were not only unrealistic, but actually hurt customer service. And by experiencing how her employees worked, she understood that having corporate watching their every move created a culture of mistrust.
Sally was definitely humbled by this experience. After returning to her corporate office, she decided to stop dictating policies, but instead to ask team members for feedback on how things should work — since they were the real experts on how things operate on the ground.
A humble leader can step in, get her hands dirty, admit she’s wrong and realize that employees aren’t “beneath” her, but smart individuals who were hired because of their expertise.
Outcome-driven leaders focus on analyzing results as related to defined business goals, rather than individual productivity, arbitrary deadlines, tactics and the quantity of deliverables.
To become an outcome-driven leader, you need to set clear and achievable goals and trust team members to get them done. Instead of, “We need a whitepaper” you should say, “We need to capture 100 qualified sales leads”. The experts that you hire should be able to figure out if that should come from a whitepaper, a business article, a video or a combination of all three of them. As long as you can clearly articulate success metrics, let them show you what they’ve got.
For decades, companies have been conducting individual performance reviews, and bonuses or other incentives are often tied to resource allocation, working overtime or other behaviors that are contrary to agile.
Agile marketing is all about teamwork and getting results, so instead of looking at Dan’s performance based on the volume of articles he wrote, instead ask his peers if he’s a good team player and if the work he’s doing is contributing to the team’s goals? Does Dan step in when a team member needs help getting something done? Does Dan share his knowledge with other team members? If you look at those kinds of behaviors as wins, you’ll help your staff achieve marketing agility.
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Flexible leaders understand that new information emerges and plans change. They are open to new ideas and ways of working.
Planning for marketing is great, and it’s needed, but plans change, so as a leader, responding to current market conditions needs to be more important than following a plan at all costs (even if you spent three full days working on it).
If COVID has taught us anything, it’s that we live in a world of uncertainty where we don’t always know what tomorrow will bring. All we know is that we have to be able to pivot as we get more information.
For example, few people foresaw the virus and the impact it would have on the world, so it wasn’t something that could easily be planned for. And once it struck, there was a constant storm of change. Don’t wear a mask. Wear a mask. Only wear a mask if you’re unvaccinated. It sometimes felt like chaos, but leaders were demonstrating agility — responding to change as they learned more.
As a marketing leader, you need to plan with only one thing in mind — your plans will most certainly change. So instead of getting into the weeds months or years in advance, decide the direction you’re headed in, but prepare to find multiple ways to get there.
If there’s one thing that you should remove from your vocabulary it’s the phrase, “Because we’ve always done it this way.” The world has changed, marketing has changed and some of your employees that are of a different generation may have a great perspective on a new way of working, so listen with an open mind.
A coach helps people learn to be better on their own by asking questions rather than giving answers.
As someone who’s spent years as an agile coach, being a coach is an incredibly difficult skill to master, especially as the boss. When you know the right answer, it can feel like a waste of time waiting for other people to figure it out. But the truth is, if we always give them the answers, they will be dependent on us, and only our voice or opinion will have any merit.
When I’ve started coaching clients, within a few hours I could probably write them a list of everything that needs to change. However, my job isn’t to dictate change — it’s to build a culture people are empowered and can find their own way.
During one of my earliest jobs in coaching, a mentor told me, “When in doubt, ask the team.” So my first move shouldn’t be to tell a team, “You’re not doing XYZ.” It should be to ask, “How do you think we can accomplish this?”
By building up people that can solve their own problems, you’ll get better results. Plus, you can work on the more strategic aspects of your job rather than feeling like the team always needs you to approve everything they do.
Work as a partner with other leaders, stakeholders and team members to achieve a common goal.
I recently worked with a leadership team that didn’t play well together in the sandbox. In fact, I’m pretty sure any one of them would be willing to shed some blood if it meant getting their own way.
There were power plays and turf wars happening all over the place. With leaders behaving this badly, there was no way the teams could achieve any level of success.
To get past this, everyone must be trying to achieve a common goal. There needs to be something over-arching that all people can strive for together.
On the other hand, I found it a pleasure to write about the Dubai police department. They and everyone in their entire government system were aligned on a common goal of making Dubai the number one place to live and work.
Their common goal was powerful, and when leaders met to discuss work, it always tied back to that compelling goal. Their alignment trickled down to the entire force, so people were working together rather than as opposing forces.
Focused on people
Building up and motivating team members is at the heart of your role.
Great agile leaders focus on the people more than the process. To get great work out of people, they need to feel valued, love coming to work and have opportunities to learn and grow. In this new way of working, you’re there to be a mentor, an inspiration and a grower of people.
Mike Cohn, a world-renowned agilist with whom I’ve had the pleasure to work, always says, “Check in, don’t check up on your team.” There’s a big difference here in how you’re perceived. When people feel like you’re checking up on them, there’s a sense that you don’t trust them. However, checking in is more about making sure they know that you are there and are supporting them in their endeavors.
You are always looking for ways to innovate, improve and defy the status quo.
Agile is all about a continuous improvement mindset and you’re never done being agile. To achieve this, you must be willing to challenge conventional ways of thinking.
The agile culture values experimentation, so if your radical new ideas weren’t the right ones, that’s OK, but be ready to drop them, admit they were wrong and try going in a new direction.
Marketing is an ever-evolving and dynamic industry, and being a game-changer is imperative to even stay in the game.
One way that you can promote the game changer mindset in your company is by forming an innovation council made up of volunteers (other game-changers, of course) that are ready to brainstorm and implement radical new ideas. This council should be representative of all levels of the company so it doesn’t feel like another command-and-control effort.
The innovation council should begin with tackling problems such as, “How long is it taking to deliver campaigns?” or “What are customers saying about our company that’s a problem?”
Be the game-changer that inspires other game-changers.