As a marketing team director or a member of a marketing team, you should deal with many stuff simultaneously. Generating leads, identifying qualified leads and sending them to the sales department, content creation, managing social media and analyzing a variety of metrics. Let’s start with a familiar story. All the team members are individually smart and bright and have the necessary skills. There are no serious conflicts between teammates. But as a team, you know that something is not going well, and your team is not at its peak in terms of performance. Meetings come after meeting, coffee after coffee, nothing changes. It’s not that you’re not successful, the point is that your team has the potential to go beyond its limitations and reach excellence. In today’s highly competitive and dynamic business environment you need to improve continuously and outperform the competition in every small aspect of business.
Today, teams are the main building block of all companies -small or enterprise- and team performance optimization is realized to be more critical than optimizing individual employees. The shift from individual-based to team-based work structure is already started by organizations. This is so essential in a giant tech company like Google, the best place to work, that millions of dollars are spent to figure out what makes teams more effective and productive. Researchers devoted themselves for years to find patterns about why some teams perform well and others do not. It’s no longer meaningful just to put smart people work together to build the perfect team. Many scientific studies tried to find the characteristics of highly effective teams; the results were ranging from tuning the emotional intelligence or having a good mix of introverts and extroverts, to strong leadership. But Google started searching in its own data and more than two years ago it built a team of leading engineers, statisticians, organizational psychologists and sociologists to study Google’s teams. They intended to figure out- based on data analysis- why some of Google’s teams stumbled while others soared, code-named Project Aristotle. The findings prove what really mattered was less about who is on the team, and more about how the team worked together. But how? Are there some actionable tips?
Well, assuming your team members are technically skilled, what else do you need to increase your team performance and productivity? Relax, you certainly do not need a miracle, just simple changes in communication style, mindset or behavior. This article expands team dynamics underscored in Google findings on managing a marketing team.
What is a high effective and productive Marketing team?
A marketing team is a highly interdependent group of two or more skilled marketers working together to define plans and strategies, implement, analyze and improve them in a way that results in strong branding, and generate qualified leads. In digital marketing teams in addition to traditional roles, a variety of other technical and non-technical experts like SEO experts, web developers, content marketers and social media and community managers must be included in the team.
According to Project Aristotle, to define the effectiveness of a marketing team and a team in general, it is important to look at the problem in both directors and members view. Directors care about results but members look for satisfaction and care about the team’s culture too. Individually it turned out that happy people are more productive. So a highly effective marketing team can be defined as a culturally satisfied group of individuals that perform well.
1. Ensure safe communication
Ongoing communication is the essence of growth. It’s the most critical aspect of marketing teams. No surprise. As a manager, you should manage team’s communication to be flown every moment and to instill continuously fresh ideas into the team. But communication needs a safe environment to happen effectively. To provide such a team environment that all members, no matter of their characteristics – introverts or extroverts – could speak and engage with others, you need to ensure respect and trust. You need to ensure their safety for risk-taking in the face of being seen as ignorant, intrusive or disruptive. Google calls this Psychological Safety. In such a safe team environment teammates feel confident that their opinions and ideas are not ignored and they are not embarrassed for their opinions in front of the others. Mistakes are tolerated. They can fearlessly ask questions and express their feeling even if it conflicts with other teammates and makes it look like they are not on track. Google provided a one-page guide with great actionable tips for managers to reinforce psychological safety in their teams. Let’s look at these tips:
- Demonstrate your engagement in conversations clearly. Participate in conversations and listen to your teammates actively. Try to show it through verbal response, body language and eye contact.
- Do you understand what your teammate means? Show and validate it verbally or through facial expressions or nodding your head. Ask questions but don’t blame anybody for their choices or mistakes.
- Speak about yourself – personal or work life – and encourage teammates to do so. Be available and make time for unscheduled 1:1/team meetings. Step in against gossips and negative statements.
- Ask your teammates for their feedbacks and ideas. Ensure that all of them are heard and used to make the best decisions. The reasoning behind your decisions should be explained to all teammates.
- Manage meetings in a way that all teammates have a chance to speak. Resolve the conflicts and misconceptions immediately and do not leave them for future. Give them credit when you share your team progress with leadership. Let your teammates challenge your perspective and approach. Encourage them to be creative and take a risk.
