What Every Marketing Leader Should Know
By Kristin R. Fayer
Senior Vice President
Outlook Marketing Services, Inc.
Recently, I attended a 3-day Leadership Excellence & Executive Coaching course taught by the Academy Leadership training group. While I consider myself a seasoned marketing communications professional after 28 years in the industry, the last thing I want is to be considered is an artifact, let alone irrelevant. So, off I went to discover how I could empower myself to be an even more effective leader for my colleagues and clients.
Even before the course started, I was asked to complete a survey to assess my own leadership style. Called an Energize2Lead ProfileTM, my results were delivered on the first day of class. Being somewhat of a skeptic about personality tests, I was astounded by the accuracy of this highly personalized report. It showed me my preferred style, expectations and instinctive needs so that I better understood my dominant traits, how I tend to interact with others and what truly energizes me.
But that wasn't even the best part. The course facilitator had cleverly juggled our seating arrangements each day to pair us with other executives who either had highly similar or completely different leadership profiles. The dynamics between the students provided a small microcosm of what we face in our professional worlds. We were from diverse backgrounds — corporate, association, military and nonprofit. We had different skill sets and job descriptions. We represented different industries — healthcare, construction, finance, etc. But we all had one thing in common: we were experienced managers tasked with leadership responsibilities.
The training was a healthy balance of instruction led by a highly engaging facilitator who rallied the troops (being a former U.S. Army officer), encouraged peer-to-peer interaction and group discussion, and assigned us reading and writing exercises to prepare for the next day. It was serious business, and by the third and final day, surprisingly I was not exhausted! In fact, I felt quite the opposite: empowered, energized and eager to apply my learnings.
Here are several of the key takeaways that I gleaned from this leadership training experience. These are not a comprehensive reflection of the entire course, but what I found to be particularly eye-opening:
- Understand what motivates others. Yesterday's command-and-control leadership mentality is out. Quoting Rosalyn Carter, "A leader takes people where they want to go. A GREAT leader takes people where they don't necessarily want to go, but ought to be." Being a leader is not about gaining conformity and compliance; it's about creating a motivational climate that energizes people to willfully perform. It starts with knowing what motivates individual team members. What do they value? A sense of achievement? Group recognition? Opportunity for advancement? Work/life balance? If you understand what fuels each individual, you'll be able to better inspire him or her to align to the greater goals of the organization.
- Set – and share – SMART goals. Speaking of goals, good leaders recognize and use goals as a means, not an end. Goals are a compass, and they provide a direction. In order to steer others to achieving common goals, they must be SMART — Specific, Measurable, Agreed-upon, Realistic and Trackable. That's the first half; the second half is ensuring that your goals and vision are communicated across the organization so that everyone is rowing in the same direction. If your goals are not openly articulated, they cannot be executed or monitored. As our facilitator stated, "that which is not inspected is neglected."
- "The Platinum Rule." A variation of the old adage, "do unto others" applies to leaders. Everyone has a different style of how they like to be interacted with, both personally and professionally. The key to getting results is to unlock how best to communicate with individuals on your team. What's their preferred venue — email, phone, face-to-face? How much or how little direction and input do they need to complete a task? Do they require frequent check-ins or do they prefer to work autonomously? Showing respect for and accommodating individual communication styles goes a long way to getting the best from those with whom you work. Just remember: "Treat others as they wish to be treated, communicate with others as they wish to be communicated with" makes YOU, the leader, far more effective.
- Close the feedback loop. The #1 problem with leadership communication is the illusion that it has occurred. While many managers are technically competent, they can be poor communicators. What they need to do is to close the feedback loop with their peers, direct reports and clients/customers. Confirm that they understood, that they're in alignment and have the necessary information to move forward. Everyone listens differently, so never assume that just because you've communicated, that your message was clear or well received.
- Know yourself and seek self-improvement. As a leader, you need to understand your own values, priorities, strengths and weaknesses. Not only must you understand them, but you must strive to improve everything entrusted to you —: including yourself and your people. During this course, I created my own Leader's Compass and defined my personal leadership philosophy, which I committed to writing and sharing with my team members.
As a marketer or other professional at any level, being an effective leader requires that you serve as an example and an inspiration to those around you. Back to former First Lady Carter, what defines a leader vs. a GREAT leader? Aside from the tips stated above, other top qualities include:
- Provides purpose, direction and motivation
- Maintains a positive, problem-solving outlook
- Involves others in planning and decision-making
- Invites ideas and feedback at all times
- Sets and lives the standards of what is expected
I would encourage you to check out the Academy Leadership for yourself. It's a concentrated, convenient program that also includes post-classroom leadership coaching for 90 days, as well as 36 Professional Development Units (PDUs) from the Project Management Institute. You can find more information and future course dates here.
What qualities do you think define a leader? Are there any other tips you would add to this list?
Kristin R. Fayer is a Senior Vice President with Outlook Marketing Services, Inc., a full service, 20-year-old marketing communications agency headquartered in Chicago. As a 25-year veteran of the marketing and public relations industry, Kristin leads the firm's growing healthcare practice. Prior, she was a Director of Public Affairs for Searle Pharmaceuticals. She graduated cum laude from DePauw University with bachelor of arts degree and a double major in English Composition and Communication.