2. Encourage safe accountability
It sounds impossible, right? How can you make teammates accountable in their comfort zone? But wait, I don’t mean safe as a synonym to remaining in the comfort zone. I want to suggest psychological safety again. It’s the most important dynamic that Google researchers identified for team effectiveness. It’s about encouraging people to get out of their comfort zone and take responsibility but being confident that they will not be punished for speaking up with questions, criticism, ideas or mistakes. Amy Edmondson, Harvard Business School professor who first coined the term psychological safety talks in a TED speech about the story of a study that accidentally triggered her interest in this concept. The final result of that study was incredibly interesting. Her case study showed that better teams make more mistakes than average and weak teams. Further investigation revealed that they don’t make the most mistakes, but in fact because of their team dynamics, they are more willing to discuss, to report and to find new ways of reducing them. These dynamics make psychological safety. But how is it possible to hold the whole team accountable for excellent results? She offers managers to frame the work as a learning problem, not an execution problem and suggests motivation along with fearless engagement. That is produced where accountability and psychological safety conjunct. That’s a workplace in which people don’t feel apathy, comfort or anxiety, but where people are safely accountable. Check out these tips from experts around the web to tackle above interpersonal challenges in your marketing team:
- Stimulate team curiosity to speak about challenges and uncertainties around the problem, to ask and search for the right solution.
- Ask teammates for honest and useful feedback. Ask them to list challenges they face, resources they need and how you can help them for each one.
- Admit your own fallibility and encourage all teammates do the same and learn from their mistakes. Explain that it’s not personal, but it’s because of extreme uncertainty and interdependence of the problem environment. If it’s necessary, provide a coach to facilitate learning and improvement.
- Encourage discussions. Encourage teammates to ask questions with the intention of learning from each other and also do the same yourself.
3. Clearly Define Roles, Plans and Goals
Effective communication whether internal among teammates or external with other departments and customers has a huge impact on the performance and effectiveness of a marketing team to reach excellence in fulfilling the mission of generating more and more leads. In such a perfect marketing team, roles need to be clearly defined and understood. Goals need to be clearly determined according to your business objectives. So all marketing leaders, managers and team members clearly know their responsibilities and can focus on performing them well. Break down goals into the tasks. Clarify project priorities and expectations. Clearly determine task owners and time you expect they devote to tasks. Encourage communication between teammates about the project progress, delays and responsibilities. That increases the team’s dependability. On dependable teams, members deliver their tasks on time. Dependability is another important dynamic of the high-performance teams according to Google. The followings are some valuable tips on setting goals and defining roles:
- Goals should be SMART not abstract. Abstract goals are not breakable into the tasks, and also they are not enough to motivate your team.
- Take time to meet members 1:1 and explicitly clarify priorities and your expectation about everything such as their roles, time and quality of work.
- There is a great quote that says: “A good manager trains and delegates.” So don’t micromanage your team. Give them enough autonomy with their roles. Trust them but be aware of their capacity and give them appropriate support.
- Sometimes especially for new employees micromanaging is necessary. It can be useful to help them learn faster and encourage them to take risks and be creative.
4. Make team’s task significance more visible
Marketing teams are among the most important teams in any organization. They fuel the revenue engine of the organization by generating qualified leads. But as a marketer, have you ever felt that your tasks don’t have any positive impact on project progress or any positive social impact inside or outside of your team? It seems like your task significance is invisible. It could create some sense of apathy and negatively change your perception of your task. It’s important that team members feel their work is meaningful. Because as a marketing team you are related to the most valuable element of the organization: customers. You should continuously try to keep the team aware of their task significance and highlight how their work impacts others. You should provide an environment where your team clearly see their contribution to project and organization’s goal. Consider these actionable tips.
- Explicit milestones can clarify project progress. Breaking down the goals can effectively simplify defining the milestones.
- Celebrate the progress of project when the team hits a milestone. Celebrate positive organizational outcomes related to your team efforts. Don’t let your team’s efforts become forgotten in project routines.
- Use an effective task management tool that increases the visibility of communication and as a result the visibility of their task significance.
- Connect your team to the people that directly benefit from their work. Find and share stories about the impact of the work. Provide an environment that your teammates share their stories.
5. Be Agile in the era of engagement marketing
We all remember the Oreo’s provocative and proactive tweet “Power out? No problem. You can still dunk in the dark” at the 2013 Super Bowl. This nimble decision-to-reaction process coined as a symbol of agility in marketing. It was a remarkable sign for beginning of a new marketing era, the engagement marketing. In this era you should continuously engage with the customers and build a life-long and personalized relationship with them. This is an era when only agile marketers survive. Agility promotes adaptive planning, early delivery and continuous improvement to increase speed, quality, flexibility and effectiveness of marketing teams. To be agile you need to be organized for it. It’s a necessity for today’s always-on business. It helps you to be more dynamic, adaptive, flexible, work smarter and be more productive. Here are some tips to be agile according to agile marketing manifesto.
- You can’t predict the future. Most of the customer journey map is no longer predictable. Focus on the customer experience. Engage with customers to better understand their needs.
- To run a campaign start with a little strategy, get feedback, measure, learn, create new ideas and react. Manage the risks by working in smaller, time-bound iterations and get better in each iteration. Customer insights determine your success or failure.
- Customers have quick and easy access to information and create a new journey based on what they receive in real time. Plan, but be aware that usually a lot of things don’t go as planned in reality. So you should always be ready to adapt to changes. Remember Oreo again.